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The US Is Still Needed in Syria

By rushing out of Syria now, the Trump administration is ceding the field to Russia, Turkey, and Iran, all but guaranteeing another regional conflagration in the near future. By leading a new diplomatic effort to end the conflict and begin reconstruction, Trump could both extricate the US from the conflict and help stabilize the region.

WASHINGTON, DC – While the world frets about a possible conflict between the United States and Iran, the bloodshed in Syria is escalating once again. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has intensified its onslaught against the remaining opposition stronghold in Idlib Province, which is home to some three million people, including many who have been internally displaced. To avoid a new humanitarian nightmare and another mass exodus of refugees, the US must renew its peacemaking efforts.

Since a US-backed coalition of (mostly) Kurdish forces succeeded in dismantling the Islamic State’s (ISIS) territorial caliphate, the US has begun walking away from Syria. Late last year, US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops there, effectively ceding negotiations over the country’s future to Russia, Iran, and Turkey.

It is now clear that Trump jumped the gun. The renewed fighting in Idlib is a potent reminder that Syria remains a tinderbox. Almost one-third of the country is controlled by a Kurdish-led militia that Turkey regards as a mortal enemy. Owing to America’s support of the Kurds and Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian anti-aircraft missiles, US-Turkish relations are near a breaking point. Meanwhile, Russia has orchestrated its return to the region by backing the Assad regime, and Iran has established a Syrian foothold of its own, enhancing its regional influence and increasing the prospect of war with Israel.