On December 5th, 2013 – NDN’s Middle East and North Africa Initiative hosted a discussion with Rep. Adam Smith, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee. Topics covered include economic and diplomatic engagement, Iran, Egypt, Syria, military aid, and a broader regional strategy. Full video of the event is available below.
We hosted an online webcast to discuss President Obama’s post-UNGA Middle East strategy in light of developments with Iran and recent events in Syria and Egypt. You can listen to the conversation on Spreecast. I was joined by James Miller, Managing Editor of The Interpreter Magazine. James has many years of experience covering the Middle East, Russia, and the Arab revolutions.
Bradley Bosserman published an article in The Hill this morning analyzing the implications of the proposed agreement over Syrian chemical weapons. The piece argues that the seemingly contradictory aims of securing chemical weapons and ushering in a transitional government can best be achieved by focusing US policy toward the goal of quickly ending the conflict.
Effectively securing these weapons in the midst of a civil war will be functionally impossible and setting the precedent that gassing your citizens can be a strategy for extracting powerful concessions would weaken norms against chemical weapons use, not strengthen them. The stated policy of the United States is to aid the opposition, support the transition to a post-Assad government, and secure the country’s vast stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. The only way to reconcile these objectives is to actively seek an end to the conflict and usher in a more responsible, transitional government. As the White House has said, Assad must go.
Read the full article here.
Today we have released a new Policy Brief analyzing some of the problems with the Administration’s current approach to winning support for Syria authorization and laying out a framework for a more convincing and strategy-led argument. We believe that:
The U.S. has already rightfully chosen sides in this conflict, sending aid, training, weapons, and logistical support to the rebels. Decoupling this latest action from these ongoing efforts to support the opposition and from the stated policy aim of regime change simply makes no sense. If the administration is going to convince the Congress, the country, and the world that military intervention is now the proper response, they must address this fundamental dissonance by articulating a cogent vision of American involvement in the region that ties the ongoing – and proposed – actions in Syria to American values and concrete U.S. interests. Only then will the President be able to make a compelling case for not only his Syria policy, but also a broader agenda of engagement. There should be at least three components to this argument:
- Preventing nuclear weaponization of Iran and constraining its foreign policy adventurism is a legitimate aim of U.S. policy.
- We need to encourage more constructive engagement from our Gulf partners.
- We need to help empower more modern and pluralistic forces vis-a-vis violent and radical groups who seek to destroy the emergence of open, tolerant, and prosperous societies.
Download the full Syria Policy Brief.
Update: This report is also available En Español
I appeared on World Brief this morning to discuss the apparently imminent U.S. attack on Syria. I was joined by Joshua Foust and the host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. You can watch the video on HuffPostLive.
While the chemical weapons attack that occurred last week is terrible, I am more convinced than ever that regional strategy, rather than chemical weapons use, should drive the level and nature of American involvement in the Syrian conflict. I have written previously about why chemical weapons are the wrong Red Line, a point that remains true today. Before we begin striking targets inside Syria, we need to have an earnest conversation about core U.S. interests in the Middle East and how we can best promote them. If Assad’s ouster is our policy goal, than we should be pursuing actions designed to bring that about. The strikes being currently discussed won’t accomplish that end, however. Similarly, if our goal is narrowly to defend the international norms against using chemical weapons, it’s unclear that it would be a useful precedent to establish that the response to chemical weapons use is a handful of perfunctory military strikes explicitly not designed to dole out existential costs upon the culpable government.
In the coming days we will have more analysis on the need to view our engagement strategically rather than tactically. Stay tuned. You can click the image below to watch the full segment on HuffPostLive.
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President Obama has announced an additional $300 million in direct aid following the apparently confirmed reports that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons sporadically throughout the conflict in Syria. It is less clear, however, exactly what will be provide, who precisely will receive it, and when the aid will arrive. This decision occurs while the momentum that the rebels seemed to have been building earlier this year appears to be slipping away as the Assad regime retakes territory and becomes resurgent. To explore this evolving situation, NDN’s MENA Initiative hosted an interactive webcast with leading experts.
Yisser Bittar from the Syrian American Council.
Christy Delafield from the Washington office of the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
Shadi Hamid from the Brookings Institution and Research Director of the Brookings Doha Center.
Watch the full video of our discussion below.
In the latest episode of Debrief from The Risk Shift, NDN’s Bradley Bosserman sits down with James Sheehan to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria. James and Brad explore the role that the US can play in rebuilding Syria along with the significance of chemical weapons and the influence of extremist organizations.
Founded in January 2012, TheRiskyShift.com (TRS) bridges the gap between academia and journalism: it provides the depth that is often missing from today’s media whilst remaining open and accessible to those who are not familiar with academic debate on the subjects at hand. A diverse roster of columnists contribute, with international relations theorists, political scientists, historians and philosophers present. The majority of TRS’ writers are graduate students from academic institutions within the UK and abroad, complimented by current and former think tank employees, journalists, and analysts.