Today, my first report with The Henry Jackson Society was published: “Destroying Islamic State, Defeating Assad: A Strategy for Syria“.
The report lays out the background to the Islamic State, and the deep role the Assad regime has played in the Islamic State’s growth in Syria. The American-led Coalition has to a degree contained the Islamic State, but to uproot its “caliphate” in Syria requires a ground force.
In Syria, the options for a ground force are: the regime, the Kurds, and the rebels.
Given Assad’s role in the growth of Islamic State and war crimes, he cannot be a Western partner.
The Kurds have proven capable in their own areas, but have been less able to extend beyond Kurdish-majority areas. Encouraging the Kurds to move into Arab-dominated areas comes with political risks that might help the Islamic State, and stretches the Kurds, opening military opportunities to the Islamic State.
Most rebel groups are Arab Sunnis, and helping them, and the Sunni Arab tribes, take control of their own local security is the only sustainable solution to the Islamic State crisis. Some rebel groups have cooperated with Jabhat an-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, but many would separate from Nusra if they had another option. The report examines which rebel groups are separable from Nusra.
The report concludes with five recommendations toward destroying the Islamic State.