This book provides a synopsis of the past four years of U.S. policy in Syria. It brings together the major turning points of this policy since the beginning of the Arab Spring and positions that different actors endorsed since 2009. The first section is dedicated to explaining President Obama’s attempt to restore ties with the Syrian government after the 2008 Presidential Election in order to resolve the foreign fighters problem in Iraq. This effort was also aimed at launching a subsequent peace process between Arab states and Israel as well as the issue of weapons of mass destruction. Despite opposition from Congress and some segments of Washington, President Obama appointed an ambassador to Damascus and official talks were launched during his first two years in office. However, this process was disrupted by the Arab Spring and the Assad regime’s heavy-handed response towards the demonstrations. Particularly, the use of force during some demonstrations and the increasing number of casualties drove the U.S. to change its course of action in its relations with Syria.
This book illuminates U.S. policy in Syria over the last four years. Chapters 1 and 2 provide context for the Obama administration’s treatment of the Syrian civil war by analyzing the status of relations in the years preceding the conflict. They conclude that the Obama administration worked cohesively to try to reverse George W. Bush’s deliberate antagonizing of the Syrian regime and to launch a rapprochement with Assad to achieve its main goals in the Middle East. Chapters 3 through 6 address U.S.-Syrian relations since the Arab Spring and demonstrate the chokehold that risk aversion has held over the Obama administration despite ample, if imperfect, opportunities to strengthen the Syrian opposition and foster a possible transition to democracy in Syria. The final chapter assesses what changes, if any, stakeholders may expect in U.S. Syria policy during the Obama administration’s remaining two years.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: The Bush Years (2001-2008)
Chapter Two: Thawing Relations Before the Arab Spring (February 2009-March 2011)
Chapter Three: The Arab Spring Thunders Through Syria (March 2011-August 2011)
Chapter Four: Obama Calls for Assad’s Removal (August 2011-August 2012)
Chapter Five: Obama’s Red line (August 2012-August 2013)
Chapter Six: A New Calculus (August 2013-August 2014)
Chapter Seven: Conclusion – ISIS and the New Era in U.S. Policy on Syria
Timeline of U.S.-Syria Relations (January 2009 to June 2014)