After a UN aid convoy was hit by an airstrike while on its way to Aleppo, the UN has decided to suspend all aid shipments in Syria. The fragile seven-day ceasefire that had been brokered by the US and Russia is over and neither side is confident it can be salvaged. An effort will be made, however, for appearances sake at the very least. At the moment it is unclear if aircraft that struck the convoy were Syrian or Russian, though for the moment it is likely that they were Syrian. Casualties were heavy with at least 12 drivers and aid workers known dead and at least a dozen others injured.
Syria has directly and indirectly become a major topic in the US presidential campaign. The refugee question is addressed by the Trump and Clinton camps on a regular basis. Hillary Clinton supports a large increase in the number of Syrian refugees without an effective plan to screen the incoming waves of people. Donald Trump, for his part, is firmly against admitting any more refugees from nations ‘compromised by terrorism.’ The attacks in New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota over the weekend suggest that Trump’s plan is more likely to weed out possible terror suspects before they set foot on US soil.
Refugees aside, whoever wins the election in November will be faced with an entanglement like no other in Syria. By January, 2017 the United States may have to accept that its long term goal of removing Bashr al-Assad from power is no longer possible. Like it or not, the Syrian president is going to factor into postwar Syria one way or another. The new US administration will also need to craft a new, effective military and political strategy for Syria. One that defines US goals and national interests. At the moment, US policy continues to be ill-defined moves in response to the actions of the other major players in the Syrian conflict.
In other words, the initiative has been lost and it doesn’t seem likely that it will be regained before the next president takes office.