Security, Middle East
America must cut off support to most rebel combatants in Syria and work with—perhaps even directly in support of—Assad and his foreign allies.
Two unpleasant propositions about the lengthy civil war in Syria have been substantially absent from current policy discussions. It seems time to bring them forward and to take them seriously.
The first acknowledges that the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have pretty much won the war. As journalist Robin Wright noted recently, Assad has managed to “consolidate his hold over the majority of Syria” and now “controls all the major cities.” Grandstanding bombings devised to encourage the regime to kill with bullets and shrapnel rather than with gas are exercises in futility. As she concludes “Assad is . . . winning the war and the reality is that the military strike will not change that.”
And in February, a U.S. intelligence community report concluded that, “the Syrian opposition’s seven-year insurgency is probably no longer capable of overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad or overcoming a growing military disadvantage.”
The second proposition is a stark observation put forward in a think tank report in 2015 by Ambassador James Dobbins and his colleagues: “any peace in Syria is better than the current war.”
For those whose chief concern is the welfare of the Syrian people, the conclusion, however painful, should be obvious. The United States and other intervening states should work primarily to bring the suffering to a substantial close, and this likely means cutting off support to most rebel combatants in Syria and working with—perhaps even directly supporting—Assad and his foreign allies.