Russia Knows Its Next Move in Syria. Does America?

A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter during a funeral for fighters killed in Raqqa, at Tal Abyad, Syria June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Without a clearly defined understanding of U.S. interests, the risk grows that the United States will stumble into a clash with Russia and Iran.

What does the president want to see happen in Syria? And what price is he willing to pay to achieve it? And what set of circumstances, even if not optimal, is tolerable? Six months into the new administration, we don’t have a clear or consistent answer.

Meanwhile, Iran, Syria and Russia are moving ahead with the third stage of their operation. If the success of that offensive directly and negatively impacts U.S. interests, we seem to have neither the diplomatic leverage to halt it, but haven’t made clear the extent to which we will commit to deter it. Out of that continued uncertainty runs the risk of an accident, the consequences of which no one seems prepared for.

Nikolas K. Gvosdev is a senior editor at the National Interest and a professor of national-security studies at the U.S. Naval War College.

Image: A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter during a funeral for fighters killed in Raqqa, at Tal Abyad, Syria June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

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