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What We're Reading on Syria

On the current crisis and non-military paths forward

March 16, 2017


On the sixth anniversary of the war in Syria, we recommend a reading list covering the US's militarized missteps in Syria and the diplomatic path forward to win peace.

CPC Leaders Condemn Trump’s Deployment of Ground Troops in Syria, Congressional Progressive Caucus

“Donald Trump’s deployment of 400 additional troops into Syria without a clear objective is reckless to say the least – it’s a step towards yet another full-fledged ground war,” Rep. Grijalva said. “We do not have a strategy to liberate the Syrian people from ISIS or from Assad. It is irresponsible for this administration to send our troops into conflict that is so convoluted that we don’t know who we’re supporting, or what their objectives actually are. We already have 500 troops in Syria that President Obama deployed, and that’s 500 too many. Donald Trump is doing exactly what he does best with regards to Syria – he’s taking a bad situation and making it much, much worse.”

The War in Syria Cannot Be Won. But It Can Be Ended., Phyllis Bennis, The Nation

But it is up to us to build a movement that puts forward what an end to this murderous war could look like, as part of a movement to end the US “global war on terror” overall, and support the refugees created in its wake. The military alternatives now being debated will not end the war, and they do not protect vulnerable populations either. There is no military solution. It’s time we rebuilt a movement based on that reality.

How Trump Can Work with Russia to Challenge the Status Quo and to Control ISIS, Luis Moreno Ocampo, Just Security

“The bombing policy may be considered legal but it fuels the ISIS strategy of seeking revenge for western attacks against Muslims… My suggestions are as follows: first, stop money flows to terrorism and proxy forces, and second, focus efforts on ISIS leadership and its network around the world… Transforming ISIS leaders from enemies into criminals will make a difference in a key aspect: ISIS’ legitimacy. ISIS is not just attacking westerners, it is mainly imposing a reign of terror in the Islamic world, killing, raping and displacing entire communities, imposing “taxes,” kidnapping for ransom, and engaging in protection rackets. The international community could investigate and expose such crimes protecting communities in the Middle East and Westerners at the same time from ISIS attacks.”

The US Troop Presence in Syria Is at Its Highest Ever. But How Long Are They on the Ground for and Why?, Jared Malsin, Time Magazine

“Recent comments from US officials suggest that the military is contemplating a deployment in Syria that extends far beyond the defeat of ISIS as a conventional armed force. In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 9, Army General Joseph Votel, who leads the US Central Command, said additional forces may be needed in the future to help with “stability and other aspects of the operations.” The Pentagon is also considering lifting a formal cap of roughly 500 US troops permitted on the ground in Syria, a limitation imposed by former President Barack Obama, according to the Washington Post. The near doubling of the US military deployment in eastern Syria, along with Votel’s comments, suggest a shift toward a more open-ended commitment of forces to Syria, echoing the prolonged US military presence in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

End the Horror in Syria’s Torture Prisons, Amnesty International

“As many as 13,000 people have been killed in Saydnaya since 2011, in utmost secrecy. Many other people at Saydnaya have been killed after being repeatedly tortured and systematically deprived of food, water, medicine and medical care. The bodies of those who are killed at Saydnaya are taken away by the truckload and buried in mass graves. It is inconceivable that these large-scale and systematic practices have not been authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government.”

We Have a Duty to Call for End to Killing in Syria & How We End It Matters, Bassam Haddad, Democracy Now

“What complicates the situation and what makes this a difficult, intractable context is the identity of the supporters of the uprising and the revolution, which includes conservative, oil-rich countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and their external allies, including the United States and as well as Turkey early on, which helped actually bring in thousands of external fighters. The identity of these players, of these supporters, has turned this into a conflict that is much larger than Syria. It became a conflict that is much more than just about Syria. And if we don’t realize this development and the implications of this development, we will be—if we don’t have this diagnosis, in my view, we will be suggesting solutions that actually do not work. They might be even counterproductive.

We all, I think, have a duty, moral, political and intellectual, to call for the end of the killing.”

Stop the violence in Syria

Act now
Update Syria: Diplomacy, Not More War 

With Aleppo burning and war drums beating, it’s more urgent than ever to continue to press for the only way to stop the bloodshed in Syria: an immediate negotiated ceasefire, and ultimately, a political solution to end the crisis.

Update Don't Add Fuel to Fire in Syria 

Safety for Syrians and security for everyone can only be won by non-military means

With so many Syrian civilians’ lives caught in the balance between myriad military powers and militias, actors interested in peace should press for a political solution to the conflict. Congress should exercise its constitutionally ordained role in exerting oversight of the executive branch to press for a non-military path forward in Syria.

Background Treat ISIS Like an Artichoke: A Non-Military Route to the Heart of the Crisis 

FCNL's Kate Gould explain that, to get to the heart of the ISIS crisis, we must press our elected officials and other policy makers to treat ISIS like an artichoke. The most promising way to deal with ISIS is to use non-military means to strip off its overlapping layers of recruits, weapons, and political and financial support.