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News | Dec. 1, 2013

Next Steps in Syria

By Judith S. Yaphe Strategic Forum 283


Key Points

  • Syria has been in a state of sectarian civil war since early 2011. The conflict has spread to its neighbors in Iraq and Lebanon and, if left unchecked, could destabilize Turkey, Jordan, and a much wider swath of the Middle East region. 
  • Regardless of whether President Bashar al-Asad survives or fails, resolution of the civil war poses especially difficult problems for U.S. strategic planning at a time when the Obama administration is trying to focus on the pivot to Asia rather than the constant crises in the Middle East. 
  • The Syrian crisis risks redefining the traditional balance of power in the region as well as relations between the United States, regional friends, and Russia. Russia’s proposal that Syria cooperate with United Nations restrictions on its chemical weapons and the unease expressed by Iran’s new president over Syria’s possible use of chemical weapons have raised speculation that the Syrian crisis could be resolved without U.S. military intervention.