Mona Yacoubian, a former intelligence analyst for the State Department, says the special UN tribunal to investigate the assassination in 2005 of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is linked to the politics of Lebanon and Syria, with the Syrians trying to sow enough chaos to prevent the tribunal from ever getting underway.
Geoffrey Aronson, who participated in two years of intermittent talks between unofficial Israeli and Syrian representatives, said contacts continue even though they have not sat down together since last summer. Aronson says talks led to a “non-paper” and unofficial accord by which Israel would return the Golan Heights to Syria and in return get access to water in the region.
Michael Young, an expect commentator on Lebanese affairs, says he has little doubt the recent assassination of Christian leader Pierre Gemayel and other killings in Lebanon were carried out by Syria and its Lebanese allies.
Joshua Landis, an expert on Syria and Lebanon, says the drawn-out Iraq conflict has fed an image of declining U.S. influence in Lebanon, which has led Hezbollah to try to weaken, if not overthrow, the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Scott Lasensky, who specializes in Syria and other Middle Eastern areas for the U.S. Institute of Peace, says Syria has mounted a major crackdown to try to silence the growing number of intellectuals and activists calling for change.
Joshua M. Landis, a Syria expert who recently returned to the United States from Damascus, says that Syrian leaders are seeking to establish good relations with Iraq. He says the new prime minister of Iraq, Jawad al-Maliki, lived in exile in Syria for twenty-one years, but the current Syrian leadership, which had little direct contact with him, is trying hard to curry favor now.
"What then might be done to convince Russia to end its defense of Assad's atrocities and to continue down the constructive path suggested by the chemical weapons deal at the UN and the statement in favor of humanitarian relief? One reason Moscow has been able to continue its intransigence for so long is that it has paid little price for it."
"Ancient Russian tanks – rebel and loyalist – were lobbing shells at each other across a pistachio grove like street children throwing stones in an alleyway. The explosions sent orange columns of dust into the haze of the setting sun. Near the outpost, a government tank was smouldering, and a young girl lay dead, hit by shrapnel. A group of rebels crawled through the fields for a mile until they reached the edge of the outpost."
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
2011 Corporate Conference: Recaps and Highlights
To encourage the free flow of conversation, the 2011 Corporate Conference was entirely not-for-attribution; however, several conference speakers joined us for sideline interviews further exploring their areas of expertise.
Former Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin and Nobel Laureate economist Michael Spence on the global economic outlook.
Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose and Edward Morse on energy geopolitics.