According to a report from Asharq Al-Awsat, a senior Biden advisor met with a group of Syrians to go over what a Biden administration’s Syria policy would look like. The advisor said Biden would keep a US military presence in northeast Syria to counter Russia and keep reconstruction funds from the country unless “meaningful” political reform occurs.
The US has a small occupation force in northeast Syria to control oil fields, estimated to be around 600 troops. The US soldiers have had confrontations with both Syrian and Russian forces. The advisor said Biden would maintain this military presence because it “is a deterrent to Russian and regime airstrikes.”
On the other side of Syria, in the northwest Idlib province, Turkey backs opposition fighters and is preventing the Syrian government from retaking the province. Idlib is mostly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formally known as al-Nusra Front, or al-Qaeda in Syria.
“At the same time, Biden’s approach will look for ways to strengthen the Turkish operations in Idlib, which currently protect nearly three million people from Syrian and Russian aggression,” the advisor said. The US is also waging a secretive drone war in Idlib against Hurras al-Din, another al-Qaeda affiliate said to be more radical than HTS. The advisor did not mention this campaign.
Syria has been struggling to rebuild from a brutal nine-year war. US sanctions that took effect under the Caesar Act over the summer specifically target the country’s energy and construction sectors. The act allows the US to target any individual, regardless of nationality, that is doing business in Syria and discourages Syria’s neighbors from helping in the reconstruction effort.
The advisor said a Biden administration would “make clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that there can be no American, or European, support for the reconstruction of Syria unless political reform takes place.”