Rafik Hariri Center Resident Senior Fellow Frederic C. Hof writes for The Atlantic on why protecting civilians from Assad is the first step toward a negotiated political transition  in Syria:

In his recent essay for The Atlantic, David Ignatius has, with characteristic elegance and care, detailed “how ISIS spread in the Middle East.” In addition to providing an instructive history of a metastasizing malignancy, he offered some ideas on how to prompt its remission.

This response seeks to pick up where Ignatius left off, with emphasis on Syria. The argument here is, first, that civilian protection in western Syriawhere the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad fights for survival—is the mandatory first step toward the negotiated political transition Ignatius deems essential for uprooting ISIS, given how Assad has enabled the group. Second, an American-led coalition, consisting largely of regional and European ground forces, will be required to sweep ISIS from its main Syrian bases in the east. Military victory in Syria, the soft underbelly of ISIS, will leave the group isolated in Iraq— without its Syrian headquarters, oil resources, and lines of communication—thereby turning the tide of battle against ISIS in that country as well. It is Syria, where ISIS is largely imposed rather than homegrown as it is in Iraq, that should be the top battlefield priority.

Read the full article here.

Related Experts: Frederic C. Hof