January 20, 2015

SOTU: Nicholas Heras on Syria

President Obama should take this opportunity to present a vision for the framework of a post-Assad Syria, and not simply limit his remarks to an update on the U.S.-led Coalition campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the ongoing effort to remove international jihadist organizations that are using Syria as a strategic base of operations against the West. He should reiterate the U.S.’ long-standing desire for a political solution to the Syrian conflict, and emphasize that this solution is built out from his decision to train and arm Syria’s secular, nationalist rebels. 

The President should reassure the international community that the United States will only train Syrian rebels who agree to abide by a political program that seeks a pluralistic and democratic future for their country, and that the U.S. will hold the rebels to their pledge. President Obama should also state that the U.S. recognizes the legitimate concerns of Syria’s loyalist communities, many of which are sectarian minorities that are fearful of displacement and massacre if the Assad regime falls.

He should remind loyalist Syrian communities that the U.S. supports a transition plan for Syria to which they can agree. The President should emphasize that important stages in this plan include local security, with the phased demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration of the country’s loyalist and rebel militias into a national security force that is under the control of a civilian government in Damascus.

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