SyriaThe crisis in Syria – and how to resolve it

Published 4 May 2018

“Syria could have been the Arab Spring at its best,” says Stanford University’s Russell Berman. “It became complicated, however, because propping up Assad was necessary for Iranian expansionist ambitions, and this amplified the problem of a Shia-versus-Sunni conflict. What’s more, Iran’s entry took place at a point in time when the Obama administration was eager to avoid any conflict with Tehran, so it could negotiate the nuclear deal. This gave Iran and Assad a free hand. In other words, success with Tehran meant bloodshed in Damascus.”

Last month the United States launched a military precision strike in Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma, Syria, a week earlier, that the U.S. and others have blamed on the Assad government.

The country has been in a political quagmire since a democratic uprising in 2011 as part of the so-called Arab Spring. Since then the conflict in Syria has escalated into a proxy war, with complicated and confusing international alliances. A devastating humanitarian crisis ensued.

Stanford scholar Russell Berman, the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities in the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, has researched the conflict extensively. He recently authored an article – “The Syrian Rebellion and Its International Resonance” – in a special issue of The Caravan, a publication of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. The title of the special issue is “Strategy in Syria: Beyond ISIS.”

Beran is the author of many books, among them In Retreat: America’s Withdrawal from the Middle East, Freedom or Terror: Europe Faces Jihad, Anti-Americanism in Europe: A Cultural Problem, and is the co-editor of The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.

Berman recently talked with Stanford News Service about the complexities of the Syrian conflict and how peace can be achieved.