On the fourth anniversary of the devastating Syria conflict, The Middle East Institute is pleased to welcome Michael Eisenstadt (The Washington Institute for Near East Policy), Robert Ford (The Middle East Institute, Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria), Mohammed Ghanem (Syrian American Council), and Dafna Rand (Center for a New American Security) for a discussion about how to break the stalemate in Syria and move the country toward a peaceful political transition.
Following the recent collapse of the main U.S.-backed rebel group, Harakat al Hazm, how should the U.S. re-think its strategy toward Syria's moderate opposition? How might its recently launched train-and-equip program in Turkey affect dynamics inside Syria? How likely is the UN-proposed freeze in Aleppo to succeed, and how viable is Moscow's renewed push for peace between the regime and its opponents?
The panelists will analyze these questions and assess the likelihood of finding a way forward in Syria in a discussion moderated by Paul Salem (The Middle East Institute).
**A light lunch will be served.**
Michael Eisenstadt is the Kahn Fellow and director of the Military and Security Studies Program of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).. A specialist in Persian Gulf and Arab-Israeli security affairs, he has published widely on irregular and conventional warfare and nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East. Prior to joining the Institute in 1989, Eisenstadt worked as a military analyst with the U.S. Government. He was an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve for twenty-six years before retiring in 2010. His military service included active duty in Iraq (2008 and 2010), in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Jordan (2008-2009), at U.S. Central Command headquarters and on the Joint Staff (2001-2002), and in Turkey and Iraq (1991). He served also in a civilian capacity on the Multinational Force-Iraq/U.S. Embassy Baghdad Joint Campaign Plan Assessment Team (2009) and as a consultant or advisor to the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group (2006), the Multinational Corps-Iraq Information Operations Task Force (2005-2006), and the State Department's Future of Iraq defense policy working group (2002-2003).
Robert Ford is senior fellow at The Middle East Institute and concurrently teaches at Johns Hopkins University. He recently concluded a 30-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service after serving as Ambassador to Syria from 2010 to 2014, and previously as Ambassador to Algeria. Shortly after the outbreak of Syria's civil war, Ford traveled to the city of Hama in a show of solidarity with Syrians protesting the misrule of Bashar Al Assad. He subsequently worked closely with Syrian opposition forces and was instrumental in bringing them to the Geneva peace talks. Ambassador Ford was awarded the Presidential Honor Award for his leadership of the American Embassy in Damascus, and received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the State Department's highest honor, for his work on Syria. He is fluent in Arabic and French.
Mohammed Alaa Ghanem is the senior political adviser, government relations director, and strategist for the Syrian American Council in Washington DC. He previously served as a professor at the University of Damascus, and has been involved in the Syrian revolution since its early days as a peaceful protest movement. His work connects U.S. policy-makers and the Syrian-American community with the revolution inside Syria. Utilizing his extensive network of contacts at all levels of the Syrian opposition, he frequently travels to the liberated parts of Syria, participates in international conferences on Syria, and advises local administrative councils in liberated areas across Syria on international relations. In early 2013, he participated in monitoring the elections of the first democratically elected government in Aleppo. Ghanem is also a fellow with the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies and a board member of the Coalition for a Democratic Syria. At SCPSS, he has been in involved in SCPSS’ Syria Transition Roadmap, an ambitious post-Assad transition project. He holds a master’s degree in peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
Dafna Hochman Rand is the deputy director of studies and the inaugural Leon E. Panetta Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Her research focuses on Middle East security and U.S. foreign policy. Prior to joining CNAS, Rand served on the staff of the National Security Council, where she was responsible for global U.S. assistance efforts in support of democratic transitions, good governance, and the rule-of-law. From 2010 to 2012, she covered the Middle East and North Africa on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, and in this capacity contributed to shaping the U.S. government's response to the Arab Spring. Previously, she served as a professional staff member on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Dr. Rand's publications have focused on domestic political developments and international security in the Middle East and North Africa. Her recent book is Roots of the Arab Spring: Contested Authority and Political Change in the Middle East (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in political science from Columbia University and her A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard University.
Paul Salem (Moderator) is vice president for policy and research at The Middle East Institute. He focuses on issues of political change, democratic transition, and conflict, with a regional emphasis on the countries of the Levant and Egypt. Salem writes regularly in the Arab and Western press and has been published in numerous journals and newspapers. Salem is the author of a number of books and reports on the Middle East, including most recently Broken Orders: The Causes and Consequences of the Arab Uprisings (Beirut: Dar Annahar, in Arabic, 2013) and "Iraq's Tangled Foreign Relations” (Beirut: Carnegie Middle East Center Report, December 2013). Prior to joining MEI, Salem was the founding director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon between 2006 and 2013. From 1999 to 2006, he was director of the Fares Foundation and in 1989 founded and directed the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanon's leading public policy think tank.