Most of the international debate about Syria policy focuses on how to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power.
Options for NATO states and key Arab League partners include everything from enlisting Russia’s help in a diplomatic approach, with a conference now envisioned for early June, to arming the rebels to perhaps even supporting them with limited amounts of airpower. Removing Assad, however, would no more end the Syrian conflict than overthrowing Saddam Hussein in 2003 brought stability to Iraq. The United States must create a more integrated overall strategy.
Not just the Iraq example, but broader scholarly studies on civil war onset and recurrence suggest that should the House of Assad fall, the likelihood of continued bloodshed in Syria will remain uncomfortably high.
Studies indicate that more than a third of all civil conflicts have some form of relapse after they end. Though there is much disagreement about the particular causes of war renewal, certain factors are widely recognized as relevant. Many are present in the current Syrian context.