The Heritage Foundation says Iran’s moves in Syria threaten the region. They conclude, “While seemingly running against the grain of Iran’s modern strategic culture for basing its forces abroad, the prospect of Tehran militarizing parts of Syria or Lebanon long-term is deeply alarming — to say the least. Indeed, a quick look at the map shows that, if successful, Iran would have influence over of a big chunk of the Middle East, allowing Shiite, Persian Iran to threaten more Sunni Arab states and nearly encircle American ally, Israel. There’s no question this isn’t good for U.S. interests either, but especially with U.S. forces deployed across the Middle East on counterterrorism missions; Iran is no fan of the United States. Of course, the bloody, nearly 7-year-old Syrian civil war is probably far from over — not to mention that other major powers such as Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States have a say in Syria’s future. But considering this weekend’s drone incursion, it could be just the opening salvo of conflicts to come from an emboldened Tehran — meaning now would be a good time to assemble a coalition to pre-empt Iranian expansionism.”
The CSIS sees US involvement in Yemen as the model of future American policy in the region. They note, “But those looking to see where U.S. Middle East policy is heading should look to Yemen, not Syria. In Yemen, the U.S. government has treated the conflict at arm’s length. It refuels allies’ warplanes, sells them armaments, and doesn’t do much else. The U.S. military carries out strikes on al Qaeda and ISG affiliates with Arab allies’ cooperation. The intensity of diplomacy one sees around Syria is absent, and it has been so since a flurry of U.S. engagement in the final months of the Obama administration. The governing assumptions seem to be that the United States shouldn’t second-guess its allies, the overall problem is intractable anyway, and the combatants need to work it out on their own… Several effects are likely to follow from these trends. One is that the United States will have less influence over the shape of conflicts in the Middle East. Through its deep engagement, the United States for decades could influence alliances, incentivize positive behavior, and dissuade irresponsible actions. While it wasn’t always a recipe for comity, it did help even out many of the bumps in regional relations and help ease the isolation of U.S. partners from the regional order.”
The Cato Institute looks at American “mission creep” in Syria. They conclude, “An enduring feature of U.S. foreign policy is that each intervention, whether it is seen to fail or succeed, eventually serves to justify further intervention. While it’s true that the Islamic State has been decimated, thanks in part to the collective destructive power of Damascus, Tehran, Baghdad, Moscow, Washington, and various Kurdish and Syrian militias on the ground, it has been accomplished at great cost in blood and treasure. The answer to this near-Pyrrhic victory is not for Washington to invent new missions that lack legal authorization or a plausible timeline of success, but instead to reckon with its own role in this interminable tempest and acknowledge the very real possibility that backing away may be in the best interest of America and of Syria.”
The Washington Institute looks at Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s legal problems. They conclude, “As for U.S. policy implications, Netanyahu will no doubt rely even more heavily on his right-wing base to maintain support during this period, which could make him more vulnerable to pressure on issues of concern to them (e.g., unilaterally annexing the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim). Therefore, the notion of making progress on the Trump administration's moribund peace plan is now even more far-fetched, especially at a time when the Palestinians are boycotting U.S. officials. Regarding Iran policy, Netanyahu will surely continue urging President Trump to either "fix or nix" the nuclear deal, though the actual impact of his exhortations remains uncertain.”
The Carnegie Endowment looks at the growing US military involvement in Africa. They conclude, “There is a strong argument to be made that a continuing buildup of U.S. military forces in sub-Saharan Africa is neither strategically smart nor a good use of resources. Many of the terrorist groups currently on the U.S. military’s watch list—for which the military is deploying additional special operations troops and building new installations—do not directly impact core U.S. interests. In addition, past history suggests that the U.S. military is often not the best institution to address some of the root causes driving continuing conflict and instability on the continent. Given complicated local dynamics, ethnic cleavages, and long-standing resentment against foreign military interventions, adopting innovative diplomatic and development approaches may better serve U.S. policy.”
The Washington Institute looks at the Israeli escalation in Syria. They provide the following policy recommendations, “Given the likelihood that Iran will continue testing American and Israeli redlines in Syria, the Trump administration should pursue a more coherent approach that includes the following measures: Build on the credibility gained at Deir al-Zour by policing U.S. redlines more consistently. The United States might consider resuming strikes in response to future chemical weapons incidents; these could justifiably be broadened to include nearby Iranian or proxy elements supporting Assad regime forces. Moreover, strikes on high-value Iranian targets not directly connected to such provocations would further complicate Iran's calculations and make U.S. strikes less predictable. Prepare for an indirect challenge to the U.S. presence in SDF areas. This may include Iranian pressure on Iraq to close down the U.S. supply line across the Tigris River. Beyond supporting moderate forces in Baghdad, Washington needs to establish a Turkish option for sustaining its presence in Syria, assuring Ankara that it will restrain the Kurdish elements that lead the SDF and press them to break ties with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Support the southwestern opposition enclave in Deraa province. The IRGC and its allies may probe this area on the Jordanian border next, aiming to split it in two. The United States should therefore execute a limited, covert train-and-equip program for non-Salafist rebel groups there and elsewhere in Syria, as part of a wider effort to tie pro-regime elements down and limit their ability to make trouble for U.S. forces or neighboring states. Publicly lay out the consequences of escalation. Washington should make clear that if Iranian forces or their proxies open a wider conflict with Israel, they might emerge so weakened as to jeopardize their hard-won gains against rebel forces in Syria. Signal Russia that the United States will actively defend its interests in Syria. At the same time, Washington should work with Moscow on reenergizing diplomatic efforts to manage the Syria conflict and avoid embroiling the two countries in a dangerous confrontation of their own.”