Features of Joe Biden’s strategy in Syria (Analysis)

There are indications that the Biden administration will adopt a different strategy from the Trump administration, as it will work to restore the American role in Syria, after it declined significantly during the previous stage.


The majority of the leadership team appointed by Biden, the new Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have strong anti-Assad positions on Bashar al-Assad personally, and his regime in general, “oppressive“.

The Syrian file is witnessing a state of cautious anticipation, awaiting the first steps that the new US administration will take, while there are indications that President Joe Biden’s administration will adopt a different strategy from the previous administration, Donald Trump, as it will work to restore the American role in Syria, after it declined sharply.

Continued support for the PYD terrorist militia, the Iranian presence in Syria, Russia’s concentration on the Mediterranean, and the relationship with Ankara, will be the focus of the American dealings with the Syrian issue, and the Biden administration may adopt coarser measures against the Iranian forces deployed on Syrian territory, and against Russian influence as well.


The political tendencies and orientations of the Biden team regarding the Syrian crisis

Generally speaking, radical changes do not occur at the level of US foreign policies according to different presidents and parties. American administrations, as diverse as they are, are subject to long-term unified strategies linked to the nation’s fixed supreme national interests.

Nevertheless, the president and his administration still have many margins that allow a wide range of changes at home and abroad, and these margins gain additional importance when it comes to making tangible changes in the course of the American compass for many countries, without affecting the major interests of the United States.

President Joseph Biden, during his election campaign and his meetings with Muslim communities in America, expressed his deep sadness over the suffering of the Syrian people, the Chinese Muslims, Uyghurs, and the Rohingya, and pledged to lift injustice and injustice from them, citing the noble prophetic hadith, If he could not, then by his tongue, and if he could not, then in his heart …

It is true that there are electoral promises aimed at winning the votes of the electorate, but in addition to the hard work and continuous demands on the part of the Muslim communities, and the Syrian ones, in particular, they will form a force/lobby that affects the decisions related to the Syrian issue.

Vice President Kamala Harris, in a presidential debate last November, attacked Representative Tulsi Gabbard for refusing to describe the regime’s head, Bashar al-Assad, as a “war criminal.” Harris said in that debate: “This comes from someone who was a defender of Assad, who killed people in his country like cockroaches.” She added, “She defends him and refuses to describe him as a war criminal.”

In the aftermath of the American strike against the Assad regime, which targeted the Shayrat airport and several regime sites in 2017 in response to the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, Harris issued a statement saying: “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fiercely attacked innocent civilians, including dozens of children, who died of asphyxiation. This attack reinforces the clear fact that Assad is not only a ruthless dictator who treats his people brutally. He is also a war criminal that the international community cannot turn a blind eye to.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken served on the National Security Council during the administration of former President Bill Clinton, before becoming director of staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when Biden was chair of the committee. Then, in the early years of the Obama administration, he returned to the National Security Council, before moving to the State Department to serve as Deputy Secretary of State John Kerry.

Criticizing Trump’s policy in Syria, Blinken stated, “We failed to prevent a horrific loss of life. We failed to prevent massive displacement of people internally in Syria and, of course, externally as refugees.”

He added, “The United States had any remaining leverage in Syria to try to effectuate some more positive outcome. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has more or less turned that up to pulling out entirely in Syria has taken away significant leverage.”

It is true that Blinken was the architect of the Iranian nuclear deal, which Tehran seeks to revive again, but at the same time, he was a proponent of a military strike against Bashar al-Assad, after he crossed Obama’s red lines.

Blinken stated at the time that he was against putting red lines. But, “As it has been established, it is supposed to act accordingly, in order to preserve the prestige of the United States.” Therefore, Blinken criticized the Obama administration, which overlooked Assad’s crossing of these lines and his indifference to them.

As for Brett McGurk, the former envoy for the International Coalition to Fight ISIS, who resigned in protest against Trump’s decision in late 2018 to withdraw American forces from Syria, he, in turn, considered this a “complete reversal of previously drawn policy,” and now he returns to the Syrian scene strongly, after his appointment as an advisor to the Council. US National Security for the Middle East and North Africa, by Biden.

During his tenure as the international coalition envoy, from 2015 until late 2018, McGurk was known for his absolute support for separatist militias in eastern Syria.

It is also worth noting in this regard that the majority of the leadership team appointed by President Biden, the new Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have strong opposing positions on Bashar al-Assad personally and from the regime. His rule is generally “oppressive”.

Implementation of the “Caesar Act”

Since its adoption nearly a year ago, the “Caesar Act” has become a valid US law that crosses the political orientations of the ruling administrations, both Democrats and Republicans. Under its provisions, the Trump administration applied severe sanctions against the Assad regime, its Russian and Iranian backers, and many Lebanese personalities and institutions.

And it is certain that President Biden’s administration will continue to implement the law, by imposing additional packages of sanctions according to it, and may go to expand them to include the regime’s military activity, to limit its thinking about further military operations against opposition-controlled areas, which will cause more blood. And displacement.

Although the law allows the US President to lift the sanctions in the event that he perceives serious negotiations by the Assad regime, provided that the Russian and Iranian military support is stopped, or for other reasons related to US national security, this option, if Biden contemplates it, will be the subject of great debate and confusion. In Congress, and Biden will have to convince lawmakers why.

Features of Biden’s policies in Syria

The Biden administration realizes that the continuation of Syria as a failed state will have serious repercussions, foremost of which are the continued suffering of the Syrian people, the influx of new waves of refugees to neighboring countries, the provision of fertile ground for extremist terrorist organizations, and the possibility of a return of armed clashes between the parties to the conflict, which may be reflected negatively. On the stability of neighboring countries.

Biden’s pledge to return to the Iran nuclear deal is an obsession that haunts the Syrians, fearing its repercussions on Iran’s continued presence in Syria. But reviving an agreement that has been suspended for years will not be easy, as there is a chance that the United States and European countries will demand more concessions from Iran, especially with regard to the file of its controversial missile program, as well as Tehran’s support for armed militias that the United States and Europe consider destabilizing.

Turning the clock back on to 2015 is impossible, and if diplomacy fails again, the proliferation of weapons and the collapse of Iran’s moribund economy may follow, and this, in turn, could lead to important and dangerous consequences for the Middle East and the world.

The most important test of President Joe Biden’s policies in Syria remains the extent to which he dealt with Security Council Resolution 2254, his seriousness in pushing the political transition process and preventing the Assad regime from imposing a fait accompli, by holding sham elections, through which it acquires false legitimacy on which Moscow relies in prolonging The duration of the suffering of the Syrians.