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Policy Analysis


Toward a New U.S. Policy in Syria Ground Zero for Countering Iran and Deterring an Islamic State Revival

Katherine Bauer, Soner Cagaptay, Patrick Clawson, Michael Eisenstadt,
James F. Jeffrey, Barbara A. Leaf, Matthew Levitt, Dennis Ross,
and Robert Satloff


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July 11, 2018

Today, Syria is the sole battlefield in the world where American, Russian, Turkish, Iranian, and Israeli military forces all operate, along with a kaleidoscope of proxy actors foreign and domestic. As the preeminent arena of strategic competition in the Middle East and a wellspring of potential Islamic State resurgence, Syria matters a great deal for a host of U.S. interests. The question is whether U.S. withdrawal is the best way to safeguard those interests.

In this special report, a working group of Washington Institute fellows outlines an alternative approach. Rather than abandoning U.S. allies and exacerbating regional perceptions of U.S. retreat, they show how the Trump administration can couple a no-fly/no-drive zone and a small residual ground presence in the northeast with intensified sanctions against the Assad regime’s Iranian patron. In doing so, Washington can support local efforts to stabilize the area, encourage Gulf partners to “put skin in the game,” drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran, and help Israel avoid all-out war.