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An Update on the Syrian Conflict and ISIS


With ISIS in the headlines in this country after the Orlando massacre, we turn our attention to the civil war in Syria. Despite a major victory against ISIS this week when Iraqi forces took back Fallujah, there remains significant debate about what the US role should be in defeating ISIS, as well as ending Syria's civil war. We also discuss a recent  state department memo critical of the focus of US attacks on ISIS, and calling for strikes against Syrian president Assad. 

This program was guest hosted by Dean Spiliotes of Southern New Hampshire University.


  • Jessica Ashooh, Deputy Director of the Middle East Strategy Task Force for the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
  • Wayne Lesperance, interim Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Political Science at New England College. He is also a contributor to the recently published"The New Islamic State".
  • Alynna Lyon, associate professor of Political Science at the University of New Hampshire.

Show Highlights:

  • Wayne Lesperance on the turning tide for ISIS: There are close to 5K US troops on the ground in Iraq right now - combined with success by Kurdish troops & the Iraqi army, ISIS is beginning to be rolled back. 
  • Alynna Lyon on the limits of military success: Good news on military front doesn’t translate to increased stability on the ground: the humanitarian crisis in Syria is extreme - 60% of Syrian population displaced, 47% are outside the country. Nineteen communities are currently besieged by Syrian government.
  • Jessica Ashooh on the importance of not over-focusing on terrorism: The Syrian conflict is bigger than terrorism: it's also necessary to deal with the root causes of governments that don't have the best interest of their citizens at heart. You have the stabilize the military situation, but don't forget the causes of the conflict.
  • Alynna Lyon on President Obama as a 'Defensive Realist': He thinks about Syria in terms of threats to American homeland, not in terms of activism on humanitarian grounds. He’s not ‘seeking new dragons to slay.’
  • Wayne Lesperance on the presence of ISIS is a complicating factor in the conflict in Syria: CIA Director John Brennan has said that even once we’re able to roll back ISIS, we should expect that they’ll step up terrorist operations overseas. Terrorist attacks are inexpensive, relatively easy to do, and the best way to stay relevant as they lose territory.
  • Jessica Ashooh on the timing of the State Dept memo:  The timing has more to do with events abroad than domestic politics: diplomats are frustrated to not have policy tools to do job, and frustrated by the moral implications of the humanitarian catastrophe they deal with daily.


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