US shifts its Syria pol­icy to counter Iran, rather than Daesh

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Politics -

THE UNITED States is shift­ing its pol­icy in Syria to counter Iran in­stead of Daesh, as the ter­ri­to­rial con­trol of the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion is di­min­ish­ing in the coun­try, ex­perts said on Thurs­day.

Speak­ing at an event or­ga­nized by the Foun­da­tion for Po­lit­i­cal, Eco­nomic and So­cial Re­search (SETA) in Wash­ing­ton D.C., ti­tled “The Shift­ing U.S. Pol­icy on Syria,” An­drew Tabler, the Martin J. Gross fel­low in the Geduld Pro­gram on Arab Pol­i­tics at the Wash­ing­ton In­sti­tute for Near East Pol­icy, said that the change in U.S. pol­icy is due to the ter­ri­to­rial con­trol of Daesh di­min­ish­ing and the in­creased pres­ence of Iran in Syria.

Tabler also ex­pressed that with re­spect to pol­icy change, James Jef­frey, the U.S. spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Syria, has been able to en­gage with the mil­i­tary and vari- ous agen­cies to ad­dress the con­cerns of the U.S. and con­duct a new pol­icy. Re­cently, Jef­frey had said that the U.S. will stay in Syria as long as its ri­val Iran main­tains its pres­ence, but the U.S. role will not nec­es­sar­ily in­volve troops. Jef­frey’s re­marks were made in an ef­fort to clar­ify re­cent com­ments by se­nior of­fi­cials who ap­peared to sug­gest that troops would stay in­def­i­nitely to counter Iran.

Has­san Has­san, Se­nior Re­search Fel­low at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity, stated that the U.S. has a range of pol­icy op­tions it could choose, de­pend­ing on how deeply it wants to be­come en­tan­gled in Syria. Ad­dress­ing the U.S. pol­icy shift, he noted that the Bashar As­sad regime does not have enough in­flu­ence or power to keep Iran out of Syria.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Tabler dis­cussed the shared goals of Turkey and the U.S., in- clud­ing the en­dur­ing de­feat of Daesh and a de­sire to have a softer end­ing to the Syr­ian con­flict.

“Fur­ther­more, both coun­tries hope to ad­dress the con­cern for Iran’s pres­ence in Syria,” he added. He, how­ever, also noted that while both coun­tries have shared con­cerns and goals, their cur­rent mech­a­nisms to ad­dress these is­sues are dif­fer­ent.

There are sev­eral points in Syria that Turkey and the U.S. are in dis­agree­ment, par­tic­u­larly the at­ti­tude against the PKK’s Syr­ian af­fil­i­ate the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG). Turkey rec­og­nizes the PKK and YPG as or­gan­i­cally linked ter­ror­ist groups. The U.S., how­ever, while list­ing the PKK as a ter­ror­ist group, has sup­ported the YPG mil­i­tar­ily, un­der the pre­text of fight­ing Daesh. Ankara’s de­mands that the U.S. stops arm­ing the YPG and en­sures the ter­ror­ists with­draw to the east of the Euphrates, dates back to for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s time in of­fice. Though promised, the U.S. is yet to meet Ankara’s de­mands, strain­ing ties be­tween the two coun­tries.

Mona Ya­coubian, Se­nior Ad­viser for Syria in the Mid­dle East and North Africa di­vi­sion at the United States In­sti­tute of Peace, on the other hand, ar­gued that the U.S. needs to en­gage with Turkey in or­der to ad­dress its pol­icy con­cerns. She stated that in or­der for any peace­ful end to be suc­cess­ful, coun­tries have to use a com­bi­na­tion of the com­par­a­tive ad­van­tages of both the As­tana talks and the Geneva talks.

Has­san also ar­gued that the U.S. should con­sider sup­port­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing with Turkey in or­der to reach its goals and bring all par­ties to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

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