After the Syria Strike, a Strategy by Ryan Crocker and Michael O’Hanlon – Wall Street Journal
The crisis in Syria—the chemical weapons attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, followed by the limited U.S.-U.K.-France military response—creates an opportunity to develop the broader Syria strategy the West now lacks.
The first element of such a strategy is to help local allies in Syria hold their ground. It would be folly to cede even more influence to Mr. Assad’s murderous regime, Iran, Hezbollah or a prospective ISIS 2.0. This objective may require small deployments of U.S. forces to certain sectors of the country—not for “presence,” but for specific purposes like being able to call in airstrikes if partners are threatened, or protecting aid workers who are helping reconstruct these areas so refugees can start to return.
The second element of a new strategy is to take advantage of the threat of further U.S. military operations. After striking chemical targets in Syria, Washington’s credibility to act has been partly restored. That does not mean there’s a simple way to win the war. But Mr. Assad should be told that any attack by his forces, or by Iranian-controlled militias, on U.S. and allied forces in the sectors of Syria where they operate will be met with swift, unannounced retribution. Next time the U.S. could up the ante, going after military command and control, political leadership and perhaps even Mr. Assad himself. The U.S. could also pledge to take out much of his air force. Targets within Iran should not be off limits, depending on the provocation.
The goal of such threats is deterrence…