Obama administration should consider new Syria strategy, Baker Institute experts say

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David Ruth
713-348-6327
david@rice.edu

Jeff Falk
713-348-6775
jfalk@rice.edu

Obama administration should consider new Syria strategy, Baker Institute experts say

HOUSTON – (March 26, 2013) – With news this week that the United Nations is withdrawing staffers from Syria due to the growing violence there, experts at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy say the U.S. should execute a new, more forward-leaning strategy toward Syria now.

Edward Djerejian, founding director of the Baker Institute and a former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Israel, and Andrew Bowen, the Baker Institute’s scholar for the Middle East, have outlined their recommendations in a special report, “Syria at the Crossroads: United States Policy and Recommendations for the Way Forward,” and are available to speak with media this week. The March 20 report highlights the deepening challenges Syria faces and provides substantive policy recommendations for the U.S. government in securing a multi-ethnic, democratic Syria.

“Given the absence of a negotiated political settlement and the prolonged military stalemate on the ground, the U.S., engaging its partners in the international community, should act to preserve the multi-ethnic and multi-confessional nature of the Syrian state and help the Syrian people transition to a broadly representative government and a country at peace with its neighbors,” Djerejian said. “While a renewed U.S. and EU engagement with Russia is needed to help reach a political solution in Syria, immediate steps should be taken to support and to buttress both the moderate forces in Syria and Syria’s neighbors, who are vulnerable to the continued crisis.”

The special report recommends that the U.S. consider supplying military assistance to vetted leaders of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with like-minded countries in an effort to support the moderate opposition, protect Syrian civilians and abate extremists. In addition, the U.S., in conjunction with NATO, should form a joint special operations command in Turkey to monitor the distribution of this assistance and provide logistical support, communications and training to vetted commanders. “What is needed is to combine military assistance with a coordinated strategy of capacity building within the opposition, which can then have measurable results and, importantly, not lead the U.S. into any overextended commitment,” Bowen said.

“In taking these steps, the U.S. and international community can potentially create an opening for a political dialogue to bring an end to the civil war and to secure the territorial integrity of Syria,” Djerejian said. “As Syria faces this critical hour, American leadership is needed to prevent this state from collapsing in the heart of the Middle East and upending the stability of the region. An unstable Syria that becomes a base for extremism could eventually threaten U.S. national security interests.”

The Baker Institute has a radio and television studio available for media who want to schedule an interview with Djerejian or Bowen. For more information, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at jfalk@rice.edu or 713-348-6775.

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Related materials:

“Syria at the Crossroads: United States Policy and Recommendations for the Way Forward” special paper: http://www.bakerinstitute.org/publications/BI-pub-SyriaReport-031813.pdf.

Djerejian bio: http://bakerinstitute.org/personnel/fellows-scholars/edjerejian.

Djerejian on Twitter: @EdwardDjerejian.

Bowen bio: http://www.bakerinstitute.org/personnel/fellows-scholars/abowen.

Bowen on Twitter: @abowen17.

Founded in 1993, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston ranks among the top 20 university-affiliated think tanks globally and top 30 think tanks in the United States. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows and Rice University scholars. Learn more about the institute at www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog, http://blogs.chron.com/bakerblog

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