U.S. policy on Syria: Is regime change worth state failure?

Most observers assess that Bashar al-Assad has won the Syrian civil war, even as outside powers still seek to expand their influence and presence on the ground. As the civil war has ebbed, half of all Syrians have been forced from their homes, their health is in grave jeopardy and poverty is rife. U.S. policy is to use sanctions on Syria and on foreign aid organizations to unseat Assad, while creating a quagmire for Russia. The consequences of this policy have worsened the situation of ordinary Syrians without having forced Assad out or thwarting Russia’s interest in Syria. Should the U.S. stay the course in the hope of ejecting Assad and frustrating Moscow, or should it relent and permit reconstruction in Syria to proceed? Join what promises to be an intense discussion between Rim Turkmani of the London School of Economics, Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute, and Professor Steven Simon of the Quincy Institute and Colby College, who recently authored a report arguing that America’s first priority in Syria should be to prevent the collapse of the Syrian state. The discussion will be moderated by Professor Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma. The panel will take place on Thursday, September 10 at 1 pm ET.


Steven Simon

Steven Simon is Professor in the Practice of International Relations at Colby College, following stints as John J. McCloy ’16 Professor of History at Amherst College and lecturer in government at Dartmouth College. Prior to this, he was Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies for the US and Middle East. From 2011 to 2012 he served on the National Security Council staff as senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs. He also worked on the NSC staff 1994 - 1999 on counterterrorism and Middle East security policy. These assignments followed a fifteen-year career at the U.S. Department of State. He is the co-author, among other books, of The Age of Sacred Terror, winner of the Arthur C. Ross Award for best book in international relations; The Next Attack, a finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize, and one of the “best books of the year” in the Washington Post and Financial Times.

Michael Doran

Michael Doran is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute. He specializes in Middle East security issues. In the administration of President George W. Bush, Doran served in the White House as a senior director in the National Security Council. He also served in the Bush administration as a senior advisor in the State Department and a deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Pentagon. He received a B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. Before coming to Hudson, Doran was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He has also held teaching positions at New York University, Princeton University, and the University of Central Florida. He appears frequently on television, and has published extensively in Foreign Affairs, The American Interest, Commentary, Mosaic, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

Rim Turkmani

Dr Turkmani is a Research Fellow at the Conflict and Civil Society Research Unit in the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She directs the Syria conflict research programme at the Unit. Her policy-oriented research work focuses on identity politics, legitimate governance, transforming war economy it into peace economy and the relationship between local and external drivers of the conflict. She is a member of the Women's Advisory Board to the UN special envoy to Syria and sits on the advisory board of airwars.org which monitor the International coalition strikes against ISIS. She directed the project: ‘Crowd-sourcing Conflict and Peace ‘Events' in the Syrian conflict' which produced a detailed database of instances of violence and peace-making. She appears regularly in Arabic and English media commenting on Syria.

Joshua Landis (Moderator)

Joshua Landis is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute and Sandra Mackey Chair and Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in the College of International Studies and Director of the Center for Middle East Studies. He writes and manages SyriaComment.com, a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 50,000 page-reads a month. Dr. Landis publishes frequently in policy journals such as Foreign Affairs, Middle East Policy, and Foreign Policy. He is the author of Syria at Independence: Nationalism, the Fight for Leadership, and Failure of Republicanism (2020). He is a frequent analyst on TV, radio, and in print and is a regular on NPR and the BBC. He is past President of the Syrian Studies Association. He was educated at Swarthmore (BA), Harvard (MA), and Princeton (PhD).