Syria civil war rages: why Hillary Clinton is focused on what comes after
The US is eager to keep undesirable actors out of a post-Assad Syria, but when Hillary Clinton meets Saturday with senior Turkish officials and Syrian opposition figures, they'll want to discuss the raging civil war.
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The Obama administration on Friday designated Hezbollah for Treasury Department action for its material support to the Assad regime. “Hezbollah’s extensive support to the Syrian government’s violent suppression of the Syrian people exposes the true nature of this terrorist organization and its destabilizing presence in the region,” said David Cohen, undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement.Skip to next paragraph
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Also Friday, the Treasury Department designated 29 Syrian government officials and five Syrian companies for their role in the regime’s repressive actions and for developing non-conventional weapons.
The US has listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization since 1995, but Friday’s order targets the Lebanon-based group specifically for its operations in Syria. Hezbollah is coordinating its support for Assad with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, the Treasury Department said in its statement.
Iran displayed its deep interest in Syria this week by holding an international conference on the Syrian conflict that attracted diplomats from Russia, China, and other countries that have opposed United Nations Security Council intervention in the conflict.
Earlier in the week Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, dispatched his chief national security adviser to Damascus to underscore Tehran’s support for Assad. Iran’s national security adviser, Saeed Jalili, told Assad that Iran supports Syria as an “essential part” of an “axis of resistance” that Tehran would not allow “to be broken in any way.”
The CFR’s Mr. Danin says Iran’s outspoken commitment to Assad is worrisome because Iran has already demonstrated that it is “willing to take risks in the use of force” to further its aims. But he and other experts say Iran is far from the only challenge the US faces in a transitioning Syria, and they say the growing presence of Islamist extremists in Syria is of particular concern.
“Syria is becoming a magnet for jihadis globally,” says Ed Husain, who is also a senior fellow at CFR in Washington. “In our enthusiasm to see the fall of the Assad regime, we’re at risk of encouraging the rise of jihadi elements,” he says.
That “risk” is just one of the factors explaining Clinton’s focus on “what comes next’ in Syria, Danin says. “We have to be concerned about what happens afterwards,” he says, adding that the “after” will nevertheless be determined in large part by how Syria gets to a post-Assad period.
“The way Assad is brought down,” he says, “will shape the way the country evolves afterwards.”