Syria in the Nation's Capital
Biden Administration: Future advisors on U.S.-Syria policy to President-elect Joe Biden were announced in the past week. Former Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk, has been tapped to handle the Middle East portfolio for the National Security Council. McGurk resigned from his post in December 2018 in response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. Since then, McGurk has gone on record as a strong supporter of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an ardent critic of Turkey, and had claimed that Idlib Province was “the world’s largest terrorist haven” controlled by al-Qaeda. Jon Finer, who has been chosen as Deputy National Security Adviser, co-authored an op-ed with McGurk calling for the U.S. to allow Syrian Kurdish fighters to seek refuge in the United States. However, Finer differs from McGurk when he wrote two years ago that he agreed with Trump’s decision to extricate U.S. forces from Syria. U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn will not be staying on with the incoming administration. Rayburn confirmed this week he will soon be leaving his post as part of a transition of personnel that is natural from one administration to another.
CIA Nominee: Former Deputy Secretary of State, William J. Burns, was announced as the president-elect’s choice to serve as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Currently serving as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Amb. Burns penned a critique of President Trump’s foreign policy in December 2019, criticizing his initial decision to withdraw from Syria, fearing the ultimate result would be the resurrection of ISIS. Later, he co-authored an op-ed with incoming National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan predicting the U.S. assassination of Qassem Soleimani would cause Iran to “turn up the heat” against American forces in Syria.
Roebuck on the Record: Ambassador Bill Roebuck, the former deputy special envoy to defeat ISIS, gave an exclusive interview with Defense One to discuss the U.S. track record in Syria. Roebuck, who retired last fall, sees mixed results for the U.S., with relations with the Syrian Democratic Forces that have been repaired since the redeployment of U.S. forces in October 2019. However, he warned that unless the United States reinvests in stabilization assistance, ISIS may reemerge. Roebuck based this on a view that while the U.S. did a lot to help militarily, Syrians take the view that they didn't help them rebuild.