The Kissinger guide is to talk with Damascus, and the leading U.S. national security policymakers of the last forty years who have actual experience in talking to Syria have argued the same. The Caesar Act will not hurt Assad but the Syrian people, and it cannot work in earnest given other events in the region that are playing to Syria’s advantage. Similarly, China and Russia’s determination to defy the United States in Syria is also mitigating U.S. pressure. European frustrations with the United States and Turkey will also benefit Damascus’ interests. There is one lesson from all this: threats and sanctions do not work against Syria. To make progress on Syria, one must first look to Kissinger, Brzezinski, and Scowcroft, figures who ran a successful security policy because it was not based on failed assumptions, to understand how Syria negotiates with the United States.
Kamal Alam teaches Syrian military history at various Middle Eastern Army Staff Colleges. He was previously a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, he also advises several Damascus-based family offices.