Four Perspectives on Syria, Round II

Posted March 30th, 2017 by Thanassis Cambanis and filed in Writing

The Century Foundation’s fellows have closely followed the conflict in Syria through another year of major developments, which have affected strategic relationships not just in the Middle East but across the world. TCF fellows Thanassis Cambanis, Michael Hanna, Sam Heller, and  Aron Lund joined an online discussion to assess the latest developments in Syria and prospects for the future.

aron-lund-300x300Thanassis: It’s been the better part of a year since the four of us put our heads together to try to make sense of what’s happening in Syria. Since the last time we did this, we’ve seen some threshold events: government forces retook Aleppo, Donald Trump was elected president, and Turkey shifted direction. We all share a common belief that because of the complexity of this conflict there won’t be a sudden, pat resolution. On the other hand, the government of Bashar al-Assad seems to be winning after years of stalemate. For now forgotten are the moments when the regime seemed close to some kind of breaking point. Persistent centers of resistance have collapsed, like Aleppo and Darayya, or are crumbling, like East Ghouta. It’s become harder and harder to speak of a non-jihadi armed opposition. The government is reasserting its authority after six years of internal fragmentation. Damascus also is strutting with newfound confidence in the diplomatic arena, trying, with some success, to shift the discussion from “political transition” (read: regime change) to a “development paradigm,” with a focus on who will pay for Assad to rebuild Syria. There’s a new-old diplomatic process, from which the United States has all but seceded. Trump seems willing to team up with Assad and Putin in a counter-terrorism alliance, but hasn’t suggested how that will square with his unremitting hostility toward Iran, which is already in partnership with Russia and Syria.

Those are just some of the headlines. In short, there’s a lot to talk about. I want us to take all these matters and more in their turn.

But let’s start with the strategic state of play. Can we say that the government has won the war, and we’re now in a final sorting-out phase?

[Published at The Century Foundation; read the full discussion here.]


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