Hassan I. Hassan Profile picture
Jan 17, 2018 51 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Follow this thread for highlights from the (sure to be remarkable) speech by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the Trump administration’s Syria strategy:
"The nature of the Assad regime, like that of its sponsor Iran, is malignant. It has promoted state terror. It has empowered groups that kill American soldiers, such as al-Qaeda in Iraq"
"The story of Syria has been one of humanitarian catastrophe. Up to half a million Syrians have died. Over 5.4m Syrians are refugees, and 6.1m are internally displaced persons as a result of conflict between regime and opposition forces. Whole cities have been destroyed."
Previous American efforts to halt the conflict were ineffective. When Assad used chemical weapons on his own people in 2013, in defiance of an American “red line” threat to retaliate, U.S. inaction emboldened the regime to further disregard civilian
The United States takes chemical weapons threats seriously, and we will continue to seek accountability and justice for the victims of the Assad regime’s actions.
"In 2012, the Assad regime’s military forces began to struggle badly. They were soon bolstered through the assistance of Iranian-backed fighting forces. But despite this help, by August 2015, Syrian rebel forces had made substantial progress against the Assad regime."
ISIS originally emerged from the ashes of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group Assad had covertly backed. Evidence suggests Assad also abetted ISIS by releasing known terrorists from Syrian prisons and turning a blind eye to ISIS’s growth
By the middle of 2014, ISIS had a stable base of operations in Syria and significant revenue streams to fund, plan, inspire, and direct attacks against targets in the West and against our regional allies
The Assad regime, even after the rise of ISIS, continued to focus on the opposition.

The Trump administration's strategy is simple, to protect the homeland and American allies.
As we survey Syria today, we see the big picture situation characterized by three factors 1) ISIS is substantially but not completely defeated 2) Assad controls about 50% Syria 3) continued strategic threats to the US other than ISIS persist (I'm referring principally to Iran)
The US's 5 key end states for Syria:
* ISIS & AQ suffer an enduring defeat
* The underlying conflict is resolved thru a UN-led process (stable, unified, independent Syrian state under post-Assad leadership)
* Iran influence is diminished
* Refugees return
* Syria is free from WMD
The Trump Administration is implementing a new strategy to achieve these end states. This process largely entails increased diplomatic action. Our diplomatic efforts will be characterized by stabilization initiatives & a new emphasis on a political solution to the Syrian conflict
"But let's be clear, the United States will also maintain a military presence in Syria. Our military mission in Syria will remain conditions-based, and focused on ensuring ISIS cannot re-emerge."
We cannot allow history to repeat itself in Syria (2011 withdrawal from Iraq)
Additionally, a total withdrawal of American personnel at this time would help Assad. A stable, unified, and independent Syria ultimately requires post-Assad leadership in order to be successful.
Ungoverned spaces are breeding grounds for ISIS.

AQ still has a substantive presence in the north west of Syria.
U.S. disengagement from Syria would provide Iran a golden opportunity to further strengthen its own position in Syria. As we have seen from Iran’s proxy wars and public pronouncements, Iran seeks dominance in the Middle East and the destruction of our ally Israel.
As a destabilized nation, and one bordering Israel, Syria presents an opportunity that Iran is all too eager to exploit.
Stabilization initiatives in liberated areas are essential to making sure that life can return to normal and ISIS does not re-emerge.
“Stabilization initiatives” are essential measures such as clearing un-exploded land mines left behind by ISIS, allowing hospitals to re-open, restoring water and electricity services, and getting people back in school
Our work to help local and regional authorities provide services to liberated areas also helps build trust between local populations and local leaders.
“stabilization” is not a synonym for open-ended nation-building or a synonym for reconstruction.
The agreement in the southwest also addresses Israel’s security by requiring Iranian-backed militias, notably Hezbollah, to move away from Israel’s border. We need Russia to continue to work with the United States to enforce this de-escalation area.
On counterterrorism, we will continue to work with allies and partners, such as Turkey, to address the terror threat in Idlib and Turkey's concerns about the PKK elsewhere. Al-Qaeda is trying hard to make a home for itself in Idlib.
The Assad regime clearly looks to Russia as a guarantor of its security. Russia therefore has a meaningful role to play in persuading the Assad regime to engage constructively in the Geneva process.
The United States and Russia have worked together on the Southwest de-escalation area. And we have established de-confliction arrangements around the Euphrates River Valley to ensure the safety of our respective forces
Russia must now follow through on the commitment our presidents made last Nov. to find an ultimate solution through the UN-led Geneva process. One of the ways Russia can do that is to exert its unique leverage on the Syrian regime, which itself has agreed to participate in it
The US will not allow international reconstruction assistance to any area under control by the Assad regime. We ask all stakeholders in Syria’s future to do the same. We will discourage economic relationships between the Assad regime and any other country.
Instead, we will encourage international assistance to rebuild areas the Global Coalition and its local partners have liberated from ISIS.
The United States recognizes and honors the great sacrifices the Syrian Democratic Forces have made in liberating Syrians from ISIS. But its victories on the battlefield do not solve the challenge of local governance and representation for the people of eastern and northern Syria
Interim local political arrangements that give voice to all groups and ethnicities supportive of Syria’s broader political transition must emerge with international support. Any interim arrangements must be truly representative and must not threaten any neighboring states
Similarly, the voices of Syrians from these regions must be heard in Geneva and in the broader discussion about Syria’s future. On these points, the United States hears and takes seriously the concerns of our NATO ally Turkey.
We recognize the humanitarian contributions and military sacrifices Turkey has made towards defeating ISIS, supporting millions of Syrian refugees, and stabilizing areas of Syria it has helped liberate.
The re-assertion of national sovereignty by a new government, along with de-escalation efforts and new flows of international aid, will lower violence, set better conditions for stability, and speed up the departure of foreign forces.
Responsible change may not come as immediately as some hope for, but rather through an incremental process of constitutional reform and UN-supervised elections. But change will come.
We won't repeat the mistakes made in Iraq & Libya ... for this reason, we will seek to de-escalate the civil war in Syria, work for peace & encourage all parties to head to the negotiating table. ....
... continued fighting will likely lead to worsened humanitarian conditions, more chaos, and increased regional military intervention in Syria.
A perfect time to reup the Syria strategy I & @michaeldweiss wrote in Dec. 2016, which mirrors (mostly) what Tillerson just laid out: thedailybeast.com/how-to-salvage… (at the time this thinking defied the paradigm of how to approach the conflict, many versions of which reproduced since)
From our article: "There exists a narrow window of opportunity for an incoming U.S. administration to achieve minimally defined objectives... we believe it necessary to keep small but effective U.S. garrisons indefinitely in eastern and northeastern Syria and western Iraq"
"the core American objective is to crush ISIS, then to protect the local forces who carried out this campaign with U.S. backing, giving them enough security to allow them to rebuild their lives in their part of the Jazira."
"Keeping contingents of U.S. forces in the region, meanwhile, will provide a credible deterrent helping to defend trusted and capable anti-ISIS fighters and deterring the Assad regime from any effort at reconquest."
"Capitulating in the face of an Assad offensive to retake territories that he did nothing to help liberate from ISIS would, we believe, catalyze more terrorism and squander the hard-won gains of the last two and half years."
"What we are proposing does not in any way resemble an Iraq-style occupation; nor would it require a massive new commitment of American hard power. It certainly would not approach the notion of “nation-building” long reviled by Donald Trump."
"Rather, it would expand upon battlefield victories already racked up in Operation Inherent Resolve ... and solidify them so that what happened in Iraq following the categorical U.S. military withdrawal in 2011 cannot be replicated in two nation-states."
"Contrary to the conventional wisdom, such a counterterrorism-plus strategy would actually be well timed, owing to Syria’s fractured battlefield landscape. Broadly speaking, Syria can now be divided into distinct quadrants."
"The Trump admin. should approach the Syrian conflict from this compartmentalized outlook. The solutions offered by analysts today ... ignore the unique conditions in different parts of an atomized country, treating the Syria of 2016 as though it were still the Syria of 2012"
"The focus in the eastern and southern quadrants should be on working with locally accepted government ... The U.S.-led coalition, already has carved out parts of Syria ... where the Assad regime and its Iranian- or Russian-built proxies cannot easily maneuver."
"The U.S. and its Western allies have the ability, by dint of their current presence, to dictate how much of this province, along with all of Raqqa, should be governed once the ISIS “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and his henchmen are dispatched or dispersed."
"A Jazira Strategy for establishing an American security protectorate would require the requisitioning of American forward operating bases from which Joint Special Operations Command missions can be launched in partnership with trusted local actors trained as counterinsurgents"
"The lesson to be learned there is that without a permanent surveillance and interdiction mechanism for the #border, there is every likelihood that ISIS in its present form or some new incarnation, will be back to haunt us once the current war is over.”
"Such a presence could also be used to keep the peace between America’s feuding allies—a motley crew of factions with competing agendas ready to erupt if and when they defeat ISIS, or indeed before."

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