THO Discussed “What to do in Syria?”

As the conflict in Syria enters its fifth year, critical disagreements among key allies make it difficult to have an optimistic outcome. Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian conflict has not only exacerbated tensions between regional players but also complicated the solution. The Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) invited Chuck Freilich, Senior Fellow at the International Security Program at Harvard University, and Dr. Sanford Silverburg a Professor Emeritus at Catawba College, and Public Relations Director at Syrian American Council, Omar Hossino to discuss the current situation in Syria and what the future holds for the conflict ridden region.

 The Role of the Assad Regime

There was a consensus across the panel that there will be no improvements in resolving the conflict as long as the Assad regime remains in power. Omar Hossino of SAC stated, “the Assad regime compromises anti-ISIS efforts, he is the root cause for ISIS” and that he also “continues to flagrantly disregard UN Security Council Resolutions” creating a continuing lack of successful diplomatic politics in the region.

Senior Fellow at Harvard University, Chuck Freilich, agreed with Hossino, saying, “the Assad regime will not accept any compromises from the west. The diplomatic solution will not continue without leverage.” Mr. Freilich argued that Russia’s intervention in Syria has caused tensions with not only regional powers but also the US and the rest of NATO’s allies.

Speakers indicated that in an effort to re-gain its Cold War era power, Russia is trying to engage in 21st century diplomacy with 19th century tactics. Furthermore, they underlined the fact that Russian strategy in Syria simply has not helped alleviate the crisis but rather has caused greater turmoil in the region.

What is the US doing in Syria?

In regards to the Obama administrations role in Syria, speakers were in cohesion that the past and current strategies in Syria have not been enough. Dr. Silverberg, noted, “I am not a supporter of solutions to political problems. You have to manage conflict to a reasonable level of acceptance to all the participants.” Dr. Silverberg indicated that the US strategy has not realistically taken into account all the actors in the region in the decision making processes, particularly about the future of the Asad regime.

Harvard University Senior Fellow Freilich echoed this view. “Although so far the Obama administration has mishandled the Syrian situation there has not been many plausible options since the beginning of the conflict. The international community is currently focused on ISIS but we have to look at the greater and longer future of Syria” said Freilich.

Speakers agreed that the general American perspective would like to see stability in Syria with a regime change in the near future while avoiding troops on the ground in Syria as the US military does not need a confrontation with Russia over the Syrian conflict.

Overall, the take away from the teleconference was that there is much to be done on strategies in Syria from all sides of the globe including Russia, Turkey, and the US. The past and upcoming summits across the globe will rely on diplomatic talks to develop a conceivable strategy that can be a pivotal turning point in the Syrian conflict.