The day I met Syria’s Mr Big

One of the most feared men in Syria before his assassination, Assef Shawkat told me minority rights were a CIA invention., Tuesday 24 July 2012 07.58 EDT

“The country is not ready for revolutions and civil disobedience,” he told me.

“That’s your opinion,” I replied.

“We won’t imprison you and let your friends in America turn you into a hero.” Continue reading


On April 24, 2008, I became the first Syrian citizen to deliver a testimony in the U.S. Congress. My co-panelists included my colleagues from the Brookings Institution: Martin Indyk and Peter Rodman. In the testimony I try to set the record straight on the deteriorating internal situation in Syria focusing on Assad’s weakening grip and signs of growing popular discontent. The text of the testimony can be found below, and also on the House Foreign Affairs Committee website. Continue reading

It’s not always good to talk

Recommendations to engage with Syria and Iran are a testament to how cut off the Western powers have become from the realities on the ground.

Despite frequent claims to the contrary, the fundamental problem in the Middle East is not intervention by the West. On the contrary, the real problem is that, for all their dabbling, the Western powers seem capable of neither war nor dialogue. This leaves everyone in the region at the mercy of the Middle East’s oppressive regimes and proliferating terrorists. Continue reading

Should The United States Engage Syria? A Saban Center Policy Forum Debate

The Saban Center for Middle East Policy hosted a debate on October 23, 2006 between Joshua Landis, assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, and Ammar Abdulhamid, a Saban Center Nonresident Fellow, on whether the United States should engage with Syria. Martin S. Indyk, Director of the Saban Center, formerly Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs and twice U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Tamara Cofman Wittes, Saban Center Research Fellow and Director of the Arab Democracy and Development Program, chaired the event. Continue reading

Back to Action!

No, believe it or not, I haven’t watched a single match from the World Cup so far. Indeed, I just had enough time to keep up with the scores at the end of a long day. But I do hope to get a chance to follow the finals when the time comes (because I really feel like I am living inMogadishuat this stage).

So, my short two-day absence from the blogosphere was not soccer-related in anyway, as some might have predicted. Indeed, I am not that predictable yet all due thanks and praise to my heretical stars. Let’s just say that the official explanation for my absence is that I was otherwise preoccupied. This will have to do for now. Continue reading

The Bounni-Brammertz Conundrum!

Despite the attempt of regime sympathizers to deny it, the wife of jailed lawyer and human rights activist Anwar al-Bounni has come outconfirming the reality of her husband continuing hunger strike which is about to enter its third week.But the mere attempt at denial here is a sign that the Assad regime does indeed feel embarrassed by this development and is feeling the brunt of international pressures and condemnation in this regard. Continue reading