Biden picks up where Obama left off in the Middle East

Anthony Blinken returns to the White House, dropping the title of “Deputy” from his secretary of state role, now helming the State Department. Blinken also intends to bring on members from Obama’s administration to handle new efforts in Syria. During Trump’s term, much of the affairs in Syria were left to be handled by CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command).

Blinken brings back Obama officials to his department

Familiar faces among Blinken’s picks are Michael Ratney, former U.S. special envoy to Syria who now leads the languages school for the State Department and Robert Malley, former IS advisor, currently head of the International Crisis Group. Both men served under Obama administration from 2015 to 2017.

Also on Blinken’s list are Puneet Talwar and Michael Singh, both connected to Blinken through working with or for Westexec Advisors. Singh’s previous experience was under the George W. Bush administration as a former Syrian Advisor. Meanwhile, Talwar served under Obama as an Advisor for Middle Eastern affairs.

4 years and nothing has changed

Though efforts such as the strikes on the bases of Bashar Al Assad of 2017 and the Caesar Act implemented to toughen sanctions on Syria were made by the Trump administration, little change was actually made since Obama’s final days in office. This leaves Biden’s administration, and specifically Blinken, to resolve issues left essentially untouched over the past four years.

Both U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. troop commitments will have to be balanced delicately in the coming days. The USSOCOM garrison has been monitoring the desert region of Al Taf alongside the General Intelligence Directorate of Jordan and the Mughaweir Al Thawrah, a Syrian militia group financed by Washington. These soldiers were initially deployed for Obama’s Train and Equip programme, the goal of which was to monitor and report on Syrian insurgents converted to be fighters against Obama’s Islamic State. The troop was also originally managed by the CIA from training bases in Jordan.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops in other parts of the region are still tied to previously agreed upon relationships in northeastern Syria with the Kurdish-Majority Syrian Democratic Forces. The former deputy secretary of state that served before Blinken made public critiques of the Obama administration in 2019, stating that it lacked direction for the initial interventions in Syria. This leaves Blinken and the new administration to both answer for issues left unresolved since the Obama administration as well as the wake of the Trump Administration.