Bernie Sanders on Syria

Bernie has described the civil war in Syria as a “quagmire in a quagmire” and his policy on Syria has three facets: address the humanitarian crisis created by the war; end ISIS; and phase-out Assad, the main party responsible for starting and continuing the war.

Syria Is Complicated: What began as peaceful protest turned into chaos with a number of warring factions and foreign nations embroiled in the conflict.

Humanitarian Crisis: Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died in the conflict and even more have been displaced.

Defeat ISIS: The overwhelming consensus is that ISIS needs to be defeated.

Phase Out Assad: Ending the civil war by means of a negotiated settlement requires Assad’s departure.

Syria Is Complicated

This video explains how the war in Syria became so complicated:


In 2011, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Bernie Sanders has denounced as a dictator, used tanks and artillery to crush a peaceful protest movement for democratic reform inspired by the success of similar protest movements that toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.

Since then, the battlefield has become incredibly complicated. Peaceful protesters and oppositionists took up arms to defend themselves from government attacks and became rebels, Al-Qaeda infiltrated from neighboring Iraq to become ISIS, Syrian Kurds took up arms to fight for greater autonomy, the U.S. is bombing ISIS targets and arming select rebel factions, and Russia is bombing rebels and ISIS on behalf of the Assad regime. The country is effectively partitioned between the warring parties with foreign governments backing or opposing different sides.

What has Bernie said about the airstrikes in Syria?

Bernie has been critical of the recent airstrikes on Syria. He has called these military actions by the Trump Administration ineffective for problems that required a multilateral, diplomatic solution.”

Bernie opposed airstrikes in Syria in 2017, citing his concern that this type of unilateral military action could lead us into perpetual war in Syria.

In April 2018, Bernie called the Trump Administration’s airstrikes “illegal and unauthorized” while lambasting the President for not seeking Congressional approval first. Bernie was concerned that Trump was trying to broaden the war in Syria, an action that would require authorization from Congress first.

Does Bernie support withdrawing US troops from Syria?

Bernie supports a strategic withdrawal of US troops from the Middle East in coordination with other countries involved in the region.

Bernie called President Trump’s announcement that he planned on removing troops from Syria “abrupt” and “typical of his reckless approach.” Bernie believes Congress must play a role in creating a plan to effectively withdraw troops from the region.

Map showing Russian and U.S. led strikes in Syria between September 30th and October 9th in 2015
Map showing Russian and U.S. led strikes in Syria between September 30th and October 9th in 2015


In March of 2019, Bernie signed a pledge to work on developing plans to end the “forever wars” the United States is currently involved in. After signing the pledge, Bernie referenced the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria when saying, Congress must reassert its Constitutional authority over the use of force and responsibly end these interventions.

Humanitarian Crisis

Since 2011, the war has led to the death of an estimated 250,000 Syrians and almost 50% of the Syrian population has been displaced — an estimated 6 million people are internally displaced within the country and 4 million people have fled the country to become refugees.

Bernie opposes Republican-led efforts to block Syrian refugees from coming to the U.S. and says the U.S., Europe, and the Persian Gulf states have a moral obligation to welcome Syrian refugees who in many cases are fleeing their country with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

Defeat ISIS

Bernie believes that ISIS must be defeated, but that the United States cannot and should not do it on its own. He’s adamant that a coalition effort with nations in the Middle East leading the effort is the best way to combat the group:

“I have supported U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and believe they are authorized under current law, and I support targeted U.S. military efforts to protect U.S. citizens. It is my firm belief, however, that the war against ISIS will never be won unless nations in the Middle East step up their military efforts and take more responsibility for the security and stability of their region. The United States and other Western powers should support our Middle East allies, but this war will never be won unless Muslim nations in the region lead that fight. It is worth remembering that Saudi Arabia, for example, is a nation controlled by one of the wealthiest families in the world and has the fourth largest military budget of any nation. This is a war for the soul of Islam and the Muslim nations must become more heavily engaged.”

Working With The International Community

Defeating ISIS is the one thing that all the warring parties in Syria (aside from ISIS itself) and their respective foreign government backers agree on. As Bernie has said, “What we’ve also got to do — and this is tough stuff — is work with Russia, work with Saudi Arabia, work with Iran, all of whom have common interests in opposition to ISIS.”

Phase Out Assad

Bernie has condemned Assad as a “horrendous dictator who has been at war with his own people” and said “his use of chemical weapons is abhorrent and a violation of international law.”

Bernie said Assad “tops the list” of dictators in a world of vicious dictators. He has also called Assad a war criminal for using chemical weapons against citizens of Syria.

However, Bernie does not support unilateral action to remove Assad from power in Syria. Instead, he supports diplomatic actions to encourage countries like Iran and Russia to withdraw their support for Assad.