The story here is basically one of the US needing to take a more involved role in setting the stage in Syria, but recognizing that we cannot also command the region’s destiny.
With the current state of the Syrian civil war, the conditions are not ripe for de-escalation in the conflict. If the United States is seeking a transition from the Assad regime that does not lead to the enduring rule of ideological extremist organizations throughout Syria, it will need to become the decisive influence that shifts the military balance on the ground in rebel-ruled areas in favor of the politically moderate armed opposition. Therefore, the primary U.S. effort should be on a bottom-up strategy for building cohesive, moderate armed opposition institutions with a regional focus that is tailored for each individual region within Syria. This line of effort depends on providing incentives for the already U.S.-vetted moderate armed opposition groups to join together into larger regional coalitions with genuinely unified command. Over time, as these moderate rebel institutions become the center of gravity in their respective regions and marginalize or defeat ideological extremist organizations, they can be brought together to form larger civil-military structures and govern the predominately Sunni rebel-ruled areas inside of Syria. These regional structures can then interact with the remnants of the Assad regime and its loyalist forces to work toward achieving a long-term political solution to the Syrian civil war, such as a federalized Syria.