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A nation must think before it acts.
A project of the Atlantic Council and Foreign Policy Research Institute
The future of northeast Syria is unsettled after eight years of civil war and the US intervention to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). It also faces the various divergent interests of powerful external actors, including Russia and Turkey. In mid-April 2019, the Atlantic Council, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, and the Foreign Policy Research Institute convened a group of scholars, intermediaries, and civil-society members from the United States, Europe, and the Middle East to discuss Syria’s northeast at the granular level. The group focused on the building of local security and governance infrastructure, how these efforts interact with the interests of outside parties, and whether a broader power-sharing arrangement can be reached to manage, or help end, the conflict. Over the course of the two-day dialogue, a general consensus emerged that any solution in Syria will require a clear US position on the future of Syria and what Washington is prepared to accept in any post-conflict scenario. The same is true for Russia, the second-most-powerful external actor involved in the conflict, and the guarantor of security, locally and internationally, for the Bashar al-Assad government in Damascus; as well as a third actor, Turkey. In a new report, Aaron Stein and Emily Burchfield summarize and build on the themes discussed at the conference and provide their own analysis and policy recommendations toward the evolving situation in northeast Syria.