The recent American bombing of an air base in Syria, from which Syrian jets took off to spread Sarin gas on the civilian population, is a significant step taken by the Trump administration.
This is an excellent opportunity to evaluate the current Syrian situation, as well as weigh the role the U.S. should play there.
Close to 500,000 Syrians have been murdered; more than 10 million have become refuges.
So far, we have observed Syria from the sidelines, without clarification of our goals; and consequently without a viable policy in place.
As ISIS began to gain ground in Syria, its defeat became our priority.
Thus, we tacitly welcomed the Russians, hoping they would defeat ISIS.
While the Obama administration focused on reaching an agreement with Iran at any cost, Russia and Iran joined forces to support the Assad regime.
The future of Syria was in the hands of Russia, Iran, and Turkey.
The U.S played no role and thus its influence was effectively removed.
Peace was not accomplished, emboldening the Syrian regime.
Trump’s assertive decision to respond sent a clear message to the Syrians — and the Russians. Human rights violations are not to be tolerated — the U.S. is fully back in the game.
The question is what kind of strategy can the U.S. adopt to follow up on its impressive military strike?
First, America must continue to make clear to the Russians that they are no longer the only game in town. The U.S. must retake its influence in the region.
Secondly, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley was right when she pointed out that the final goal should be a political solution, but Assad cannot maintain a peaceful and stable government.
Third, defeating ISIS and all the terrorist groups in Syria, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pointed out, is crucial in order to enable a fearless — and free opposition — to emerge.
But ISIS and other groups gained traction precisely because they are fighting the odious Assad regime. Therefore, the U.S. might need to switch priorities and try to work out a solution in Syria first — then isolate ISIS.
However, since Assad is Russia’s baby, it is highly unlikely that the Russians will be willing to sacrifice him. This is why the solution to the Syrian crisis must include the Russians in the negotiations.
The solution should include a demand by the U.S. to divide Syria.
Ambassador Haley was absolutely right when she said that Assad cannot legitimately and peacefully rule over the whole of Syria. In that case, Assad would rule over an Alawite minority in territories, in those areas remaining under his control.
Interestingly enough, the Russians seem to understand the inability of Assad's regime to survive in the future. Thus, Russia has supported the establishment of Kurdish autonomous regions, since they control a large territory.
Furthermore, Russia has drafted a constitution for Syria which supports the unity of Syria.
However, it has also supported cultural and administrative autonomy for the Kurds and a more decentralized system of government.
Indeed, the Russian idea opens up the possibility of dividing Syrian into minority states.
So, the same principle could be applied to the Sunnis, where they could create an independent state; although Russia suggested autonomy and not statehood.
The U.S. could advocate statehood for minorities since the federal Syrian state, as proposed by Russia, has slim chances of survival.
Transfers of populations should be pursued so that territories remain as homogenous as possible, unless every new state makes a commitment to respect minority rights.
This is not likely to happen.
Thus, in a situation where so many people have been tragically displaced, if population transfers manage to avoid sectarian civil war — it should be a welcome development.
Last but not least, Assad should abstain from trying to exercise any influence over Lebanon. Likewise, Iran must be removed from any influence over any country including a new Alawite State.
Of course, removing the influence of ISIS is vital to maintain stability.
It is clear that there will disputes over territory and how much to allocate to each sect.
This is why the reordering of Syria must include local populations but must also be led by the U.S. and Russia as was done by France and Great Britain in the early 20th century.
Luis Fleischman has worked as adviser for the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy on issues related to Latin America. He is the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." Fleischman is an adjunct professor of sociology and political science at Barry University. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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