Why US election results will have little effect on the Syrian conflict
As US media declare Joe Biden president-elect and Donald Trump consults his lawyers, the reality of the situation in Syria shows that it does not matter who claims victory in the elections, as the country’s fate lies squarely in the hands of the Syrian people.
There has been much speculation that, as president, Donald Trump and Joe Biden are bound to approach the Syrian crisis in drastically different ways. However, there is less certainty about whether either administration could do much to help end Syria’s nightmare while President Bashar Assad remains in power – and it seems neither would be willing to take the necessary steps to see him removed.
The US record in Syria is not a good one. One year into the civil war, then-President Barack Obama backtracked on his chemical weapons “red line” after the Assad regime used sarin gas on its own people and was met with no US military action.
Later claims emerged that Obama’s failure to act was out of concern that Iran would reject the nuclear deal that his administration was determined to drive through. Today, with Obama’s JCPOA deal undone by Trump, Iran continues to have a strong and growing presence in Syria and an undue influence on its prospects for peace.
Under President Trump the influence the US once had in the region has faded, a reality underlined by his decision to withdraw troops from Syria, leaving Russia and Iran to step into the gap.
There is also no indication from the current US president that he seeks regime change in Syria.
In 2017, Nikki Haley, then-US ambassador to the UN, said it was no longer a priority of the US to remove Assad, but instead it intended to work to achieve a political settlement with other powers invested in the country, such as Turkey and Russia.
If Trump loses and Biden wins the presidency, there is fear in the region that the new Democrat president would restore the Iran nuclear deal, emboldening the Iranian regime and, by extension, Assad. There is also speculation that Biden could lead the US into another war in the region.
However, the US foreign policy think tank The National Interest recently said: “The former VP was actually one of the Obama administration’s leading skeptics about what the US could do in Syria.”
What is evident is that under neither Trump nor Biden is the US likely to reverse its new noninterventionist worldview, and regardless of the outcome of the US election, the fate of Syria rests rightfully where it should – in the hands of the Syrian people.
• Adelle Nazarian is the Director of Communications and Media for Citizens for a Secure and Safe America (C4SSA) . She is also a Senior Media Fellow at the Gold Institute for International Strategy in Washington, D.C. and a Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, India.