Syria’s once-separate conflicts have moved into close proximity on the battlefield. Part of the plan essentially carves up Syria into no-go zones for each of the players — President Bashar al-Assad’s fight, with Russian and Iranian help, against rebels seeking to overthrow him, and the U.S.-led coalition’s war to destroy the Islamic State.
Some lawmakers and White House officials have expressed concern that the strategy is shortsighted, gives the long-term advantage in Syria to Russia, Iran and Assad, and ultimately leaves the door open for a vanquished Islamic State to reestablish itself.
Critics also say that neither Russia nor Iran can be trusted to adhere to any deal, and that the result will be a continuation of the civil war whose negotiated end the administration has also set as a goal.
U.S.-Russia negotiations are continuing even as Congress moves this week toward imposing additional sanctions on Russia and Iran. Elements of the strategy were presented in members-only briefings last week to the House and the Senate by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph F. Dunford Jr. and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.