The US Needs a Syria Strategy
The last time a US president boastfully declared “mission accomplished” was in 2003, when George W. Bush proclaimed that major combat operations in Iraq had ended – eight years before they did. Donald Trump's similar declaration after the recent missile strikes on Syria suggests that, like Bush, he doesn’t know what the mission is.
TEL AVIV – US President Donald Trump lauded the missile strikes by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom on Syrian military installations – carried out in retaliation for a chemical-weapon attack allegedly perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad’s regime – as a great success. But no amount of triumphant rhetoric can obscure the West’s betrayal of the Syrian people, nor disguise its lack of any actual strategy for resolving the Syria conflict.
In the last seven years, nearly a half-million Syrian citizens have been killed and seven million have been made refugees. Meanwhile, an unholy alliance has formed among Shia zealots, represented by Iran and Hezbollah, and a Russian government committed to unraveling the post-Cold War order and radically changing the strategic game in the Middle East.
The West has utterly failed to rise to this challenge. On the contrary, Trump is about to withdraw the remaining US troops from Syria, arguing that their main objective – defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) – has been achieved. Yet, while ISIS had to be stopped, it was never the West’s most formidable enemy in Syria; that title goes to the axis of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Assad regime – an axis against which ISIS was actually a counterbalancing force.