Though Syria still struggles with violence and fighting, the Islamic State’s territorial holdings have been almost completely eradicated. But while ISIS may no longer have physical control in the country, it has left young militants and a dangerous, extremist ideology.
Some in the US government have suggested that we should make a grand bargain with Russia over Syria that would let Assad stay as Moscow curbed Iran’s power in the country. But such a deal would lead to the mass exile or massacre of civilians stuck in the international community’s failed de-escalation zone of Idlib and cement Iran’s control over Syria.
Syria—with five million refugees, 500,000 dead, the Pandora’s box of chemical warfare reopened, a cesspool of terror groups, and Russians and Americans, Israelis and Iranians shooting at each other—is the very definition of chaos.
If Assad is permitted to continue employing chemical weapons with impunity, he will successfully normalize them. US forces, our allies, and civilians in the region and around the world will be in great danger of becoming victims of the same.