Crisis in Syria

The video of our 69th Capitol Hill Conference is now available for on-demand streaming. A press recap with synopsis is available 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.

Note: There are minor audio distortions at the beginning of this video. This is corrected during Dr. Ziadeh’s remarks.


Radwan Ziadeh

Spokesperson, Syrian National Council

Mark N. Katz

Professor, George Mason University; Author, Leaving without Losing

Steven Heydemann

Senior Adviser, Middle East Initiatives, USIP; Adjunct Professor, Georgetown

Leon Hadar

Senior Analyst, Wikistrat


Thomas R. Mattair

Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council



Crisis in Syria: What are the U.S. options?
Differing views on the American role in unpredictable Syrian conflict

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2012 — Analysts at the Middle East Policy Council’s 69th Capitol Hill Conference this morning addressed the latest developments from Syria and presented contrasting viewpoints on what, if any, benefit an increased U.S. role could play there.  The event speakers and a summary of their comments are below; for members of the press seeking a full transcript from the event, please e-mail

Thomas Mattair, Executive Director of the Middle East Policy Council, moderated the event.  He was joined by four distinguished panelists: Radwan Ziadeh (Spokesperson, Syrian National Council), Leon Hadar (Senior Analyst, Wikistrat), Mark Katz (Professor, George Mason University) and Steven Heydemann (Senior Adviser, Middle East Initiatives, United States Institute of Peace). 

The event was convened against the backdrop of what some view as a decisive shift in momentum in favor of the opposition following last week’s attack on the regime’s crisis management group.  Yet assuming that the opposition’s gains continue and the Assad regime soon falls, the speakers remained divided about how helpful more direct U.S. diplomatic or political involvement could be.

Radwan Ziadeh blamed the international community for the Syrian National Council’s (SNC) lack of political legitimacy, and dismissed charges that the SNC had links to radical Sunni groups.  Dr. Ziadeh urged the U.S. to take a “historical position” in Syria by supporting the opposition and the Friends of Syria Group, increasing the odds of a managed political transition.

Leon Hadar expressed skepticism that the Syrian conflict would result in the “good case scenario” of an Islamist-Sunni government, democratically elected and friendly to the U.S. and its allies.  He urged a deeper examination of the domestic sources of the conflict and questioned whether Syria actually represented a core U.S. national interest.

Mark Katz explained the Russian point of view, suggesting that Putin interprets the U.S. reliance on the UN Security Council, rather than unilateral action, as a sign that the Americans are not serious about intervention.  Dr. Katz also believes that Putin will “stick with Assad until the end,” due to domestic pressures and to avoid being seen as ushering in an anti-Russian alternative.

Steven Heydemann suggested broadening the U.S. engagement with the opposition through establishing more serious frameworks for how the international community can support them and how those arming the Free Syrian Army – namely Saudi Arabia and Qatar – can better coordinate their efforts.

A video and full transcript from the event will be posted in a few days at and then published in the next issue of the journal Middle East Policy.

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

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