By Emma Himes
The Syrian Civil War has waged on for more than 7 years with the Assad regime continuing to counter the advances of various rebel groups. The United States became involved in the Syrian Civil War on the side of the rebels, while Russia began providing assistance to the Assad regime in 2015 with the aid of Iran. Recently, the Civil War has swung in favor of the Assad regime. At the same time, conflict between the Islamic State and a coalition of United States and Kurdish forces continues in an area of eastern Syria .
The policies of the United States regarding the Syrian Civil War have been volatile through the two administrations which have approached the conflict. The Obama administration’s approach was arguably less engaged than that of the current administration. While the Obama administration was reluctant to enforce the “red-line”, which the Assad regime crossed by using chemical weapons, the Trump administration ordered air strikes on the regime in April 2018. There is little action being taken to achieve political peace between the opponents.
The Trump administration recently stressed its goal of an Iranian retreat in the region. The State Department’s special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, said the military mission in Syria might be extended until Iran withdraws their soldiers . This reflects tensions between the United States and Iran; the current administration aims to decrease Iran’s influence in the Middle East. There are at least 10,000 soldiers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Syria, a group comprised of both Shiite militiamen and government soldiers . This new development is a departure from President Trump’s previous threats to withdraw US troops from Syria. The US’s withdrawal from Syria has also complicated by the country’s involvement in the war against the Islamic State.
This new approach by the Trump administration creates a connection between the United States’ presence in Syria and its relations with Iran. The administration’s commitment to remain in Syria until the reestablishment of political stability could reflect confidence that United Nations negotiations will produce a settlement. But, a settlement remains unlikely given current conditions, because many of the parties involved in the conflict are unwilling to negotiate . Alternatively, the administration understands that these settlement talks will not proceed rapidly and are preparing for a longer presence in Syria. The Trump administration is likely to remain in Syria until there is wider political peace in an attempt to avoid a military resurgence similar to the case of Iraq in 2011.
The Trump administration’s renewed commitment to stability in Syria will require more than just military presence. Iran is invested in Assad regime’s success. They have been one of the regime’s longest allies and will not leave Syria solely on the basis of continued United States presence. Political pressure in addition to current economic sanctions on Iran will have more of an effect, but the current administration should plan for a longer stay in Syria if they want to remain present until Iran leaves. In terms of risk, the United States military’s continued presence in Syria will increase the risk of a confrontation with Iran. The current mission in Syria is, on paper, to combat the Islamic State. The Trump administration is taking advantage of the situation in order to counter Iran in the region. With this renewed commitment, the United States is conveying resolve against Iran.
Emma Himes is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies Economics and International Relations.
 Ryan, Missy, Sonne, Paul, and Hudson, John. “In Syria, Trump administration takes on new goal: Iranian retreat”. The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-syria-us-takes-on-new-goal-iranian-r etreat/2018/09/30/625c182a-c27f-11e8-97a5-ab1e46bb3bc7_story.html?utm_term=.dd91b58d9 5c9. Accessed October 25, 2018.
 Hall, Richard. “UN envoy failed ‘mission impossible’ of bringing peace to Syria” Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-civil-war-un-peace-envoy-assad-st affan-de-mistura-a8592446.html. Accessed October 25, 2018.
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