March 22nd, 2012
12:00 PM ET

The great Syria divide

Editor's Note: The interviewer is Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor for  The interviewee is Joshua Landis, a leading Syria expert. The following is reprinted with permission from the Council on Foreign Relations.

The chances for the just-passed U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to the civil war in Syria being successful are "very slight," says Joshua Landis, a leading Syria expert. Landis says that President Bashar al-Assad's regime believes "that time is on their side and that they're going to win this struggle," while the opposition believes that the al-Assad regime is "hanging by a thread." Landis says there is a widening split within the opposition, and that it is "in a state of chaos right now." The Syrian National Council, led by westernized Syrians, which succeeded in getting sanctions imposed on the al-Assad regime, failed to get Western military intervention. But it does not trust the more militant Islamists who are actually in combat within Syria, and are refusing to provide them with money and weapons. FULL POST

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Topics: Syria
September 6th, 2011
01:00 PM ET

Why Western officials don't want the Syrian opposition to take up arms

Editor's Note: Joshua Landis is the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma. He writes the blog Syria Comment, where this was originally published.

By Joshua LandisSyria Comment

Here are 7 reasons why Western officials do not want to encourage the Syrian opposition to take up arms:

1. Syria may slip into civil war. This could produce the sort of blood bath that we saw in Lebanon and Iraq that would destabilize the region.

2. Regional capitals will be sucked into the civil war raising the possibility of a larger regional conflagration.


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Topics: Civil War • Middle East • Syria
Washington's battle over Syria
5880 miles from Damascus. (Getty Images)
August 24th, 2011
02:45 PM ET

Washington's battle over Syria

Editor's Note: Joshua Landis is the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma. He writes the blog Syria Comment, where this was originally published.

By Joshua Landis, Syria Comment

Two distinct camps are forming to battle over Syria policy in Washington. The first is made up of the neoconservatives, who are busy fitting the Arab Spring into U.S. strategic interests as they see them. John Bolton, Michael Doran, and Elliott Abrams have been leading the charge in articulating this argument.

The second group are the “realists,” with a liberal coating. Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies has articulated a “don’t get involved” argument.

The first group want to take down Assad’s Syria and the second do not. The first see it as a vital U.S. strategic goal, the second do not. The first see it as part of a broader effort to help your friends and hurt your enemies. They see Israel and Saudi Arabia as America’s main friends in the region and want to build them up. They want to crush Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.


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Topics: Foreign Policy • Syria • United States
March 25th, 2011
07:24 AM ET

As protests mount, is there a soft landing for Syria?

Editor's Note: For a strong analysis of the unfolding situation in Syria, check out Joshua Landis' piece over at Landis is the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and writes the blog Syria Comment. An excerpt is below.

By Joshua Landis for

The Baathist regime that has ruled Syria for 48 years is on the ropes. Even President Bashar al-Assad himself seems to have been shocked by the level of violence used by Syria's security forces to suppress demonstrations that began a week ago, and on Thursday afternoon his office announced unprecedented concessions to popular demands. But the question of whether those concessions assuage protesters' concerns or prove to be too little too late may be answered on the streets after Friday prayers.

The protests began a week ago in the dusty agricultural town of Dara'a, near the border with Jordan, over the arrests of high school students for scrawling antigovernment graffiti. Those demonstrations quickly spun out of control, with thousands joining in, inspired by the wave of revolutions that have rocked the Arab world, to demand political freedoms and an end to emergency rule and corruption. The government responded brutally, killing over 30 demonstrators and wounding many more, according to activists. Gruesome videos of the crackdown, disseminated via the Internet in recent days, have enraged Syrians from one end of the country to the other.


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Topics: Middle East • Syria