Russia Is Preparing a Syria Dilemma for the Next U.S. President

Russia Is Preparing a Syria Dilemma for the Next U.S. President
Syrian rescue workers after an airstrike in the town of Darat Izza, western Aleppo province, Syria, Nov. 5, 2016 (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets photo via AP).

Russia is planning to confront the next U.S. president with the dilemma of how to manage a bloody defeat in Syria on his or her first day in office: As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hurtle around America looking for last-minute votes, Moscow has been positioning its forces for a final assault on Aleppo.

Despite pushes by rebel forces to gain ground, there is a very high chance that the Russians and their Syrians allies will secure total control of the city before the next president’s inauguration. Moscow is likely to dismiss residual efforts by the Obama administration, and other panicked international players like the European Union, to ease the crisis. The future of Syria is going to be a problem for a Clinton or Trump administration from day one.

This will present a defining challenge to the incoming occupant of the White House. If the new president decides that there is no choice but to look for a diplomatic solution in Syria on Russia’s terms, it will do inordinate early damage to the new administration’s global credibility. If she or he opts to respond with force, the results may only be more deaths in Syria and a deep rift with Moscow that could weigh heavily on U.S. diplomacy for years to come.

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