Key Points

Over the course of the nine-year civil war in Syria, a long list of state and non-state actors have taken advantage of the flow of displaced persons to advance policies, extract concessions from counterparts, and impose costs on adversaries. This process has exacted an untold level of physical and mental suffering on the Syrian people. The growing risk of a coronavirus pandemic, however, is slowly forcing decision-makers to factor in the potential costs they are likely to incur as a result of an outbreak in the territories they control. The realization that what afflicts Syria’s vulnerable populations is not something that can be contained or ignored has been made clear, as the COVID-19 disease is now poised to afflict others in the region and beyond. These circumstances should be a wake-up call for regional and global actors to take urgent and concerted action to bring an end to the suffering in Syria that has gone on for too long. 

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We should expect the disease to spread. Actually, it already has. Terrorists, criminals, and their neo-imperialist patrons in Tehran have been bringing death and destruction to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Gaza – whomever and whatever they touch. There are means by which these vectors could be eliminated. Easy and painless they are not.

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Washington and its NATO allies should continue to look for opportunities to wean Turkey off of its dependence on Russia as they try to return the country to its historical role as a counterweight to Russian and Iranian influence in the Middle East and beyond. Yet the US and Europe should not turn a blind eye to Erdogan’s hostage-taking, permissive attitude toward terror financiers, and efforts to undermine Turkish democracy. Without leverage, there is no way for NATO to get Erdogan to change his ways.

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Despite being designated, Hamidawi and KH can be expected to continue wreaking havoc. This means more rocket and terror attacks in efforts to bait, bleed, and ultimately, evict American forces in Iraq to further serve Iran’s regional goals. As with all non-kinetic measures, how Washington enforces its penalty is set to matter more than its announcement.

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Putin is ruthless, so there’s no guarantee this plan will work. But with so many lives on the line, there is every reason to try.

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EVENT: Shatter the Nations: ISIS and the War for the Caliphate

October 21, 2019 | 12:00

EVENT: Instruments of American Power: Implementing Foreign Policies and Protecting Against Global Threats

October 10, 2019 | 12:00