CIA Director John Brennan:
"So we need to be able to have some sense that Assad is on the way out. There can be a transition period, but it needs to be clear that he's not part of Syria's future. Until that happens, until there is at least the beginning, or the acknowledgment of that transition, you're going to have Syrians dying, continue to die, because they...many of them are trying to reclaim their country, for the good of Syria's future, but many of them also want Syria to be the safe haven for terrorists.
So I don't know whether or not Syria can be put back together again, whether there's going to be some kind of confederal structure, where the various confessional groups are going to have the lead in governing their portion of the country. We've looked at the different parts of the country, and which ones could be self-sustaining, which ones would rely so much on external assistance. Most of the people in Syria are in that western spine of the country, but large portions of the eastern part of Syria are desert and limited urban centres.
So, I don't think also you're going to be able to have some sense of tranquillity in Syria until you're also able to address the Iraq issue, and that's why I think this administration, and President Obama, gets a lot of credit at trying to look at what we need to do in both countries, so that what we're doing is going to be complementary to this effort."
1. Assad must go - At the most basic level, this can be treated as misdirection. The US has done everything to ensure Assad remains, getting ever closer to the Russians in their strategy of bombing anything that moves in rebel areas.
We can also look at a slightly more interactive level. Partly it is a response to the coming message of the Clinton campaign, forcing the current administration to be somewhat on the same page. It can also be seen as focusing on Assad as an individual, believing that if Assad is gone, there can be a peaceful continuation with the régime essentially intact. It's hard to tell if the administration doesn't realise this wouldn't stop the killing, rape and torture - the régime's modus operandi - or just doesn't care. Implicitly it is a message to the Russians to agree to give up Assad in order to keep the régime, but they have no reason to give him up, and reason to fear the régime would lose legitimacy without them, hastening the day when a representative government that would reject Russian domination might come to power.
2. Many of them are trying to reclaim their country - And the administration wants to do as little as possible to help them do that. Again, it is only because there are other forces that want to support the rebels that the rhetoric changes to this from "We're not sure if there are forces in Syria we can work with."
The only people trying to make Syria a safe haven for terrorists are ISIS. And Assad and all his allies of course. Jabhat al-Nusra was always focused on fighting against Assad, not attacking the West, but the US intelligence community's predilection for seeing everything in the Middle East about al-Qaida was always likely to see them as the threat rather than ISIS or Assad. They simply cannot see that this is a disaster, that Assad was always going to be seen as Syrians as the threat, and attacking Nusra, or Jabhat Fath al-Sham as they are now, was only going to encourage Syrians to their world view where all the secularists and non-Muslims were conspiring against them.
3. Partition - They've clearly thought about the mechanics of this, but possibly just by reading up on the geography in encyclopedias. Do they really think the rate of ethnic cleansing would slow down or become a peaceful transfer of population if they were internationally sanctioned areas of ethnic supremacy? How would you stop the war at all if Sunni Muslims are expelled from large parts of the West, or that Assad - assuming he continued as the warlord of Damascus and the West - would agree to stop the war when that's the only thing keeping his régime going? Plan B is no plan at all.
4. Give the President some credit - Give it a rest. This is the President who said nothing should be done about Syria until ISIS took over half of Iraq, then that ISIS should be taken on in Iraq while Syria should have a train-and-equip programme that produced a literal handful of fighters, and even now thinks that sectarian militias backed up by sometimes ill-directed American bombing is the best way to deal with ISIS while the biggest dangers to life are accommodated.
"This is how WE are increasingly seen because of our ignorance of the situation in #Syria ...Silence is complicity."