Continuity and Change: The Biden Administration’s Syria Policy
Friday, February 26, 2021
11:00am – 12:30pm
President Biden inherits a strategy from the Trump administration, which was largely a continuation of the Obama policy on Syria. Both Obama and Trump justified U.S. involvement in Syria on countering ISIS, and U.S. policy appears in need of a new framework in the post-ISIS era. In the past, some of the current Biden administration officials have criticized “deployment of troops in endless and unwinnable wars,” but also opposed “the rapid exit of U.S. troops from Syria” (as Trump pushed for). Others opposed US support to the Syrian rebels for “fueling the conflict rather than stopping it.” Given the protracted civil war and an elusive political process, what can the Biden administration realistically do that is different than its predecessor? How can the continuing presence of US troops on the ground be justified? What could a comprehensive Syria policy look like given the Biden administration’s policy? Can Biden work with allies on Syria in contrast to the apparent unilateralism of the Trump administration?
The SETA Foundation at Washington DC is pleased to host an expert panel discussion on the Biden administration’s Syria policy.
Amb. Robert Ford (Ret.), Senior Fellow, Middle East Institute & Yale University Jackson Institute
Dima Moussa, Member of the Syrian National Coalition
Wael Alzayat, Senior Fellow, Middle East Institute
Kadir Ustun, Executive Director, The SETA Foundation at Washington DC
Amb. Robert Ford (Ret.) is currently a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington where he writes about developments in the Levant and North Africa. Amb. Ford retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Syria from 2011 to 2014. In this role, Amb. Ford was the State Department lead on Syria, proposing and implementing policy and developing common strategies with European and Middle Eastern allies to try to resolve the Syria conflict. Prior to this, Amb. Ford was the deputy U.S. Ambassador to Iraq from 2008 to 2010, and also served from 2006 until 2008 as the U.S. Ambassador to Algeria, where he boosted bilateral education and rule of law cooperation. Amb. Ford served as deputy chief of mission in Bahrain from 2001 until 2004, and political counselor to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 2004 until 2006 during the tumultuous establishment of the new, permanent Iraqi government. In 2014 he received the Secretary’s Service Award, the U.S. State Department’s highest honor. He also received in April 2012 from the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston the annual Profile in Courage Award for his stout defense of human rights in Syria. He has appeared on CNN, PBS, Fox, MSNBC, NPR, the BBC and Arabic news networks as well as in The New York Times and Foreign Policy.
Dima Moussa is vice president of the Syrian National Coalition and a founding member of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement. She is also a founding member of the Syrian National Council, a Syrian opposition coalition formed during the uprising in 2011. She previously served as a spokesperson for the Revolutionary Council of Homs.
Wael Alzayat is CEO of Emgage Foundation, a national civic education and engagement grassroots organization for Muslim Americans. Alzayat previously served with distinction as a U.S. Middle East policy expert at the U.S. Department of State for ten years, including as senior policy advisor to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, Syria outreach coordinator with Ambassador Robert Ford, and special assistant to U.S. Ambassador to the Iraq James Jeffrey. Alzayat has long been a passionate advocate for protecting fundamental American values and freedoms, and increasing the civic engagement of minority communities. Alzayat was recently named Top 10 Inspiring Arab Americans Leaders by the Huffington Post.
Kadir Ustun is the Executive Director at the SETA Foundation at Washington, D.C. Previously, Dr. Ustun was the Research Director at SETA DC and Assistant Editor of Insight Turkey. Dr. Ustun holds a PhD in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies from Columbia University and a Master’s degree in History from Bilkent University. He has contributed to various SETA reports and his writings have appeared in various publications such as Insight Turkey, Al Jazeera English, Hurriyet Daily News, Daily Sabah, Mediterranean Quarterly, and Cairo Review of Global Affairs among others. He is also co-editor of edited volumes History, Politics and Foreign Policy in Turkey, Change and Adaptation in Turkish Foreign Policy, Politics and Foreign Policy in Turkey: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, and Trump’s Jerusalem Move: Making Sense of U.S. Policy on the Israeli Palestinian Conflict.