RELEASE: Deeper American Involvement in Syria Calls for a Focus on U.S. Priorities
Contact: Christina DiPasquale
Washington, D.C. — In light of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Turkey to discuss the situation in Turkey and Syrian rebels claiming responsibility for a downed a Syrian government fighter jet, the Center for American Progress today released “Next Steps in Syria: A Look at U.S. Priorities and Interests” and “U.S. Policy in Syria Enters a New Phase.” These issue briefs outline key policy considerations for increased U.S. involvement in Syria and how a more active strategy in Syria can enhance the existing U.S. diplomatic engagement.
The United States has so far refrained from taking an active role in Syria, despite calls by some for military intervention against the Assad regime. U.S. restraint was the right call in the early phases of the rebellion, but the recent escalation in fighting poses greater risks to key American interests and will likely lead to greater U.S. involvement. As the United States takes on a more active role in Syria, policymakers must recognize that the removal of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is not enough to achieve peace in Syria and serve U.S. security and humanitarian interests.
In “Next Steps in Syria: A Look at U.S. Priorities and Interests,” CAP author Ken Sofer explains that a successful U.S. strategy in Syria requires consideration of the long-term development of Syria’s political infrastructure and the regional implications of sustained sectarian conflict. The report details five major policy priorities for the United States in Syria:
- Preventing the spillover of conflict into neighboring countries, including mitigating the effect of refugee outflows
- Securing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and preventing their use
- Eliminating the space for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to operate
- Safeguarding the country against collapse into sectarian violence
- Preparing for an effective and stable political transition
The violence and instability that would ensue if Syria collapses into a sectarian civil war or disintegrates as a contiguous state would threaten U.S. allies and interests in the region for decades. As CAP Senior Fellow Brian Katulis writes in “U.S. Policy in Syria Enters a New Phase,” policymakers must work to advance regional security and U.S. policy interests in order to continue their approach of gradual engagement, while boosting efforts to work with Syrian resistance and diplomatic partners to guide Syria’s development down a peaceful path.
The Obama administration is taking a comprehensive, integrated approach to dealing with a conflict that has no easy solutions. Going forward, it should continue to strive not just for the downfall of Syria’s dictatorship but for the long-term security and humanitarian interests of Syria and the United States.
- Thinking Through Our Options in Syria, by Peter Juul
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