September 10, 2012

Post-Asad Syria Policy Should Focus on Mitigating Risks to U.S. Interests, Argues CNAS Expert

The brutal conflict underway in
Syria jeopardizes key U.S. strategic interests, but leaves Washington with few
attractive options to protect them and little leverage over the future of the
country. In Asad Under
Fire: Five Scenarios for the Future of Syria
released today by the
Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Visiting Fellow Melissa Dalton
argues that the United States must prepare for a range of potential future
scenarios and implement policies now to mitigate future risks to its interests
in the event of a transition of power from Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.

here to download Asad
Under Fire: Five Scenarios for the Future of Syria

here to watch a video interview with Dalton as she discusses the tensions that
exist within different U.S. interests in Syria.

In Asad Under Fire , Dalton
contends that "thoughtful planning with allies and partners and a
commitment to protect U.S. interests over the long term could result in the
possibility of a new, if challenging, beginning for Syria." She identifies
the five most likely trajectories for Syria, ranging from Asad being killed to
Syria disintegrating along sectarian or religious lines, and then outlines
several recommendations that policymakers should adopt now to help mitigate
risks to U.S. interests, including:

  • Engage
    all emerging leaders in Syria, making it clear that U.S. assistance will
    be predicated on certain principles, such as the protection of minority
    rights and Israeli security;
  • Acknowledge
    that even if the current Syria-Iran alliance is severed with Asad's
    departure, Iran will likely play a role in post-Asad Syria;
  • Caution
    both Israel and Turkey that intervening in Syria carries significant
    risks, but plan to collectively mitigate those risks in the event that
    intervention becomes necessary;
  • Increase
    counterterrorism intelligence sharing and security cooperation with
    Syria's neighbors to track and limit the growth of terrorist cells in
  • Amplify
    calls to partners and allies to develop a strategy for post-conflict
    assistance led by the Syrian opposition; and
  • Strengthen
    calls to the Syrian opposition to include transitional justice as a plank
    in its political platform, along with assurances for inclusivity and fair
    and representative governance to allay minority concerns. Make lethal
    assistance to opposition members conditional on their compliance.


The Center
for a New American Security
(CNAS) is an
independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong,
pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies. CNAS leads
efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and


Kay King

Director of External

and Senior Advisor


Ph: (202) 457-9408

Sara Conneighton

Director of External Relations


(202) 457-9429