SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

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I am deeply honored to be with you this evening. Someday, when the New Syria comes about, there will be a roll of honor listing those who really made a difference in making it happen. The Syrian American Council will be high on that roll.

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On December 10, Syrian opposition groups met in Saudi Arabia in their most serious attempt yet to present a united political front in negotiations to end the conflict in Syria. That the diverse array of opposition groups was able to agree on negotiation terms is an unprecedented sign of unity. However, the hardline group Ahrar al-Sham’s withdrawal is a major setback for the opposition and could have military implications in Syria. Overall, the results in Riyadh were positive for the opposition participants and their efforts at unity, but the details indicate opposition negotiating terms that the regime and its backers—and possibly one key rebel faction—are unlikely to accept.

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The choice to emigrate from Syria is a difficult one for Syrians. Despite the war and oppressive rule of extremist groups such as the Islamic State, leaving Syria means braving the unknown and feeling one has abandoned his friends and country. Karam, who asked to only be identified by his first name, said, “I am betraying my revolution, I am betraying my homeland,” when he immigrated to Germany after surviving over four years of war. Originally from the western side of Aleppo city, when the fighting split the city into a regime-controlled western portion and opposition-controlled eastern portion in 2012, he decided to relocate to the eastern side.

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On Sunday evening, December 6, President Barack Obama attempted to assure Americans that he is applying the right array of tools to keep the citizenry as safe as might reasonably be expected from terrorism in a country featuring easy access to military-grade weaponry and a tiny percentage of the population willing to commit mass casualty assaults. Early in his remarks he said something both factually correct and vitally important for his policy approach, “So far, we have no evidence that the [San Bernardino] killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas...” Yet if they had been, would he have proceeded with a by-the-numbers defense of his current strategy of attrition toward the Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS, or Da’esh) in Syria, where the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris were planned? How much time is he willing to grant ISIL in its Syrian headquarters to design and implement additional operations in Europe and perhaps North America?

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