Syria

  • Loose Ends of a Deal

    This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 edition of The Cairo Review of Global Affairs. An excerpt is published here with permission.

    The Syrian civil war, which began seven years ago, has had an ongoing deep and tragic impact on Syrians. Half a million lost their lives and 11.5 million were displaced. Of those displaced, more than six million became internal refugees and over 5.6 million fled to neighboring countries. Sharing a 911-km border with Syria, Turkey became the country most affected by the migratory movement of Syrian refugees. For the first four years of the war, Turkey handled the crisis on its own without much international support and assistance. Today, it is much harder to do that. Turkey has become the world’s largest refugee-hosting nation and a permanent home to more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees living there, in comparison to 986,000 in Lebanon and 66,000 refugees in Jordan. 

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  • Is Syria Lost to Iran?

    The short answer is “No.” A family and an entourage that placed itself at the disposal of Iran while burning much of Syria to the ground will not prevail, provided the United States and its partners begin to push back. Yet termites are at work, and the fulfillment of this proviso is far from certain.

    The Trump administration, unlike its predecessor, claims to oppose Iran’s domination of what is left of the Syrian state. Unlike his predecessor, US President Donald Trump did not hesitate to strike militarily when Bashar al-Assad, supported by Iran and Russia, twice assaulted defenseless civilians with sarin nerve agent. When Russian “military contractors” sought, in February of this year, to cross the Euphrates River to attack American-held positions, there was no ignominious retreat. On the contrary, the Kremlin learned a hard lesson about testing American resolve east of the Euphrates de-confliction line. Iranian-led Shia militias and regime military units have been similarly educated.

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  • Is Syria Lost to Iran?

    The short answer is “No.” A family and an entourage that placed itself at the disposal of Iran while burning much of Syria to the ground will not prevail, provided the United States and its partners begin to push back. Yet termites are at work, and the fulfillment of this proviso is far from certain.

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  • What Does the Ongoing Israel-Iran Confrontation in Syria Mean?

    Tension continues to escalate along the Israeli-Syrian border with the recent regime southern offensive to oust opposition in the area and Israeli attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. Continued activity along the border is expected as Iran continues to solidify its hold on Syria. Yet Israel's strategy is less clear as Iran continues to test the boundaries pushing Israel to act in Syria; among other actors like the Islamic State. We asked our nonresident senior fellows former Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, and Mona Alami about Israel's current and potential involvement in the Syrian conflict as it develops.

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  • What Does the Ongoing Israel-Iran Confrontation in Syria Mean?

    Tension continues to escalate along the Israeli-Syrian border with the recent regime southern offensive to oust opposition in the area and Israeli attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. Continued activity along the border is expected as Iran continues to solidify its hold on Syria. Yet Israeli's strategy is less clear as Iran continues to test the boundaries pushing Israel to act in Syria; among other actors like the Islamic State. We asked our nonresident senior fellows former Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, and Mona Alami about Israeli’s current and potential involvement in the Syrian conflict as it develops.

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  • Russia’s Refugee Ploy

    Moscow’s sudden interest in expediting the return of Syrian refugees to their homes is not prompted by humanitarian concerns. Neither is it motivated by a desire to promote political conditions inside Syria that would encourage people to return to the country from which they fled. It is about pressuring the West into fixing a country broken by Russia, Iran, and their client Assad regime. It is a kinder, gentler form of blackmail: either lavish reconstruction funding on the regime, or refugees won’t go home; indeed, there may be more of them arriving on your doorstep.

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  • Itani Quoted in the Washington Post on Assad and the War in Syria


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  • Here's Why Syrian Women are Integral to Peace

    Eight years and many conferences into the Syria conflict, Syrian women still struggle to have their voices heard in decision making forums that directly impact them as citizens, and as political, economic, and civil society actors. Syrian women present at the western male-dominated EU-UN conference, Supporting Syria and the Region—known as Brussels II—in April 2018, explicitly spoke to the political processes that failed to include them, and to an aid industry that did not address their needs, including in protection from violence. 

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  • What Exactly is the US Policy Toward Iran?

    On July 22, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed an audience that included many members of the Iranian diaspora. The speech focused on the Iranian regime as a danger to its own people and to US interests—kleptocratic, terroristic, and totalitarian. The accusations were specific and the language was strong which could indicate a harsh new anti-Iran policy, especially given the broader context of the US administration’s belligerence toward Iran. Secretary Pompeo’s speech was followed shortly by US President Donald Trump’s social media threats directed at the Iranian leadership.

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  • What Exactly is the US Policy Toward Iran?

    On July 22, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed an audience that included many members of the Iranian diaspora. The speech focused on the Iranian regime as a danger to its own people and to US interests—kleptocratic, terroristic, and totalitarian. The accusations were specific and the language was strong which could indicate a harsh new anti-Iran policy, especially given the broader context of the US administration’s belligerence toward Iran. Secretary Pompeo’s speech was followed shortly by US President Donald Trump’s social media threats directed at the Iranian leadership.

    Given this harsh rhetoric on Iran and the demands that it withdraw from Syria and end support for Hezbollah among other capitulations, it is unclear whether this language is meant to deter. It could also signal the start of a meaningful anti-Iranian pushback after eight years of de-escalation under the Obama Administration. However, this approach does not meet the criteria for effective deterrence, and there is no sign of a robust rollback strategy. Instead, it just looks confusing.

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