The sun sets over east Aleppo, October 2016.
Abdalrhman Ismail / Reuters

When U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated on January 20, 2017, his most complicated foreign policy challenge will be what to do about Syria. Under President Barack Obama, Washington’s Syria policy has focused on fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). But with ISIS teetering, the government of Bashar al-Assad gaining ground, and outside powers such as Iran and Russia becoming ever more involved, simply fighting the caliphate may not be enough for the next leader of the United States. 

In order to destroy ISIS and uproot the extremism that has been generated by the Syrian war, the United States will need to help stabilize opposition-controlled areas of the country while pressuring Iran and Russia to move toward a viable political settlement. To get there, President Trump will need to be more willing to put pressure on Moscow and Tehran than he has so far indicated. That means

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  • ANDREW J. TABLER is Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria. DENNIS ROSS is Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.
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