On Monday afternoon, Italian premier Mario Monti and Russian president Vladimir Putin convened a small press conference in the slanting, gold light coming off the Black Sea. They had just met to discuss the European economic crisis as well as energy (Italy is Russia’s second biggest gas client), but they also touched on the deepening conflict in Syria. “We do not want the situation to develop along the lines of a bloody civil war and for it to continue for who knows how many years, like in Afghanistan,” Putin said, standing with his perfect posture in a slate-gray summer suit.
The Civil War in the Syrian Opposition: How Long Can the Free Syrian Army Hold Off Its Islamist Rivals?
June 25, 2012
If you want to know where the fourteen month-old Syrian revolution against President Bashar al-Assad is headed, the case of Walid al-Boustani provides a useful rubric. Al-Boustani led an ill-fated “Islamic Emirate of Homs” that lasted only a few weeks. Apparently the locals did not appreciate having an “Emir” who kidnapped and murdered their people while claiming to wage jihad against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Yes, Obama's Election Campaign is Affecting His Syria Policy. No, That's Not a Bad Thing.
June 15, 2012
It’s clear that the conflict in Syria is now an issue in the American presidential campaign, largely at the insistence of Mitt Romney’s Republican supporters. Most notable among the interjections was an emotional speech recently delivered on the Senate floor by Senator John McCain, in which he demanded to know why the White House was abetting Bashar al Assad’s murdering of innocents. There is, of course, much to quibble with in this characterization: Far from doing nothing to oppose Bashar, the Obama administration has supported the U.N.
The Syrian ‘Civil War’: Discuss
June 14, 2012
A front page story in yesterday’s New York Times quoted Hervé Ladsous, the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations, opining that the violence in Syria had descended into “civil war.” The same story, however, points out that “opposition leaders are wary of the term civil war because it suggests that the conflict is somehow an even match”; meanwhile, the Assad regime is still holding fast to its story that the violence is nothing more than the product of terrorists. So, which is it? Is Syria in a civil war or not? The answer, it turns out, is maybe.
Speaking Thursday before the U.N. General Assembly, just one day after the latest massacre of civilians by government-affiliated forces, Kofi Annan warned that the crisis in Syria was on a disastrous course. “If things do not change, the future is likely to be one of brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence and even all-out civil war,” he said. “All Syrians will lose.” Annan, of course, is not the first to evoke the term “civil war” in reference to the crisis in Syria, which has already resulted in more than 10,000 dead and 50,000 missing.
The Need to Lead
June 07, 2012
Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global PowerBy Zbigniew Brzezinski (Basic Books, 208 pp., $26) When it comes to offering a vision to guide American foreign policy, Zbigniew Brzezinski’s latest book, unlike so much other literature of this type, refuses to lament or exaggerate the alleged decline in American power and influence. Instead Strategic Vision offers a kind of blueprint—a path that Washington must take, in Brzezinski’s view, to ensure a secure international order, in which free markets and democratic principles can thrive.
Around 8 a.m. on February 22, Syrian security forces attempting to prop up the Bashar al Assad regime shelled a makeshift media center in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, killing the American war reporter Marie Colvin and the French photographer Remi Ochlik. Four other journalists who survived the blast, including Colvin’s Irish photographer, Paul Conroy, and French Le Figaro journalist Edith Bouvier, were transported to a nearby hospital and treated for serious shrapnel wounds.
[Guest post by Nathan Pippenger] It’s fair to say that the United States was caught off-guard by the Arab Spring. But whatever the strategic consequences of that lack of preparedness, the financial consequences were hard for the State Department to ignore. New, unforeseen expenses were suddenly cropping up everywhere from Tunisia to Syria, and the instability of events made it difficult to predict where money would be needed next. Or perhaps the problem wasn’t so obvious, at least not to the House of Representatives.
Close To Zero
May 18, 2012
The problem with a moral vocabulary about politics and policy is that it not only makes politicians and policymakers feel bold, it also demands that they act bold. Eloquence creates expectations; and so in Washington, even for America’s first black, Jewish, and gay president, the goal is often to separate the high ground from its practical imperatives, so that an aura of rectitude may be acquired without recourse to significant action. Washington is the capital of idle talk about justice.
The Making of a Syrian Dissident: A Personal Journey
April 30, 2012
In August 2011, my older brother Yassein—a businessman who is in no way politically involved—was praying inside the Mustafa Mosque in Daraya, southwest of Damascus, while a protest was happening outside. Security forces moved in to disperse the demonstration, arresting Yassein, who had not been participating. After his arrest, he was taken to the headquarters of Syrian Airforce Security.