10 years after the start of the Syrian crisis, the US policy in this country remains shrouded in ambiguity. Both President Barack Obama and his successor Donald Trump over and over made comments on Syria issues, they never put gave priority to the crisis in the Arab country in their West Asian policies. Some American political observers criticize Washington’s Syria strategy and argue that the US sustained a strategic loss and conceded the field to its key rival Russia.
The American approach to the Syrian war should be seen as marking an end to the US hegemony on the international stage in general and West Asia in particular. Certainly, during the Trump administration, contradictions in the diplomacy and foreign policy strategy over the Syrian crisis heightened more than any other time in the past. Meanwhile, the US failure to manage northern Syria conditions and counter Turkish intrusions put to show more than ever the passiveness and vacillation of its foreign policy.
The November 3 presidential election in the US brought to power the Democrats as Biden defeated Trump in a disputed election. During Trump’s presidency, Biden over and over attacked his Syria policy.
Biden and his Secretary of State post nominee Antony Blinken several times assessed Trump policy as a “great failure” in Syrian developments and called the US response to the Turkish actions in Syria as failed.
Here some questions present themselves: What challenges and concerns does Biden foreign policy team face regarding its policy and management of the crisis in Syria? What would be its possible strategy concerning the issues it faces in Syria? The US has 10 issues to address in Syria.
1. The first and possibly the most important issue the Biden administration has to deal with in Syria is the crisis in general. Will the US seek more active intervention or continue its past decade passive approach? Given the stances taken by Biden orbit’s figures, a big change is out of expectation in the American addressing the Syrian conflict. Very likely, the new administration walks the same path of minimum involvement in the crisis.
2. Adopting an approach and involvement in the Geneva process for the preparation of a draft constitution for Syria is another concern for the Biden administration. That Washington will adopt what kind of approach surrounding the new Syrian constitution under the supervision of the UN and in implementation of the Security Council’s resolution approved in 2015 is a question. This is another issue Biden’s foreign policy team should make decisions about.
3. Whether or not the US will support the UN plan to design a mechanism for the Syria election in 2021 is another matter the new administration should engage with.
4. The fashion of dealing with the Syrian Kurds would be another issue Biden’s government should manage. Will Biden like Trump abandon support for the Kurds in the nick of time?
5. Another concern is the Turkish Syria policy. In the past years, Biden accused the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of authoritarianism and lashed out at Trump for not backing the Syrian Kurds in the face of Turkey.
6. The US dealing with the Turkish-backed terrorist groups in Syria is another issue requiring decisions.
7. Moreover, the Biden administration needs to make general decisions about the political future of the Syrian Kurds. Under Trump, Washington supported the Kurdish domination of oilfields in Deir ez-Zor in a show of willingness to see the Kurds securing semi-autonomy. The Americans think that continued control over part of Syrian oil revenues by the Kurds can provide the necessary, though not adequate, ground for this end. Now it remains to see how Biden acts in this area of foreign policy.
8. Another case is Caesar Act that was approved by Congress in 2019, effectively sanctioning the Syrian government and any entity and country dealing with it.
9. Dealing with the government of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is another concern of the Biden administration. In fact, the new White House leaders should decide if they will follow regime change in Syria or work with the al-Assad administration that weathered heaviest plots seeking its toppling since 2011.
10. Biden’s foreign policy also would have the Russian policies and actions in Syria to deal with. Chances are, the two sides would see tensions escalating between them.