Putin’s partition plan for Syria

Hussein Ibish writes: Russia’s unspoken but unmistakable message is that Moscow is trying one — and perhaps the only — way of ending the conflict by means of a Lebanese-style segregation of Syria into zones controlled by rival militias. To Washington’s perennial concern in any Middle Eastern imbroglio, “Tell me how this ends,” Moscow responds: The Syrian conflict will be “resolved” on Russia’s terms, even if Mr. Assad proves dispensable to the Kremlin in the long run.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s desire to see the conflict end without actually doing anything itself means that, as Bloomberg View suggested recently, there is a group of senior American officials prepared to go along with the Russian plan. After all, America’s own policy in Syria has rapidly moved from tragedy to farce. The latest fiasco was the cancellation of the $500 million military training program for anti-Islamic State rebels that produced barely a handful of fighters on the ground.

So if Moscow has a policy, and Washington doesn’t, why not just support that?

Beyond the fact that it’s absurd to hope that Mr. Putin’s approach is likely to benefit American interests, giving way to Russia’s policy would, in effect, entail abandoning the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. And the militants cannot be effectively countered in Iraq alone. So what this final, ignominious capitulation would really mean is that not only would Mr. Assad (or some Russian-appointed successor) menace Syrians for the foreseeable future, but so too would the Islamic State. [Continue reading…]

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