Russia, Iran, and Syria demonstrated their enduring partnership during a trilateral foreign ministerial meeting in Moscow on April 14 to discuss their response to the recent strike by the U.S. against Shayrat Airbase in Syria on April 6. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continued to consolidate his grip around core regime terrain in Damascus and Hama City.
U.S. President Donald Trump demonstrated a new willingness to use force against the regime after conducting cruise missile strike targeting the Shayrat Airbase in Central Syria on April 6. The strikes came in response to the regime’s use of sarin gas against the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Northern Syria on April 4.
The U.S strike against an Assad regime base in northern Syria on April 6, 2017 opened the door to a reorientation of American strategy in the Middle East. President Trump’s action could reset the terms of America’s confrontation of other hostile states, such as North Korea. President Trump may be shifting away from a narrow focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) as the strategic priority in Syria and toward a new approach.
By: Chris Kozak, Genevieve Casagrande, and Tom Ramage
Pro-regime basing data accurate through March 21, 2017. Syria Control of Terrain data accurate through April 3, 2017.
Al-Qaeda resumed large-scale offensive operations against the regime following a consolidation phase in Northern Syria. The U.S. accelerated its campaign to isolate and seize Ar-Raqqa City alongside the Syrian Kurdish YPG.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s primary objective in Syria is to constrain U.S. freedom of action – not fight ISIS and al Qaeda. Russia’s military deployments at current levels will not enable the Iranian-penetrated Assad regime to secure Syria. Moscow’s deepening footprint in Syria threatens America’s ability to defend its interests across the Middle East and in the Mediterranean Sea. The next U.S.
Conditions on the ground are not set for a political solution to the Syrian Civil War despite diplomatic efforts by regional powers. The third round of Astana Talks on March 14 – 15 failed to generate significant results amidst an opposition boycott. Meanwhile, two major double suicide attacks targeted the Old City of Damascus on March 11 and March 15.
The U.S. deployed at least four hundred soldiers from the 75th U.S. Army Ranger Regiment and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to Northern Syria in order to both support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against ISIS in Ar-Raqqa City and prevent an open confrontation between the SDF and Turkey in Manbij in Eastern Aleppo Province. The latest round of Geneva Talks on the Syrian Civil War concluded without significant progress.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is neither sovereign nor a viable U.S. partner against ISIS and al-Qaeda. Russia and Iran have penetrated the Syrian Arab Army’s command-and-control authorities at all levels and propped up the force by providing the bulk of its offensive combat power. The pro-regime coalition cannot secure all of Syria and primarily serves as a vehicle for Moscow and Tehran’s regional power projection.