Center for American Progress

RELEASE: The U.S. Should Seize Diplomatic Initiative in Syria, CAP Report Says
Press Release

RELEASE: The U.S. Should Seize Diplomatic Initiative in Syria, CAP Report Says

Washington, D.C. – President Donald Trump claims to have discussed Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, but the lack of transparency about the talks between the two leaders adds to the confusion about President Trump’s Syria policy.

The Trump administration risks U.S. security interests in its muddled Syria strategy. A new report from the Center for American Progress outlines a coherent diplomatic plan that can de-escalate the conflict while advancing American interests and values.

After years of suffering, Syria’s multiple conflicts have reached a crossroads, the report says. The fighting has effectively left three de facto zones of control, each actively defended by an external power—Russia and Iran in the west, Turkey in the northwest, and the United States in the northeast.

But contested boundaries between the zones and the close proximity of U.S., Russian, Turkish, and Iranian-backed forces create a dangerous risk of wider escalation. Syria’s conflict continues to strain the international system and undercut the rules of war and protections for civilians. The United States has an opportunity to shape this emerging landscape with a new policy approach that that better mobilizes U.S. partnerships throughout the region, the report says.

This policy should make it a priority to de-escalate the conflict, stabilize Syria’s periphery, and establish an intermediate agreement to separate forces on the ground. As a key part of this strategy, the United States should preserve the American-led military presence and accelerate stabilization efforts in the northeast. It should also leverage a firm commitment to defend this zone to engage Russia and Turkey in a new, U.N.-backed plan to end the fighting, the report says.

“This plan offers a balanced approach that makes conflict resolution and alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people a higher priority,” said Brian Katulis, lead author of the report and senior fellow at CAP. “It offers key advantages over the incoherent course the United States is on today. Rash disengagement or a reckless escalation of military and economic pressure on Assad and his regional backers would be the wrong course of action.”

Read the report: “Seizing the Diplomatic Initiative in Syria” by Brian Katulis, Alexander Bick, Peter Juul, and Daniel Benaim.

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For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at [email protected] or 202-478-6327.