- Politics of a Nuclear Deal: Former U.S. & Iranian Officials Debate | Monday April 20 | 9:30 – 11:00 | USIP | REGISTER TO ATTEND | This event is the fourth in the Iran Forum series hosted by a coalition of eight think tanks, including USIP, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, RAND, the Arms Control Association, the Center for a New American Security, the Stimson Center, Partnership for a Secure America, and the Ploughshares Fund. Speakers include Ali-Akbar Mousavi, Former member of Iran’s parliament and Visiting Fellow at Virginia Tech, Jim Slattery, Former Congressman (D-KS), Howard Berman, Former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (D-CA) and Michael Singh, Former Senior Director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council and Senior Fellow, The Washington Institute. The discussion will be moderated by Stephen J. Hadley, Chairman of the Board, USIP, Chair, RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy Advisory Board and Former National Security Advisor.
- Turkey’s Role in a Turbulent Middle East | Monday April 20 | 2:30 – 3:30 | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will address the country’s evolving policy toward the Middle East, including its role in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. He will also discuss Turkey’s relationship with the West and its responsibilities in NATO. George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, will moderate.
- The Syrian Humanitarian Crisis: What Is to Be Done? | Tuesday April 21 | 9:30 – 12:00 | Middle East Policy Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Middle East Policy Council invites to the 80th Capitol Hill Conference. Live streaming of this event will begin at approximately 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 21st and conclude at noon. A questions and answers session will be held at the end of the proceedings. Refreshments will be served. The speakers include Karen AbuZayd, Former UN Under Secretary-General and Former Commissioner-General, UNRWA, Denis J. Sullivan, Director, Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies, Co-Director, Middle East Center, Northeastern University, Susan M. Akram, Clinical Professor, Boston University School of Law, and Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Middle East Studies, Harvard University. The conference will be moderated by Thomas R. Mattair, Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council.
- Current State of Syrian Refugees in Turkey | Tuesday April 21 | 10:00 – 12:00 | The SETA Foundation |REGISTER TO ATTEND | The civil war has driven 6.5 million Syrians from their country; nearly 2 million now reside in Turkey. While Turkish refugee camps have garnered much attention due to their quality, the majority of Syrian refugees reside outside the camps. In urban areas, the government, aid agencies and NGOs struggle to meet the needs of an-ever growing number of refugees. Please join us for a panel discussion on the refugee crisis in Turkey and its impact on social, political and economic dynamics in the country. Speakers include Fuat Oktay, President, Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, AFAD, Kemal Kirisci, TÜSİAD Senior Fellow and Director of Turkey Project, The Brookings Institution, Kilic B. Kanat, Research Director, SETA DC and Daryl Grisgraber, Senior Advocate, Refugees International. The discussion will be moderated by Kadir Ustun, Executive Director, SETA DC.
- Building Peace in Libya: A Conversation with Wafa Bugaighis | Tuesday April 21 | 3:00 – 4:00 | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND | As the conflict between Libya’s political factions drags on, its humanitarian and economic crisis deepens. Meanwhile, the Islamic State is exploiting the vacuum wrought by the fighting and the absence of coherent, capable institutions. What are the prospects for a ceasefire and the formation of an inclusive, sustainable government? Wafa Bugaighis, the charge d’affaires and highest-ranking diplomat at the Libyan Embassy in Washington, will offer her vision for ending the war and discuss how the international community can help rebuild Libya. Carnegie’s Frederic Wehrey will moderate.
- Is Authoritarianism Staging a Comeback? | Tuesday April 21 | 5:00 – 7:00 | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The past few years have marked the beginning of a tumultuous period for global governance. Across the world, we have seen threats to international order and a disruption of longstanding political norms and values as authoritarians get smarter and persist undeterred. With authoritarianism on the rise in many of the world’s most strategically important regions, new questions emerge regarding the diffusion of power, the rise of sometimes violent nonstate actors, and the future role of the nation-state. Developing an appropriate strategy for the advancement of human rights and the support of nonviolent civil resistance movements is thus proving to be one of the most challenging policy dilemmas for the United States and other democracies.On April 21, the Atlantic Council will be hosting a public discussion of these challenges in recognition of the release of its forthcoming publication, Is Authoritarianism Staging a Comeback? This discussion will feature multiple leading experts on nonviolent civil resistance and authoritarian states, and will explore the range of issues and case-studies examined within this book of essays. Atlantic Council CEO and President Mr. Frederick Kempe will begin by moderating a discussion on countering authoritarianism between Dr. Peter Ackerman, Dr. Paula Dobriansky, and Mr. Damon Wilson. This will be followed by a discussion of the issues raised in the book itself, featuring Adm. Dennis Blair (USN, Ret.), Dr. George A. Lopez, and Dr. Regine Spector, moderated by Dr. Mathew Burrows and Dr. Maria J. Stephan.
- Escaping the Cycle of Stagnation in the Middle East | Wednesday April 22 | 10:00 – 5:00 | SAIS | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Global Security & Conflict Management Club and MENA Club of Johns Hopkins’ SAIS invite to a conference on the social, political and economic challenges facing the current Middle East. The conference will be opened with a keynote address by Paul Salem, Vice President for Policy at the Middle East Institute. Following the address, the conference will proceed with three panels. The first panel will discuss civil society in Syria. Speakers include Mohammad Ghanem, Director of Government Relations, Syrian American CounciI, Ibrahim Al-Assil, President, Syrian Non Violence Movemement, Mohammad Al Abdallah, Executive Director, Syrian Justice and Accountability Centre, Nidal Bitari, Palestinian Refugee Writer and Hind Kabawat, Lawyer and Syrian Activist. The second panel will discuss migration, displacement, and patterns of protracted crises in the Middle East, featuring Mona Yacoubian, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East, Rochelle Davis, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology in the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, Matthew Reynolds. Director, UNRWA Representative Office, Washington, DC. The panel will be moderated by Elizabeth Ferris, Co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement. The third panel will focus on economic reform and development in the MENA region. Panelists include Lili Mottaghi, Economist in the Chief Economist Office for the Middle East and North Africa Region, The World Bank, Dr. Diane Singerman, Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs, American University, and Co-Director, TADAMUN: The Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative and Amy Ekdawi, Middle East & North Africa Program Director, The Bank Information Center. Lunch will be served.
- Examining U.S.-Israel Relations at a Time of Change in the Middle East | Wednesday April 22 | 10:30 – 1:00 | Center for a New American Security | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The U.S.-Israel relationship has been a centerpiece of U.S. Middle East strategy and a main pillar of Israel’s national security strategy for decades. But political relations between the two countries during the past six years have seen some turbulence, even as security cooperation deepens and they continue to share common interests and values at a time of change and uncertainty in the Middle East. On April 22, please join the Center for American Progress, the Center for a New American Security, and the Israel Institute to take stock of where we are at this crucial stage in U.S.-Israel relations, featuring two expert panels. The first panel will discuss the management of U.S.-Israel relations, and the second will focus on the main issues under discussion between the two states. Speakers include Rudy deLeon, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, Mel Levine (D-CA), Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution, Michael J. Koplow, Program Director, Israel Institute, Dan Arbell, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution and Scholar in Residence, Department of History, College of Arts & Sciences, American University, Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, Director of Arab-Israeli Programs, U.S. Institute of Peace, Michael Singh, Lane-Swig, Senior Fellow and Managing Director, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, Visiting Fellow, Center for American Progress. Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress and Ilan Goldenberg, Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program, Center for a New American Security will moderate the first and second panels respectively.
- Turkey: Still a U.S. Ally? | Thursday April 23 | Bipartisan Policy Center | 3:00 – 4:30 | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Foreign policy divergences and increasingly worrying developments in Turkey’s domestic policy are raising questions about the strength of the U.S.-Turkish partnership. Turkey and the United States remain divided on their approach to Syria, the ISIS threat, and turmoil in the region more broadly. Meanwhile, crackdowns on media and the passage of draconian new security legislation are jeopardizing fundamental freedoms in Turkey as the country heads for parliamentary elections this summer. Should the United States continue to look to Turkey as a strategic partner in this environment? Join the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) for the release of a new paper on the state of the U.S.-Turkish alliance and a discussion of Turkey’s domestic political struggles, foreign policy and implications for its relationship with the United States. The discussion features Amb. Eric Edelman, Co-chair, BPC’s Turkey Initiative and former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Dr. Svante Cornell, Member, BPC’s Turkey Initiative and Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, and Amb. James Holmes, Former President, American-Turkish Council. Blaise Misztal, Director, BPC’s National Security Program, will moderate.
- An overlooked crisis: Humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Libya | Friday April 24 | 10:00 – 11:30 | Brookings Institution | REGISTER TO ATTEND | With international attention focused on the humanitarian emergencies in Syria and Iraq, the escalating crisis in Libya has gone overlooked. With the vast majority of international actors having pulled out of Libya in the summer of 2014, humanitarian assistance for needy populations is in short supply, and solutions to the crisis seem far from sight. On April 24, the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement will convene a discussion on the humanitarian consequences of the violence in Libya, focusing on the implications for those in Libya and for the country’s neighbors. Brookings Nonresident Fellow Megan Bradley will draw on recent research on Libya’s displacement crisis. Speakers will also include Kais Darragi of the Embassy of the Republic of Tunisia and Shelly Pitterman of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Elizabeth Ferris, senior fellow and co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement will moderate the event and offer opening remarks.
- What’s Wrong with the Proposed Nuclear Deal with Iran? | Friday April 24 | 12:00 – 1:30 | Hudson Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | This month, the White House announced the framework for a nuclear agreement with Iran, with details to be finalized by the end of June. For all of the technical details that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is intended to establish, the foundational political agreements—the reason for the meetings at Lausanne—seem unclear. What can American policymakers expect next? Will the White House continue to make concessions as it has since the November 2013 interim agreement when it acknowledged Iran’s right to enrich uranium? Or is there a way to ensure the administration gets a better deal than the framework unveiled earlier this month? What are the implications of the deal for U.S. national security, as well as our interests and allies in the Middle East? On April 24th, Hudson Institute will host a lunchtime panel of experts to discuss where the administration’s Iran policy will go from here. The panel will include Michael Doran, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, Matthew Kroenig, Associate Professor, Georgetown University and Senior Fellow, The Atlantic Council, David Samuels, Contributor, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic. Lee Smith, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, will moderate.
Eric Rahman, a master’s student in my Post-war Reconstruction and Transition class this term, writes about Srdja Popovic’s appearance at SAIS yesterday:
Srdja Popovic is a Serbian political activist and executive director of the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). He was a leader of the student movement Otpor!, which helped topple Serbian president Slobodan Milošević. He has taught at the Harvard Kennedy School, NYU, and the University of Colorado, among others.
There are few individuals with a history of working in such close proximity to conflict who exhibit quite the optimism and exuberance as Popovic. In an event held at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on the morning of February 10, the author of the recently published Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World discussed his vision for effective social mobilization to execute non-violent revolution.
He relied on a metaphor drawn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series:
it is the average individual, the person you would least expect, the hobbits, who
can have the greatest impact and transform their societies through non-violent means. Popovic pointed to the electrician Lech Wałęsa and the camera shop owner Harvey Milk to illustrate that it is not institutional elites who bring about change but rather it is hobbits, who rely on their creativity to build a movement and have a lasting impact.
In spite of humorous analogies and moments of levity, Popovic presented a sober
analysis of which conditions and methods are most conducive to fomenting a social movement that can truly effect change in repressive societies. He advocates non-violence even when pitted against a brutally violent adversary. Non-violence is preferable not because violence is morally unacceptable, but because non-violence is the most effective and efficient means to combat a growing menace, as illustrated by the statistics in Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.
The threat of ISIS he likened to a swarm of mosquitos. The temptation is
to swat them. But to combat the infestation, one has to turn attention to the source: wet areas or the swamps. There is a confluence of pernicious factors that coalesced to create permissive conditions for ISIS’s rise, but one fundamental issue is the failure of states to deliver services and the resulting vacuum of credibility and legitimacy. This can only be countered by the actual provision of expected basic
services by governments. Service provision will undercut the ISIS narrative and shrink recruitment.
There is an alarming perception among many Iraqi youth that ISIS is ‘cool.’ This perception is destabilizing and arises from lack of alternatives. There is no Iraqi ‘Batman’ or ‘Superman’ young people can look to for moral-cultural education during their formative years, which leaves them susceptible to the sophisticated propaganda machine of an organization such as ISIS.
The Arab spring and the Ukrainian crisis illustrate in Popovic’s view the consequences when a movement lacks long-term vision. In Egypt for example, the
revolution achieved its expressed goal of unseating Hosni Mubarak within the first month of the protests (four years ago today!). But once the moment came to construct a new model of government and service delivery, there was a dearth of strategic planning and the movement began to disintegrate. A similar situation existed in Ukraine following the Orange Revolution in 2003, causing the intra-Ukrainian conflict to simmer and break out again into crisis last year.
Popovic summed up his argument with an apt analogy: “Non-violent struggles are like video games. They have levels and you need a new set of skills for each level.” Despite the challenges faced and the skills required, it is the hobbits who eventually carry the day.
I’ll be in Istanbul, but the week in DC will be a busy one after a welcome but gray three-day weekend:
- Conflict Prevention and Resolution: Ebola, Health Security, Conflict and Peacebuilding Tuesday 14 | 9:30 am – 11:00 am Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; Rome Building 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Richard Garfield, emergency response and recovery team lead for Assessment, Surveillance, and Information Management at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Deborah Rosenblum, executive vice president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, will discuss this topic. There will be a live webcast of this event.
- Boko Haram, ISIS and the Caliphate Today Tuesday 14 | 9:30 am – 10:45 am Georgetown University, 37 St NW and O St NW, Washington DC, Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center, 270 REGISTER TO ATTEND ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram in northern Nigeria continue to use an overlapping language of political Islam and references to the caliphate and the Shariah. This event brings together Brookings fellow Shadi Hamid, visiting professor at Georgetown University Emad Shahin, and visiting assistant professor at Georgetown, Alex Thurston, to discuss these complex issues.
- ISIS, the Kurds and Turkey: A Messy Triangle Tuesday 14 | 10:00 am – 11:30 am Bipartisan Policy Center; 1225 I Street, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND The Kurds have been on the front lines against ISIS for the better part of two years. During recent fighting in Kobani, Turkey has tried to block Syrian Kurdish refugees escaping ISIS from crossing the border, and fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party from entering Syria to join the fight. Eric Edelman, former ambassador to Turkey, and members of BPC’s Turkey Initiative Henri Barkey and Svante Cornell will discuss the complicated relations between ISIS, the Kurds, and Turkey. They will also consider the role that the Kurds and Turkey might be able to play in confronting ISIS and what US policy towards each group should be.
- The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Has the US Failed? Wednesday 15 | 9:30 am – 12:00 pm Middle East Policy Council; The Phoenix Park Hotel, 520 North Capitol St NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Speakers at this conference will include Daniel Kurtzer, former Ambassador to Israel and Egypt and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs; Matthew Duss, President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace; Natan Sachs, Fellow at the Brookings Institution; and Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund and the Palestine Center. Omar Kader, Chairman of the Board at MEPC will moderate, and the discussant will be Thomas Mattair, Executive Director at MEPC.
- Fighting ISIS: The Future of American Foreign Policy in the Middle East Wednesday 15 | 3:00 pm – 5:00pm American University; 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC EVENT WEBSITE Moderated by David Gregory of AU’s School of International Service. The panel will consist of David Ignatius, Washington Post; Susan Glasser, Politico; and Akbar Ahmed, Professor at SIS.
- Terrorist Financing Networks in the Middle East and South Asia: A Comparative Assessment Thursday 16 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Middle East Institute; 1761 N Street NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND The ascent of the Islamic State has raised critical questions about how terrorist organizations are being financed. A comparison of terrorist financing networks in South Asia and the Middle East can offer insights into the differences and similarities in the funding of global terrorist efforts and how money is making its way into the hands of violent terrorist groups. Amit Kumar, fellow of the Center of National Policy at Georgetown University will discuss the methods, motivations, and efficacy of terrorist financing networks. He will also examine implications for policy, and will consider whether current countermeasures effectively prevent the funding of terrorist networks, or whether there are other strategies that can better curb this global threat. Marvin Weinbaum, scholar at MEI, will moderate.
- Parliamentary Elections 2014: Tunisia’s Political Landscape Thursday 16 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Atlantic Council; 1030 15th St NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND On October 26, Tunisians will cast their ballots to choose a parliament, marking the first major step out of the interim phase of the democratic transition. However questions remain as to the leading political parties’ ability to translate rhetoric into action and address serious security and economic challenges. To discuss this, and the importance of the elections to Tunisia’s progress, Atlantic Council will hold a conversation with representatives from the two main political parties in Tunisia: Zied Mhirsi of Nidaa Tounes and Osama Al-Saghir of Ennahda. They will offer insights about their respective parties’ platforms. Joining them will be Scott Mastic, director for Middle East and North Africa programs at the International Republican Institute. Karim Mezran, Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council will moderate.
- Stabilizing Iraq: Lessons for the Next Chapter Thursday 16 | 4:45 pm – 6:30 pm Center for Strategic and International Studies; 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Bob Schieffer, Chief Washington Correspondent at CBS News will host a discussion between Kathleen Hicks, Senior Vice President of CSIS, Stuart Bowen Jr. Senior Adviser at CSIS and former Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and Karen DeYoung, Senior National Security Correspondent at The Washington Post.
- Can the Obama Administration’s ISIS Strategy Work? Friday 17 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Hudson Institute; 1015 15th Street NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Criticism of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy is growing, and many believe current actions to curb ISIS are not enough. Will a strategy limited to aerial bombardment and ancillary assistance to local fighters be sufficient to defeat ISIS, or are US military officials and regional allies arguing for ground troops correct? In either case, to what extent are longstanding, region-wide issues a fundamental obstacle to complete success against ISIS? To address these questions Hudson Institute will host a discussion with Lee Smith, Hudson Institute Senior Fellow, Andrew Tabler, Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute, Faysal Itani, Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, and Hussain Abdul-Hussain of the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper.
- A Citizens’ Coalition for Peace – US/Jordan Valley Sister Cities Friday 17 | 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Eco Peace/Friends of the Earth Middle East’s Good Water Neighbors (GWN) project has brought together Palestinians, Israelis, and Jordanians to cooperate over trans-boundary water resources and jointly advance sustainable development in the region, notably in the Lower Jordan Valley. The project has led to common problem solving and peace building among cross-border communities, even in the midst of conflict. EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East has recently worked to create sister city partnerships between American cities and the partnering communities of the GWN project. These will build on the previous successes of GWN to create and empower a broad, international citizen coalition for peace in the region. The Wilson Center will host a discussion on environmental peace-building, the mutual benefits of cross-border cooperation in the midst of conflict, and the role of American citizen diplomats in Middle East grassroots peace-making. The event will feature presentations by the organizations involved in building these international partnerships and a panel discussion with mayors from Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian communities in the Lower Jordan Valley.
More than 350 airstrikes have been carried out against the Islamic State in Syria by the US and its allies since September 23. However, the recent focus on IS has kept the Assad regime, and its crimes, out of the spotlight. In opposition held areas, barrel bombings are a routine occurrence, and snipers target civilians indiscriminately. There is evidence for continuing use of chemical weapons – repeatedly challenging the “red line” laid out by President Obama two years ago. The destruction has left little infrastructure remaining.
For civilians living in the conflict zones, the result is a humanitarian disaster. In order to mitigate the suffering, local communities have begun to form volunteer-run organizations to perform basic civil functions and relief work. The United States Institute of Peace held a discussion on Wednesday with members of one such organization. Meet Syria’s Rescue Workers: Saving Lives, Building Peace, brought together two members of the Syrian Civil Defense Units: Raed Salah, Head of the Idlib branch, and Khaled Harah, member of Aleppo city branch, along with Samer Attar of the Syrian American Medical Society, and medical volunteer in Aleppo. Hind Kabawat, Senior Program Officer at USIP, moderated.
Opening the discussion with his experiences working as a doctor in opposition held areas, Attar outlined the difficulties faced by Syrian medical workers. Attar listed the major shortcomings of medicine in Syria as a lack of experienced personnel, of basic supplies, and capacity at treatment centers. With no end to the fighting in sight, these shortcomings will only to intensify.
Across Syria, many doctors have fled. Assad’s forces have targeted medical workers in rebel-held areas. Hospitals are regularly hit by barrel bombs, to the point that makeshift field hospitals are now codenamed and hidden. As resources have been used up or destroyed, the lack of supplies has become more acute. One effect of this is that Syrians no longer seek or receive medical attention for anything other than war wounds. Chronic conditions and routine health problems among those unable or unwilling to leave are not treated. This adds an unseen element to the suffering of Syrian civilians.
Raed Salah and Khaled Harah both spoke of their experiences in the “White Helmets,” volunteer Syrian Civil Defense Units. Salah also discussed the development and spread of the organisation.
The Civil Defense Units comprise localized groups acting as rescue workers to their own communities. The groups originated in refugee camps in Turkey, where refugees received training during relief projects undertaken there. This highlights the importance of continued training and education in the camps. Following Free Syrian Army gains in the north of the country, some refugees moved back, taking with them skills and organizational abilities they had learned. The Civil Defense Units have since grown and attracted numerous volunteers, leading to the formation of more regional units. Salah cites the number of volunteers as over 1000.
The community driven nature of these units has been important to their success. People who sign up work at their local center and undertake rescue work within fixed areas. Both Salah and Harah claimed that this provides a psychological boost and motivation, as they feel they are directly aiding their own community.
The neutrality of the Civil Defense Units was also stressed. Though their first members were Muslim, the first center was opened in a predominantly Christian area. The recruitment policy allows volunteers of all backgrounds. Salah stressed rescue workers do not discriminate politically or religiously when attempting to save people. This has meant that even in areas where conflict between the moderate opposition and jihadist groups, the Civil Defense Units have been allowed access to carry out their work.
Salah and Harah’s organization represents just one example of volunteers performing vital civil roles in the Syrian conflict. These organizations are vital for alleviating the humanitarian crisis, supplementing the work of foreign aid workers. Such groups may also have a role to play when it comes to rebuilding the country. Both men stressed the need for international support and funding for civilian projects like theirs. Though they cautiously supported the recent airstrikes on IS, they felt that by not putting more pressure on the Assad government the US has unintentionally aided the regime’s forces.
Concluding, Hind Kabawat called for the imposition of a no-fly zone to end the continuing bombings by the regime in civilian areas. She also noted that groups like the Syrian Civil Defense Units demonstrate that there is hope for Syria’s future.
A video of the event is embedded below.
A busy Monday and Tuesday over at USIP, as Washington focuses on extremism and what to do about it:
- MENA Region in Crisis: Islam, Democracy and Extremism Monday, September 29 | 10:00 am – 11:30 am US Institute of Peace; 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Rached Ghannouchi, President of the Ennahdha Party of Tunisia, will discuss the current political and security crisis in the region, including how Tunisia’s democratic transition and experience can be drawn upon when seeking solutions to the protracted crises ongoing in the Middle East and North Africa. He will also consider how dialogue and compromise can pave the way for national unity and reconciliation. Ghannouchi will be joined by Robin Wright, journalist, and fellow at USIP.
- Security and Justice in Post-Revolution Libya: Dignity, Dawn, and Deadlock Tuesday, September 30 | 10:00 am – 12:00 pm US Institute of Peace; 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND With Libya’s state security and justice institutions now largely nonfunctioning, some communities have turned to vigilante justice, tribal leaders and elders, or resorted to self-help when faced with conflicts and disputes. USIP will host a discussion to address how this situation arose, and what can be done to change it. Naji Abou-Khalil, Project Manager at Altai Consulting, along with Senior Program Officers at USIP Fiona Mangan and Christina Murtaugh, will form the panel.
- Meet Syria’s Rescue Workers: Saving Lives, Building Peace Tuesday, September 30 | 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm US Institute of Peace; 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Some 600 Syrians known as “White Helmets” or Syrian Civil Defense units, are organized volunteers who act as rescue workers in areas like Aleppo and Idlib provinces in the country’s northwest. They are unarmed and impartial, and operate on principles of solidarity, humanity and impartiality. In the last six months, they have recorded more than 2,500 lives saved. The United States Institute of Peace, The Syria Campaign and the Syrian American Medical Society bring together two such rescuers, Raed Salah and Khaled Harah, to discuss the future of peacebuilding in Syria. They will be joined by Samer Attar, member of the Syrian American Medical Society. The panel will be moderated by Hind Kabawat, Senior Program officer, USIP.
- Exploring ISIL: Context and Repercussions Tuesday, September 30 | 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm World Affairs Council; University of California Washington Center, 1608 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND World Affairs Council will hold a discussion about ISIL, one of the most momentous and imposing insurgent groups in the world today. The panel will discuss the group’s background, the US response to it, and how both will impact the security of the region. Speakers include Shadi Hamid, fellow at the Brookings Institute, Thomas Sanderson, co-director and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic International Studies Transnational Threats Project, and moderator Kate Brannen, senior reporter at Foreign Policy.
- Countering ISIS: An Evening with Ambassador Jeffrey, Former US Ambassador to Iraq Thursday, Oct 2 | 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm Elliott School of International Affairs; 1957 E Street NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Ambassador James F. Jeffrey will discuss ISIS as an organization, the international community’s current plan to counter ISIS, and offer his own opinions and critiques on these plans, in an open discussion with all those in attendance.
- Religious Peacebuilding: The Approach of the U.S. Institute of Peace Tuesday, September 23 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Rumi Forum; 750 First Street NE, Suite 1120, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND The Religion and Peacebuilding Center at the U.S. Institute of Peace was launched in July 2000 to analyze religious dynamics in conflict and to advance the peace-building roles of religious actors and organizations in conflict zones. For the past 14 years, the U.S. Institute of Peace has been organizing programs to address zones of conflict from a religious perspective. This presentation will present some of the lessons learned from this effort. Speakers include David Smock, director of the Religion and Peacebuilding Center and vice-president, Governance, Law & Society; Palwasha Kakar, Senior Program Officer at the U.S. Institute of Peace; and Susan Hayward, Senior Program Officer focussing on conflict prevention, resolution, and reconciliation.
- Libya’s Civil War Wednesday, September 24 | 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Frederic Wehrey will present the findings of a new paper on the institutional roots of Libya’s violence and present options for how the United States and the international community can assist. Wolfram Lacher, associate in the Middle East and Africa research division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Faraj Najem, director of Salam Centre for African Research in Tripoli, Libya, and a professor of public administration at Benghazi University, and Dirk Vandewalle professor of Government at Dartmouth College and the Carter Center’s field office director in Libya, will act as discussants and share their own insights. Michele Dunne, senior associate in Carnegie’s Middle East Program, will moderate.
- Iraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance Wednesday, September 24 | 12:15 pm – 1:45 pm New America Foundation; 1899 L St., NW, Suite 400, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND US Army Col. Joel Rayburn will discuss his book, Iraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance. In it, he notes that the authoritarianism, sectarianism, and Islamist resistance that dominate Iraq’s post-U.S. political order have created a toxic political and social brew, preventing Iraq’s political elite from resolving the fundamental roots of conflict that have wracked the country before and since 2003. Rayburn will examine key aspects of the US legacy in Iraq, analyzing what it means for the United States and others that, after more than a decade of conflict, Iraq’s communities have not yet found a way to live together in peace.
- The Legal Basis for Military Action against ISIS Thursday, September 25 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Heritage Foundation, Lehrman Auditorium; 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Charles Stimson, Manager of the National Security Law Program will host a conversation concerning the legality of the Obama Administration’s strategic plan to degrade and destroy the Islamic State. Key to the discussion will be whether the President should request a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) specific to ISIS, or whether the administration can rely either on AUMFs issued previously in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, or on the President’s Article II powers alone. Joining the discussion will be Steven Bradbury, Partner at Dechert LLP, Robert Chesney, Charles I. Francis Professor of Law, University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and Steven Vladeck, Professor of Law at The Washington College of Law, American University.
- Is There a Role for Religious Actors in Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism? Friday, September 26 | 10:30 am – 12:00 pm US Institute of Peace; 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington DC REGISTER TO ATTEND USIP will host an event featuring three panelists from its recent Symposium, who will present insights drawn from the workshop and their own experiences of combatting extremism. Violent extremism is a pressing issue today, affecting many regions and the wider global community, and efforts to counter such extremism require strategic and sensitive approaches. While civil society has an important role to play in countering extremism, religious actors are well positioned to address some of its root causes, particularly in areas in which extremism is couched in religious terms. Moderating the discussion is Georgia Holmer, Deputer Director, Rule of Law Center. She will be joined by H. E. Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, President of Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, Pastor Esther Ibanga, President, Women Without Walls Initiative, and Vinya Ariyaratne, the General Secretary at Sarvodaya.