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Fifth, current efforts to prevent attacks by jihadis returning from Syria must be expanded, including the efforts to track (and, of course, stop) those leaving for Syria to fight, and find those returning — now with a network of contacts and new skills. This will require close international coordination, because national police and security forces will have pieces of information that must be assembled, analysed and shared. Much information will be in the hands of the families and communities of these Western jihadis, who must be asked for help in finding them and in countering jihadi recruitment efforts. The messaging used by the jihadis and their backers must be countered, perhaps above all by stressing the strife and indeed the murderous violence among the various groups. Returning fighters must be assessed for possible use in counter-messaging, to see if they have returned disillusioned and willing to prevent other young men from making the mistake they made. All this is obvious to security officials in the West, but the effort they have under way is not yet adequate to the danger we face.

What has been missing in Syria since 2011 is Western, and especially American, leadership and determination, but it is not too late for a new policy. The early goal of a quick departure for Assad and transition to democracy in Syria is now impossible to attain. More disorder and suffering are certain. But Syria need not be an endless source of refugees, a centre of inhuman suffering at the hands of a vicious minority regime, and a worldwide gathering place for jihadi extremists. Needed now are a serious and coordinated effort to assist the nationalist elements of the rebels, and organise assistance for them from others in the region — Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and Qatar are the most critical — and American (and if possible British and French) willingness to use force directly to punish chemical warfare and erode Assad's air power. Those remain essential steps of a new policy that can over time diminish the tragedy being suffered by the Syrian people and the threat Syria now poses to regional stability and European and American security interests.

It remains unclear whether President Obama's announcement at West Point that he wishes "to ramp up support" for the rebels marks a serious policy change or yet another obfuscation. Certainly that speech gaves no signal that a broad reorientation of administration policy is coming. One can only hope that the growing humanitarian disaster, the spread of war to Iraq, the damage to allies like Jordan, and the dangers of "blowback" to the home front from the growing jihadi presence in Syria will lead to a change of Syria policy in Washington, London, and Paris. The question we face now is which happens first: that policy change, or the explosion of bombs set by our own citizens who returned from war determined to make our capitals the next front.

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John Ray.
November 18th, 2014
2:11 PM
Not a smidgen of bias, misinformationan or ommission in this article I see. Also not a hint of wishful thinking and sheer fantasy either. Really can anyone take this self declared expert seriously?

August 17th, 2014
6:08 PM
This article has too many basic errors. The prescriptions are also based on a fantasy. Just as a couple of examples of errors: ISIS was not formed in 2013 in Iraq. AQ in Iraq sent fighters to Syria in 2012 to form al-Nusrah. AQI also had its own presence in Syria. Once Al-Nusrah refused to accept AQI leadership, ISIS was declared. ISIS is an AQI re-branding. Also the so-called moderate Syrian insurgents never suffered from lack of funds or weapons. Saudis and Qataris poured money into the FSA but the FSA couldn't get itself organized. Saudi-Qatari rivalry didn't help either. But now to the fantasy: Somehow the US will be able to simultaneously weaken Assad (by bombing its air assets) and train enough moderates who'll in turn will be able to defeat both ISIS and hordes of other jihadis in Syria on the one hand and the Assad regime on the other hand. This is not serious analysis.

Observer of the Scene
July 1st, 2014
8:07 AM
The question we face now is which happens first: that policy change, or the explosion of bombs set by our own citizens who returned from war determined to make our capitals the next front. Yes, what a clever policy we've followed for decade on decade. On the one hand, we've reached out to Muslim nations with high explosive; on the other, we've opened our borders to mass immigration by Muslims who are, it seems, not entirely happy about our international policy. If only wise and far-sighted individuals like Eliot Abrams had had some influence over what we were doing. If only we'd asked Israel how it has managed to assimilate all those Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Somalis, Eritreans and other assorted Africans it has welcomed in. You know, the dream-filled migrants who have helped Israel's economy boom, rather than its underground stations and buses.

David O'Sullivan
June 27th, 2014
5:06 AM
It is time to partition Iraq…Iraq is basically a construction created by Britain and France after the fall of the Ottoman empire for the benefit of the West, without reference to the diverse communities that make up the population…Iraq (and Syria) should be partitioned into a Kurdish state, Sunni state and Shia state so that the security forces created by them can be trusted by the communities in which they operate. Syria is a special case; there is a large Sunni population, and a minority Alawite population more closely aligned to Shia than Sunni and some other minorities whose interests should be recognized. Such a resolution may well be supported by the other Moslem states in the region.

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