A U.S. Containment Strategy for Syria

To Beat the Russians, Let Them Win

A U.S. soldier near Raqqa, November 2016. Rodi Said / Reuters

The United States’ interests in Syria lie in formalizing its battlefield gains with a negotiated settlement and then leaving the country. To achieve this goal, it will need to find common cause in the short term with its greatest geopolitical foe, Russia. Doing so will require Washington to acknowledge a painful but obvious truth: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has largely routed the anti-regime insurgency, consolidated power in much of the country’s west, and received open-ended support and security guarantees from Moscow and Tehran. Assad will govern most of Syria for the foreseeable future.

For the United States, the impetus (and legal justification) for its presence in Syria was the war against the Islamic State (or ISIS), waged to deny the group safe haven and, in so doing, prop up the government of Iraq and ensure that ISIS fighters could not plot and execute terrorist attacks in the West. The

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