This summer’s events in Iraq and Syria were a wake-up call regarding the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. The group’s capture of territory and its vicious crimes against humanity prompted the Obama administration to take targeted military action in Iraq. These actions achieved tangible results, but they also raised questions about the next steps for U.S. policy in both Iraq and Syria.
The problems of these two countries are now intertwined—as ISIS’s destruction of border posts and declaration of a new Caliphate demonstrate. In Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime remains in power more than three years after many predicted its downfall was imminent. During the past year, the regime used genocidal actions to regain limited control in certain parts of western and northern Syria. Yet, its reach is limited in large swathes of the country, particularly in the east.
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