VOICES: Inhumanity and the Moral Limit in Syria

At the start of the “Arab Spring,” I was so optimistic about the prospect of democracy in the Middle East and heartened by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. On my mind was the oppression of millions of Syrians by the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime. Also on my mind was my experience during Lebanon’s More »

VOICES: Syria’s Children – the Lost Generation

A few minutes late, he wanders in to join the group. All the other children have started dancing to the music blaring from the iPod speakers.  He doesn’t have a name tag, so one of the volunteers takes his hand and leads him over to a table in the corner of the room. “What’s More »

QUICKTAKE: Syria Extremists Restricting Women’s Rights

In Syria’s now nearly three-year-old conflict, certain armed extremist opposition groups are imposing strict and discriminatory rules on women and girls that have no basis in Syrian law, Human Rights Watch says in a new study. The findings have been drawn from interviews with 43 refugees from Syria in Iraqi Kurdistan and two in Turkey, More »

INSIGHT: Pluralism Key to Real Change in Arab World

Three years after the start of political upheaval across the region, transitional governments are struggling to maintain popular support amid rising sectarianism, poverty and violent extremism. Of six Arab countries that have experienced revolts since late 2010, only tiny Tunisia and Yemen appear to be making fitful progress toward political pluralism. Libya is plagued by More »

INSIGHT: Year Four of the Arab Awakening

How will history judge the uprisings that started in many parts of the Arab world in 2011? The label “Arab Spring” proved too simplistic from the beginning. Transformational processes defy black-and-white expectations, but in the end, will the awakenings be more reminiscent of what happened in Europe in 1848, when several uprisings took place More »

INSIGHT: Syria – Talk to Assad?

Commenting recently to The New York Times, Ryan Crocker (the former United States ambassador to Syria and several other places) suggested, “We need to start talking to the Assad regime again… It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who More »

QUICKTAKE: New Approach Needed for Peace in Syria

A Syrian peace conference has been repeatedly delayed as U.S., Russian and U.N. diplomats struggle to get all parties involved to agree to take part.  Rebel brigades have voiced their opposition to the so-called “Geneva Two” process if the conference does not stipulate President Bashar al-Assad’s removal. Given the deadlock, some are calling for a More »

INSIGHT: Why the Narrative You’ve Heard About Syria Is Wrong

In the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, Syrian women are afraid to go to the restrooms at night, using the desert-like conditions around their homes rather than risk sexual assault. In neighboring Lebanon, since August, numerous Syrians have been turned back from the border, forcing them to return to dangerous conditions where their lives are More »

INSIGHT: The Syrian War in Three Capitals

More than ever before, the Syrian war is being played out in Moscow, Tehran and Washington. After a series of actions taken by Russia and the United States, the current situation is somewhat hopeful. The positions of the three major players have begun to evolve: Russia may have started looking at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad More »

INSIGHT: 10 Ways the Syrian Opposition Can Help Fight Extremism

Reports are growing of a sharp increase in the number of extremist groups operating in rebel-dominated areas of Syria. This has raised eyebrows in Washington, where policymakers continue to grapple with the question of how to support the opposition without inadvertently helping jihadists expand their destabilizing impact across the Middle East. These concerns are More »

INSIGHT: Syria’s Chemical Weapons – the Russia Factor

Russian diplomacy has dramatically changed the trajectory of the Western response to the Syria crisis and put the Kremlin at the center of international negotiations to control Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. But the Russian government’s insistence that chemical weapons were used by rebel forces now places it on the fringes of a serious debate More »

INSIGHT: Could US, Iran Agree on Syria Without Assad?

More than two years after President Barack Obama said it was time for Syria’s president to go, Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Damascus. But new evidence from the United Nations pointing to his regime’s large-scale use of chemical weapons makes it more plausible that Assad could leave office as part of an More »

INSIGHT: Why Syria Is Like Iraq

I supported the war in Iraq. It was an agonizing mistake. I made the mistake because I did something a serious foreign policy thinker should never do: I allowed my emotions to affect my thinking. My emotions were stirred by several visits to Iraq I had made as a reporter in the 1980s, when More »

INSIGHT: Syria Framework Agreement – the Least-Bad Result

The good news about the new U.S.-Russian framework agreement on Syria is that it could remove the Assad regime’s chemical weapons (CW) stocks, eliminating a major tool against the insurgents. This result would have been unimaginable if Washington had not threatened military action. The bad news begins with the major obstacles the agreement places More »

QUICKTAKE: Complexities of Providing Aid to Syria’s Refugees

According to the United Nations, earlier this month the number of Syrian conflict refugees topped two million, putting an enormous strain not only on the people affected but also the host countries which have absorbed the vast majority of Syrians fleeing their homeland. Among the organizations providing assistance to the refugees – both to the More »

INSIGHT: Syria – Keeping Hope for Peace Alive

There can be no prospect for a negotiated end to the Syrian nightmare so long as Syrian civilians are targeted by Bashar al-Assad’s regime for terror, death, injury, and flight. If His Holiness the Pope, the secretary-general of the United Nations, the president of Russia, and members of Congress think otherwise, they should specify how More »

INSIGHT: US Congress Questions Rationale for Striking Syria

President Barack Obama’s abrupt decision to seek congressional authorization for striking Syria has had at least one salutary effect so far: it has given Americans and their elected representatives a chance to express serious reservations about the limits of U.S. military intervention in shaping troubled foreign societies. Whichever way Congress votes in giving President Obama More »

INSIGHT: Syria Conflict Refugees Top 2 Million – How Many More?

It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the scale and brutality of the conflict in Syria, the massive displacement and deep suffering it is causing countless human beings. António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, has described the Syrian conflict as “the great tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with More »

INSIGHT: What the US Congress Should Do on Syria

I have resisted comparisons between Syria and Bosnia, or Syria and Kosovo, as the global and regional circumstances are different.  It does no good to draw conclusions that just don’t apply in a distinct situation. Bashar al-Assad is not Slobodan Milosevic, the Middle East is not the Balkans, Yeltsin’s Russia is not Putin’s Russia, More »

INSIGHT: Strike on Syria Could Pave Way for Diplomacy

It’s hard to accuse the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama of being trigger happy. While Obama has been willing to use force to kill Taliban and al-Qaida militants, he has studiously avoided embroiling the U.S. in another war in the Middle East or South Asia. His intention to strike Syria militarily for what appears to More »