The Future of Syria
On April 9, 2019, Institute for the Study of War Research Director and senior expert on Syria Jennifer Cafarella participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Delegation of the European union to the United States. The event marked the opening of an exhibition highlighting the humanitarian impact of the war and the response.
Quotes Attributable to Jennifer Cafarella:
"I think we ought to be very careful not to take Assad and his backers at their word that they have destroyed this rebellion, because they have not. We’re already seeing the signs of early resurgence in ostensibly recaptured areas, such as Daraa Province where the revolution began...that indicate that while Assad’s gains make look impressive on a map, they are very fragile."
"The war in Syria is far from over and its outcome is far from certain. Assad and the Russians want us to believe that they have won, and they have not. They have not won militarily and they have not won politically. They haven’t won politically internationally and they also have not won politically on the ground inside of Syria, because forcing a starved and beaten population to surrender is not a political victory. It is not reconciliation, and it does not legitimize the Assad Regime."
"...the jihadists -- Al Qaeda and ISIS -- are also trying to steal Syria’s future. And they are spending a lot of resources to do it. And they’ve had some successes. And we’ve started to fight back. We’ve created an opportunity in the east that we need to exploit. We need to figure out what to do in Idlib in order to contain Al Qaeda, and we need to fight the Russian led narrative that what the US and the international community should do is let Assad retake Idlib, or that the problem is getting Turkey on board with a operation in to Idlib. That’s not the problem. The problem is the Assad Regime and its backers, and the fundamental conditions of violence that even created the opportunity for Al Qaeda and ISIS to dig their roots into this theater and this population."
"...we need clear political goals and we need a clear strategy for what outcomes are we actually trying to accomplish. Recognizing that this war is far from over, we’re likely not going to get a Geneva settlement that is acceptable, because, by the way, Bashar Al Assad has never had any intention to negotiate. He is sending signals to the populations, both that residing in Syria and residing elsewhere, that they should expect nothing new from Assad except the torture, the detention, and...punitive measures..."
"...I think we need to avoid rushing this and avoid looking for an easy way out or a near term solution and recognize that this has been eight years of a devastating conflict, that the country is destroyed...It’s probably going to continue for another decade because even Assad’s gains...are not going to endure.Al Qaeda is very alive and well. They will continue to conduct military operations and they will expand beyond Idlib."
Watch the event video here.