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The US should deal with Assad | CNN

June 12, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 28.6%. 2 min read.

People walk by election campaign billboards depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a candidate for the upcoming presidential vote, in the capital Damascus, on May 25, 2021. - The Syrian President, whose family has ruled the country for over half a century, faces an election on May 26 meant to cement his image as the only hope for recovery in the war-battered country, analysts say. In the ballot, two challengers will run against him, approved by an Assad-appointed constitutional court, out of a total of 51 applicants. (Photo by LOUAI BESHARA / AFP) (Photo by LOUAI BESHARA/AFP via Getty Images)

David W. Lesch, biographer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, writes that now may be the right time for the US to engage with a regime that has largely secured control of its country after a horrific civil war.

As many know, I frequently met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad between 2004 and 2009 first to write a biography on him and then as something of an unofficial liaison between the United States and Syria at a time when bilateral relations were strained.

I, myself, have a hard time advocating for any sort of dialogue with those who have so much blood on their hands; however, this has been a deadly and destructive civil war where there are many people in Syria on all sides with blood on their hands.

For the United States, stability is important in Syria — not only because of the immense suffering that has unfolded since the start of Syria’s war and the understandable revulsion, and sense of heartbreak, that Americans feel when confronted with it, but also because Syria borders US allies (Israel, Jordan, and Turkey) as well as countries who are seemingly at a tipping point toward state failure (Lebanon and Iraq).

In addition, as one of Syria’s main allies in the civil war along with Russia, Iran’s footprint in the country is extensive — including through its dutiful client, Hezbollah.

The Biden administration has yet to set its Syria policy, something that would seem likely to happen in the coming months as it continues to evaluate the situation and as the still-new administration’s foreign policies on a host of global issues begin to coalesce.

I cannot emphasize this enough: The Biden administration’s Syria policy could go in one direction or the other, and once it is established, barring some crisis event, it will be immensely difficult to change it again for at least the next four years.

It is widely believed in Western government and media circles that the Syrian government has held American journalist Austin Tice, who went missing in Syria in August 2012.

Once this is done, the door is ajar for more dialogue, and the Biden administration’s Syria policy could very well veer in this direction, even if the stated US goal may remain for Assad to leave power and for a transitional government to take charge.

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