Syria, what’s next for the U.S.?

assad-putinAfter its capture of Palmyra, the Islamic State now controls over half the Syrian landmass and large parts of Iraq.

Ralph E. Stone Global News Centre

(SAN FRANCISCO)   The U.S. finds itself between a rock and a hard place in the Syrian civil war. Russia has deployed warplanes and tanks to a base near Latakia, Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government.  In the meantime, Iran ground troops have arrived in Syria.  These troops would be backed by Assad’s Lebanese Hezbollah allies and by Shi’ite militia fighters from Iraq.  Russia is providing air support for these ground troops.

Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria have also agreed to share intelligence about the Islamic State.  Russia has already started bombing raids within Syria, supposedly targeting Islamic State forces.  But if Russia supports Assad, who is to say U.S.-supported rebel forces won’t also be targeted.

Let’s look back at the four-year Syrian conflict.  Pro-democracy protests began in Syria in March 2011 in Derea after the arrest and torture of some teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall.  The protests triggered nationwide protests demanding President Assad’s resignation. By July 2011, demonstrators were taking to the streets all across Syria.  Those opposing the government eventually began to take up arms, first to defend themselves and later to expel Syrian security forces from their local areas. The Syrian conflict became a civil war as rebel brigades were formed to battle government forces for control of cities, towns and the countryside. Fighting reached the capital of Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s largest city, in 2012. At least by 2012, the CIA was running a covert program to arm and train the Syrian rebels.  Officially, the U.S. was only supplying non-lethal aid. The conflict is now more than just a battle between those for or against President Assad but has spread beyond Syria into Iraq.

The rise of the jihadist groups, including the Islamic State, has added a further dimension.  After its capture of Palmyra, the Islamic State now controls over half the Syrian landmass and large parts of Iraq.

More than 220,000 Syrians have died in the conflict and more than 11 million have been forced from their homes.  Almost 4 million people have fled Syria, most of them women and children, adding to the refugee crisis now facing other countries.  According to the United Nations, an estimated 12.2 million are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, including 5.6 million children.

Russia has made it clear to the U.S. that it supports Assad while the U.S. wants Assad out. The U.S. may end up looking on from the sidelines unless the U.S. agrees that as between Assad and the Islamic State, Assad is the lesser evil, and then actively joins the Russian coalition or tacitly steps aside.  By joining the Russian coalition or stepping aside, the U.S. will be abandoning the CIA trained and armed rebel forces opposing Assad.

Given the huge humanitarian crisis, perhaps it is time for the U.S. to exercise Realpolitik or politics based on practical and material factors rather than on theoretical or ethical objectives.  Ending the humanitarian situation by defeating the Islamic State may be the most humane goal at this point even if it means keeping Assad in power.


stone-ralphGlobal News Centre writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer’s talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address [email protected]

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