Reiss Center panel analyzes the impact of the US withdrawal in Syria

Following the withdrawal of US forces from parts of Syria, the strategic map of the country has been transformed. On October 31, the Reiss Center on Law and Security hosted a panel discussion that scrutinized the impact of the US departure, including the relocation of Kurdish communities in Syria, through the lenses of foreign policy and international law.

Participating in the conversation were Anne Barnard, former Beirut bureau chief for the New York Times; Jon Finer, former director of policy planning at the U.S. Department of State and former Middle East advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, and Claus Kress, professor and director of the Institute of International Peace and Security Law at the University of Cologne. Reiss Center faculty director Ryan Goodman, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law, moderated the panel.

Selected quotations from the discussion:

Anne Barnard: “There was already a competition, if you like, between the US and Russia about who is the more reliable partner, and clearly this [US withdrawal] reinforced an idea that Russia chooses its battles, commits to them and shows up with the resources needed to get the job done. Whether you agree with their goals and their tactics or not is a whole other story, but certainly in the Syria arena we’ve see Russia be a much more effective and reliable partner than the US. And this also allowed Russia, and…to a lesser extent Iran, to further benefit from the vacuum left by the United States.”

Jon Finer: “I think the symbolism of this [American move] is horrendous for the United States.…On the other hand, though, I mean, this is not a part of the world, or at least not a part of a part of the world, that is central to American interests in my view. [Syria] is not a longstanding US partner that was lost to Russia or Iran.”

Claus Kress: “You mentioned the term ‘ethnic cleansing.’ Perhaps to mention the name which to me is the most accurate ones in terms of international legal analysis, it would be ‘forcible displacement,’ forcible displacement of populations within a territory.… Just to set the record straight, this is not just a violation of international law. It is a crime under international law.”

Follow the full discussion on video:


Posted November 8, 2019