Latest in Syria

Executive Power

Documents: FOIA Suit on the Legal Basis of Syrian Airstrikes

In May 2017, the nonprofit Protect Democracy filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the Trump administration's legal justification behind the U.S. airstrikes in Syria during April of that year. The litigation produced proof of a seven-page legal memo analyzing the legal basis for the strikes, which the Justice Department has not yet released.


Trump's New Syria Strategy is Woefully Unrealistic

On January 17, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the Trump administration’s Syria strategy for the first time at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute. Tillerson’s speech cleared up much of the uncertainty regarding whether the United States would stay in Syria after the defeat of the Islamic State, confirming that the administration would maintain a military presence in the country for the foreseeable future. In addition, he highlighted five key U.S.


No Easy Way Out of Reconstructing Raqqa

Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on Markaz.

Now that ISIS’s rule in Raqqa is over, both locals and wary external observers are wondering what comes next. The United States government appears intent on avoiding another costly, lengthy, and possibly ineffective Middle East reconstruction mission. Yet it must also consider the consequences of underinvestment and too swift a disengagement.


The Syrian Crisis: A Reckoning and a Road Map

Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on Markaz.

The tide in the Syrian civil war has clearly shifted. After capturing Aleppo in late 2016, Bashar Assad’s regime—with much help from its Russian and Iranian patrons—is capturing other parts of the country from both ISIS and other opposition groups. Most of the international community seems to have accepted at least a partial victory by Assad as a fait accompli.


Rules for Reconstruction in Syria

Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on Markaz.

On August 17, Syrian officials oversaw the opening of the first Damascus International Exhibition since the start of the Syrian uprising. Reflecting the triumphalism now widely on display in Damascus, the exhibition—an international trade fair—has been heavily promoted by the Assad regime, presented as a symbol of its victory over the insurgency that began more than six years ago.

International Law: Self-Defense

Soldier Self-Defense and the Strikes in Syria

On Tuesday, U.S. forces shot down an armed Iranian drone in southern Syria, a few days after a similarly justified strike on a Syrian aircraft that dropped a bomb near a U.S. training outpost. Combined with the U.S. decision to ramp up support to Syrian Kurds seeking to retake Raqqa, these actions could be interpreted as initial steps on the road to war with Syria.


We are Rushing Raqqa

At an April 27 hearing at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on policy options in Syria titled “After the Missile Strikes,” Charles Lister, a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute, cautioned the dais on the need to “not rush Raqqa.” On May 9, the Pentagon announced that indeed U.S. President Donald Trump intends to do just that.

International Law

New Database of States’ Approaches to Use of Force Concerning Syria

Under what conditions may a state lawfully intervene—or otherwise act—in relation to armed conflict in Syria? In support of or against whom? In this context, how do states frame their approaches to acting (or not acting)? What legal arguments (if any) are embedded in those statements? Do those arguments comport with or contravene—or even seek to modify—existing international law? On which of the underlying legal issues do states agree or disagree? And what implications might those arguments entail for other conflicts?

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