The US is threatening to further sanction Syria if Damascus doesn’t make progress in America’s preferred direction during the ongoing constitutional reform process.
The US special representative for Syria James Jeffrey conveyed this intention on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly after his country and a handful of others called upon Staffan de Mistura to report back to them by the end of this month about which of the 50 people he’s supposed to select to participate in Syria’s constitutional committee.
Prior agreements on the creation of this important political mechanism stipulate that the delegates will be chosen from members of the pro-government, domestic opposition, and external opposition factions, and while this is admittedly an ultra-sensitive process, the US and its allies feel that Syria has been dragging its heels on it for far too long and that’s why they want to crank up the pressure on Damascus by threatening more sanctions against it.
The elephant in the room is the issue of so-called “decentralization”, which appears to be the only pragmatic political solution for dealing with the Kurdish-controlled agriculturally and energy-rich northeastern third of the country that’s reported to host around 20 American bases but which President Assad has sworn will return to the central fold by one way or another.
This is becoming ever less realistic to achieve as Russia signaled that it won’t engage in the nuclear brinkmanship that would be needed for supporting Syria’s otherwise futile efforts to evict the US and make this happen, hence why a “compromise” is the only peaceful way for resolving this issue. The US also knows that its Russian, Chinese, and Iranian rivals lack the money needed for rebuilding the liberated areas of Syria, which is why it’s weaponizing reconstruction aid for political purposes.
Pressing home the point of what he wants to see achieved, Jeffrey also hinted at imposing a “no-fly zone” over the Kurdish-controlled northeast and replicating the state of affairs that prevailed in Iraqi Kurdistan from 1991-2003 during which time the US carried out occasional airstrikes to prevent the central government from reasserting its sovereignty in this region. Since the de-facto “partition” of Syria is already a fait accompli at this point, the next goal of the US and its allies is to compete with its rivals over the reconstruction of their respective “spheres of influence” in the country.
Despite it being comparatively easier for the geographically smaller, less populated, and more resource-rich northeast to recover a lot quicker than the rest of Syria, the US hopes that this can serve as a “demonstration effect” for the rest of the country and subsequently be manipulated through infowars and perception management tactics to somehow “delegitimize” the predictably slower efforts of Damascus and its allies in this regard.