The Crisis in Syria: What Are the Stakes for Syria's Neighbors?

The video of our 73rd Capitol Hill Conference is now available for on-demand streaming. The full, unedited transcript can be found here. A press recap with synopsis is presented below. To receive invitations to future events, click here, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook. To view our other Capitol Hill Conferences, click here.

July 16, 2013. 9:00am - 11:30am EDT
Rayburn House Office Building, Room 339


Steven Simon

Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies; Former Senior Director for Middle Eastern and North African Affairs, National Security Council (2011-13)


Nabeel Khoury

Senior Fellow for Middle East and National Security, Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Former Director of the Near East South Asia office of Intelligence and Research, U.S. Dept. of State (2008-12)


Mona Yacoubian

Senior Advisor on the Middle East, Stimson Center; Former North Africa Analyst, U.S. Department of State (1990-97)


Erol A. Cebeci

Executive Director, Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA Foundation); Former Chairman of the Turkish Delegation, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe


Thomas R. Mattair

Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council



The Crisis in Syria: What Are the Stakes for Syria’s Neighbors?
Former State Department and NSC officials present regional views on the conflict

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2013 – Analysts at the Middle East Policy Council’s 73rd Capitol Hill Conference today offered a pessimistic view of the impact of Syria’s ongoing internal conflict on its neighbors.  Thomas Mattair, Executive Director of the Middle East Policy Council and the session moderator, urged panelists to share different regional viewpoints in the context of the ongoing debate on defining U.S. national interests there.

The event panelists included Steven Simon (International Institute for Strategic Studies, former National Security Council); Mona Yacoubian (Stimson Center, former North Africa analyst Department of State); Erol Cebeci (SETA Foundation, former Chairman of the Turkish Delegation, Council of Europe); and Nabeel Khoury (Chicago Council on Global Affairs, former Director Near East South Asia at the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence & Research).  These speakers shared how Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and the GCC states are impacted by the Syrian conflict and whether their internal politics and security could be shaped by future developments there.

Steven Simon described Israel’s perspective, noting that the Jewish state’s “hedging” strategy in Syria comes with distinct opportunities and risks most of which are beyond their ability to influence.  One opportunity: Iran could be cut off geographically from Lebanon.  A serious risk: Syria’s large known quantities of chemical weapons could fall into enemy hands.
Mona Yacoubian sees no opportunities for Lebanon and Iraq to benefit from and fears that Syria’s continuing civil war is stirring up an “acute sectarian dynamic” that injects a “new energy” of Shia-Sunni conflict into those states, amplified by growing numbers of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.  She believes that this deepened sectarianism could eventually constitute an existential threat to the governments of Lebanon and Iraq.
Erol Cebeci explained Turkey’s national interests in Syria, highlighting the long populated border shared between the two nations and the significant numbers of refugees being absorbed there.  He also emphasized Turkey’s support for a no-fly zone and for securing Syria’s chemical weapons as necessary steps to avoiding the Turkish leadership’s nightmare scenario: a long-term Syrian civil war.
Nabeel Khoury portrayed the decisiveness of GCC Syria policy.  The Gulf countries view the conflict through the prism of “axis politics,” which produce a “zero-sum game” for Iran-backed Shias or GCC-backed Sunnis.  He also suggested that the longer the conflict drags on, the greater the risk of backlash to the GCC states, particularly in Bahrain.

An edited video by speaker, including a full transcript from the event will be posted in a few days at and published in the next issue of the journal Middle East Policy.

For interviews or other content associated with this event, please contact Rebecca Anderson – (202) 296 6767 –