How to Salvage Syria

The war in Syria is more straightforward today than it was two years ago. That may sound counterintuitive, but “Syria,” properly speaking, exists now only in name.

A near-genocidal policy undertaken by the President Bashar Assad in Damascus has been followed by contradictory foreign interventions by Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United States, each of which has established its own zone of influence in the war-ravaged country. The resulting balkanization, a cauldron of endless conflict, has led to the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century; the deaths of 500,000, the wounding of more than 1,000,000, and the external or internal displacement of 11,000,000—roughly half the Syrian population.

There exists, however, a narrow window of opportunity for an incoming U.S. administration to achieve minimally defined objectives: defeating the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, guaranteeing that it cannot come back, and making sure that its main rival, al Qaeda, cannot exploit the power vacuum that will come with the collapse of the caliphate.

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