May 20 2020
By Elizabeth Hagedorn
Under a Joe Biden presidency, the United States would retain a military presence in northeast Syria as leverage against the regime, the presumptive Democratic nominee’s top foreign policy adviser suggests.
In an interview Tuesday with CBS, Tony Blinken indicated that the hundreds of US troops stationed in northeast Syria to advise partner forces fighting the Islamic State and secure the region’s oil fields would remain there if Biden were elected.
“They shouldn't be there for the oil," which he indicated is "as President Trump would have it." He added, "But they happen to be there adjacent to it. That's a point of leverage because the Syrian government would love to have dominion over those resources. We should not give that up for free.”
The Donald Trump administration’s policy on Syria has prioritized preventing an Islamic
State resurgence, blunting Iranian influence and pushing for a durable political
settlement to end the war. On the latter, Blinken accused the current administration
of ceding too much influence to Russia and Iran, which back Syrian President Bashar
“This is a little bit personal to me, and any of us — and I start with myself — who had any responsibility for our Syria policy in the last administration has to acknowledge that we failed,” he said. “Not for want of trying, but we failed.”
Why it matters: Blinken isn’t the first former Obama administration official to express regret over not doing more in Syria, where Obama famously drew a “red line” on chemical weapons use that he never enforced with military force.
Trump has taken limited, but direct military action against the regime. The missile
attack he authorized in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on Syrian
civilians in April 2017 has been among his better-
Since running for president, Biden has called for American military force to be used judiciously, but has also described what he views as a “moral duty” to respond to genocide or chemical weapons use around the world.
With the war drawing down in all but Syria’s embattled northwest, various regional
actors have signaled they will welcome Assad back into the fold. The sanctions-
Know more: Congressional Corresponent Bryant Harris walks through the views shared by Biden’s foreign policy team, and Senior Correspondent Amberin Zaman reports how US officials are pressuring Russia to reopen a key border crossing in Syria.