An End Game for Syria- Full Public Plan

Security Studies Group (SSG)

4 year ago

April 08, 2018

UPDATE: The full public version of the plan has been added for download after the Executive Summary

Executive Summary

President Trump has proposed withdrawing American forces from Syria. This plan outlines a way to implement this by creating an international protectorate and rebuilding force for the parts of Syria not controlled by the Assad regime upon the defeat of ISIS.

The danger that Iran will otherwise end up with de facto control of the Sunni areas and safe transit across Syria is extremely high. A third major Sunni insurgency is also likely if Iran or its proxies control these areas. Turkey is negotiating a separate peace with Iran and Russia for control of the North.

To avoid these, troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with command and control and air support from the U.S. and other allies should institute a protectorate in the Sunni regions. Further north, Turkish forces should be allowed to control territory west of the Euphrates; east of the Euphrates should be protected for our Kurdish (YPG) allies.


  • GCC countries have a strong interest in limiting Iran.
  • GCC troops could be trusted by the local populace.
  • Slowdown or cessation of hostilities between Turkey and Kurds.
  • A “cooling off” period may allow eventual peaceful reintegration of Sunni.
  • Isolate the Assad regime, Iran and Russia to Western Syria.


  • Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Russia will all likely oppose.
  • GCC countries will require significant motivation.
  • Turkey must be convinced to join.
  • U.S. leadership needed to overcome international inertia.
  • Russia, Iran and Assad working to consolidate territory; time is limited.

Removing U.S. forces now without creating a framework for security and rebuilding would allow Russia and Iran to control the majority of Syria and Turkey to take the Northern regions. We must convince Turkey to avoid a separate peace and invite them and our other allies from the region to create an international protectorate in the Sunni regions and the norther tier of Syria.

The gains by Iran during the recent counter-ISIS campaign put them in an even greater position to capitalize on a power vacuum. They are currently in possession of a land bridge to the Mediterranean Sea, although across disputed territory.

This plan is a step toward a more stable environment by separating groups with both sectarian and historical animosities. It isolates the Assad regime to only the territory it now fully controls and also thwarts Iran’s ability to expand or consolidate their control in the disputed areas which is consistent with U.S strategy for the region.


The Protectorate

The proposed Sunni, Kurdish & Turkish protectorates are outlined roughly on this map. Specific boundaries and responsibilities need to be worked out in negotiations. The GCC nations led by the Saudis would be asked to provide funding and peacekeeping forces. Turkey would be given control of some of the area they have already moved into and a Kurdish protectorate for the YPG as U.S. allies would be established. The United States would largely withdraw, under the President’s plan, although some Special Operations forces would remain in the protectorate to respond to attempted incursions.These would be backed by American air support and logistics.

Security, humanitarian and redevelopment operations would be conducted throughout the protectorate. A primary goal would be establishing an economic zone in the resource rich portions of Syria that would flow on it’s natural trade routes through Turkey. An additional trade corridor to Iraq and Saudi Arabia would be a unifying factor as well. These will help fuel stability and growth for the region.


  • The U.S. should execute a phased withdrawal from Syria that transitions to peacekeeping and development operations by allies in the region.
  • The U.S. should urgently negotiate an agreement with the GCC to provide both economic development and military resources needed to create a protectorate in Sunni areas of Syria.
  • The U.S. should negotiate an agreement with Turkey that mitigates their concerns about Kurdish expansion on their border and protects YPG allies.
  • The U.S. should facilitate an economic exchange of oil and other products from Syria.
  • The U.S. should limit Russian and Iranian influence to only those areas already under control of the Assad regime.
  • The Shi’a Crescent envisioned by Iran must not be allowed to form across Syria.

This plan is consistent with President Trump’s stated objectives of creating a transition for U.S. forces from primary responsibility, ensuring participation by partners in the region, and stopping Iranian expansion.

Download SSG Monograph – Navigating the Syria End-Game Exec Summary

Full public version SSG Monograph – Navigating the Syria End-Game Public

About the Author

Security Studies Group (SSG)

SSG focuses on defending the value of American power against the true threats we face. Both the legislative and executive branches need rapid access to concise and factual data to inform strategic re-orientation in counterterrorism and national security policy. That’s what Security Studies Group is all about.