Dem senator asks for ‘top to bottom’ review of Syria policy

A Democratic senator is requesting Congress undertake an immediate “top to bottom” review of U.S. policy in Syria.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, requested Congress create a Syria Study Group along the lines of the Iraq Study Group it established in 2006.

“I write today in the belief that the U.S. should immediately undertake a top to bottom review of our policy with regards to the more than five-year-old conflict in Syria,” Shaheen wrote in a letter released Wednesday to Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. Shaheen is also a member of the subcommittee.

“Given the stakes for the U.S. and our allies, I would strongly support the initiation of an independent, expert review of our overall policy in Syria highly similar to the Iraq Study Group.”

The Iraq Study Group was a bipartisan, 10-person panel created by Congress in March 2006 and facilitated by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). The group released a report in December 2006 that, among other recommendations, called for a significant increase in the number of U.S. military personnel embedded with the Iraqi army as the Iraqi government worked to more quickly take control of the country’s security and for U.S. forces to begin to move out as progress was made.

Shaheen’s request comes as the Pentagon is nearing the end of a 30-day review of its counter-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) strategy ordered by President Trump. As part of that review, the Pentagon has reportedly considered recommending sending conventional ground forces to Syria for the first time.

The Pentagon said Tuesday the review will be completed next week in time to meet Trump’s deadline.

In her letter, Shaheen said she supports the review ordered by Trump.

But she indicated she believes a Syrian Study Group would be prudent because while the United States has made “substantial progress” in fighting ISIS in Syria, it has not made “demonstrable progress” in negotiating an end to the civil war between rebels and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Like the Iraq review, Shaheen said, the Syria review could be facilitated by USIP. She also highlighted that the Iraq review “was only made possible” with the support of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

“Such an effort would, I believe, allow Congress to support a policy approach that closes the current gap between U.S. goals and concrete U.S. commitments while ensuring that any escalation of U.S. involvement is not undertaken for its own sake but is part of a strategy to achieve critical U.S. objectives in Syria,” she wrote.

Tags Jeanne Shaheen Lindsey Graham Patrick Leahy

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