United States’ Renewed Priorities in Syria

As MiddleEast continues to be an integral part of US foreign policy, we discuss where Syria stands in the mix.

As the Russian presence in the region keeps asserting its dominance, it’s time for the U.S. policymakers to explore renewed priorities in Syria especially right after U.S.’ infamous exit from Afghanistan. Much like the Trump administration, President Biden’s administration has certain priorities in Syria, but they do not appear to include “expelling Iran” as was the case with Donald Trump’s administration.

We recently saw the very seasoned Foreign Minister of the UAE meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus in a sign of improving ties between Assad and a US-allied Gulf state, triggering US denunciations of efforts to rehabilitate a “brutal dictator.” The visit was widely seen as a sign of regional efforts to end Assad’s diplomatic isolation as Syria faces an ongoing economic crisis caused by years of conflict and Western sanctions. The Emirati Foreign Minister is expected to meet his Iranian counterpart as well which shall also be a key indicator of where the US aims to head via its allies.

The UAE foreign minister met with Syria’s President Bashar Assad in Damascus Tuesday, according to Syrian state media. (SANA)

 

While diplomacy is taking sharp turns in the Arabian peninsula, according to sources aware of the situation, US officials have shown determination limited to staying in northeastern Syria and continuing the struggle until ISIS is defeated. This also includes maintaining humanitarian aid across the border, in addition to maintaining a ceasefire. Finally, complete the arrangement under Resolution 2254. In addition, Washington desires to support Syria’s neighboring countries and their stability, the Ashrak al – Awsat newspaper reported on Saturday.

MEETING IN BRUSSELS

It has been reported that an American team is expected to present the new destinations of interest during a meeting in Brussels on Monday for next month. These priorities, which were completed after the completion of the internal review, explain the policy and focus of the Biden team in Syria over the past ten months.

Middle East official Brett McGurk, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershenin, and Presidential envoy Alexander Lebrentiev held a third round of the second Geneva dialogue last Wednesday to ensure the Security Council extended humanitarian aid for another six months early next year.

It is worth noting that the Foreign Ministry reiterated, on Friday evening, the continued stay of US soldiers in Syria “until the abolition of the threat posed by ISIS”. This means that there is no sign of any upcoming exodus however meetings of closed American allies, The Emiratis, pose the idea that perhaps the US would like to engage diplomatically through its allies and proxies rather than making any direct statement or decision.

United States Marines on patrol.

The State Department recently tweeted that the continued presence of American forces in Syria stems from the fact that “terrorist groups in Syria are directly threatening the national security of the United States and the Syrian people.” This statement contradicts US’ exit from Afghanistan as the threat of the Taliban was very much relevant yet the forces were withdrawn rather hastily

Although the general US foreign policy appears to be of ‘Resolute Restraint’ rather than bold offense, Syria remains to be an exception. The US military recently defended an airstrike attack that killed dozens of people in Syria in 2019, as “legitimate”. The attack on so-called Islamic State fighters killed 80 people, as the group made their last stand. The US identified 16 of the dead as militants, and four as civilians; a declaration which was highly criticized by human rights groups around the world. US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, also called for the investigation into a 2019 American airstrike in the town of Baghouz in eastern Syria.

The Emirati outreach has been well noted by the peace-loving world as an important step towards dialogue yet it appears that the road to normalcy and peace in Syria is a long and excruciating one.

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