Key Points

It appears that Russia and Assad are once again probing American resolve in Syria. If the administration responds with demonstrable clarity, it will bolster its own credibility in the region. If, by contrast, this episode leads to little more than pro-forma diplomatic bluster, Russia and the Assad regime may conclude that they have free license to act. Such an outcome could not only spell disaster for the roughly three million people trapped in Idlib, but it would set back the U.S. position as a credible powerbroker in Syria as well.

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While others may have caused and exacerbated the crisis, resolving it would help defuse the Russian and Syrian threat to the base at al-Tanf and establish the United States and its allies on the ground as sources of reliable humanitarian assistance, a critical part of establishing good will and stability in the area surrounding al-Tanf.

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Escalating pressure on Damascus should be an integral part of the U.S. maximum pressure campaign against Iran, since Tehran is heavily invested in Assad and will spend scarce resources in the hopes of saving him.

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The loss of access to Iranian oil would likely do tremendous damage to Assad’s finances and military capacity. The U.S. should apply such pressure swiftly in order to weaken Assad and raise the cost to Tehran of propping up his regime.

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Events

EVENT: The Crisis of Compliance

July 27, 2018 | 12:15

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