The refugee crisis now confronting Europe, with hundreds of thousands of desperate migrants pouring across multiple borders has opened up deep fissures in the European Union. The crisis threatens to tear the EU apart. But the greatest source of refugees flooding into Europe now is Syria, and that demands a rethinking not only of EU and US refugee policy, but also their approach to Syria’s civil war.
About half of Syria’s population—nearly 13 million people—has been displaced after five years of brutal conflict, with some 400,000 dead and more than 5 million now having fled the country.
While the Kurds in the north have proved to be useful allies in the fight against ISIS in Syria as well as Iraq, the same cannot be said of Washington’s regional Sunni allies, who continue to pursue their own particular interests, with Turkey more focused on targeting the Kurds than ISIS, and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states still funding jihadi rebel groups in Syria, even as they pretend to join the war against ISIS.
To avoid an even greater catastrophe, the administration must decisively reverse course and take the only road that has a plausible chance of stabilizing Syria and eventually defeating ISIS and other Islamist radical groups.
The United States must work toward a solution with all of the parties to the conflict: the Syrian government, Hezbollah, and the various rebel forces and civilian opposition groups; as well as countries like Russia and the other permanent members of the UN Security Council.
As we should have learned over the past five years, making inflexible demands has only produced more extremism, more war, and more tragedy for the region. It is time to try the other road.