The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has approached the civil war in Syria with caution. The authorities governing the Iraqi autonomous region, based in Erbil, have quietly played an important role in the humanitarian response to the crisis with 197,000 (according to the UN refugee agency) Syrian refugees on KRG territory, spread across three refugee camps in the main cities of Dohuk, Erbil, and Sulaimaniyah.
Syria has been mired in deadly strife since March 2011 and the outlook for resolving what is now a full blown civil war looks increasingly dire. The worst case outcome for Syria is one whereby the country fragments and becomes a failed state in which the Damascus government no longer controls its own territory. Under such a scenario, the glue holding the country together comes unstuck.
Today, even though Israel and Turkey have common interests and even if they fully mend their ties, it is likely too politically sensitive—particularly in Ankara—for them to cooperate openly on Syria and Iran.
A number of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Qatar, have been providing support to the opposition in various forms, ranging from humanitarian aid to military supplies, such as weapons, armor, and communication devices. However, these efforts have not been enough to turn the tide, and after three years of fighting, a diplomatic solution still seems unlikely.
The UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was passed on March 28, 2013, and seeks to regulate and limit trade in arms in circumstances of human rights violations. Unfortunately, it will have minimal effect on the Syrian conflict. Syria's own vote against the treaty, along with Iran's and North Korea's, sounded the death knell for a universally applicable treaty to limit small arms, ammunition, and conventional weapons technology.
Russia today may have less influence in the Middle East than previously, but it continues to have a stake in the region's stability and sees it as an area in which it has important national interests, often at variance with U.S. goals and objectives.
Yes and no. Because of sectarian differences between the Iranian government and the Sunni Salafi fighters in the Syrian opposition, Iran's influence becomes weakened at first sight if the Syrian opposition wins. But the Iranian regime can (and has) created common cause with Sunni radicals in the recent past. History shows that this would not be the first time an unlikely alliance between opposing groups has formed.
The United States' policy toward a post-Assad Syria would largely depend on what political scenario results. A victory by unified rebel forces would generate a vastly different policy than a new govenrnment that includes jihadists. In the more likely event that post-Assad Syria descends into greater sectarian violence, Washington would urge regional partners like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to exert influence with those rebel groups to which they had provided arms and ammunition.
Edward P. Djerejian leads a conversation on the international peace negotiations in Geneva and the challenges and possible outcomes that lie ahead for Syria, as part of CFR's Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series.
Representative Smith discusses the current situation in Syria and U.S. policy options moving forward.
Senator McCain discusses recent developments in U.S. policy toward Syria.
CFR Senior Fellows Robert M. Danin and Ed Husain lead a conversation on the current situation in Syria and discuss the challenges that lie ahead for the country and the international community.
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Elliott Abrams and Ed Husain, CFR senior fellows for Middle Eastern studies, lead a conversation on the current situation in Syria and discuss challenges that lie ahead, both for the country and the international community.
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Mona Yacoubian leads a conversation on the situation in Syria, including analysis of the religious divide, the role the United States and other international actors should play, and recommendations for U.S. policy.
As the uprising continues in Syria, the international community moved to condemn the Assad regime in the aftermath of the government's attacks on the city of Hama. CFR's Elliott Abrams and Robert Danin discuss how these developments affect U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East.
CFR Senior Fellow Steven Cook and Foundation for Defense Democracies Research Fellow Tony Badran discuss the increasing violence and political change sweeping the region with Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose. Cook and Badran have authored articles in the recently released eBook New Arab Revolt, published by CFR and Foreign Affairs.
Listen to CFR Expert Mohamad Bazzi and Consulting Editor Bernard Gwertzman discuss violent anti-government protests and rising tensions in Syria.
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Special operations play a critical role in how the United States confronts irregular threats, but to have long-term strategic impact, the author argues, numerous shortfalls must be addressed.
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