Whither U.S. Syria Policy?

The Arab League decision to readmit Syria and the circulation of a bill in the House of Representatives meant to ensure that the US blocks Arab investment in Syria have highlighted two emerging developments: the geopolitical realignment within the region between the US and EU on one hand and Gulf Arab states on the other; and the effect of sanctions on the Syrian people. Our panelists will discuss the implications of these developments for sanctions as a coercive tool, US/EU relations with the Arab Gulf states, and the role of US forces in Syria. The discussion will feature William Roebuck, Executive Vice President of The Arab Gulf States Institute, Mara Revkin, Associate Professor at the Duke University School of Law, Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, and Joshua Landis, Quincy Institute Non-Resident Fellow and Professor of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Steven Simon, QI Senior Research Analyst, will moderate.


William Roebuck

William Roebuck is the Executive Vice President of The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. Roebuck completed his diplomatic career in late 2020, after 28 years of service in postings across the Middle East, including Baghdad, Damascus, and Jerusalem. He served as U.S. ambassador to Bahrain from 2015-17 and as Chargé d’Affaires in Libya in 2013. As Deputy Special Envoy for the Global Coalition Against ISIS, Roebuck was embedded with U.S. Special Forces, serving as the senior (and often only) U.S. diplomat on the ground in northeastern Syria from 2018-20, receiving the State Department’s Award for Heroism for his work there. He was born and raised in North Carolina and began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Côte d’Ivoire. Among other publications, his work has appeared in The Foreign Service Journal, most recently “Raqqa’s Inferno: A Diplomat Reads Dante in Syria.”

Mara Revkin

Dr. Mara Revkin is an Associate Professor at the Duke University School of Law where she conducts empirical research on armed conflict, peace-building, transitional justice, and migration with a regional focus on the Middle East and particularly Iraq and Syria. She is also a nonresident scholar with Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program. She holds a J.D. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University. Her research has been published or is forthcoming in The Journal of Politics, the American Journal of Political Science, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, The American Journal of Comparative Law, and The Yale Law Journal, among others. Alongside her academic research, she has been working with and advising United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organizations in Iraq and Syria since 2016.

James F. Jeffrey

James Jeffrey retired from the Foreign Service after a 35 year career in 2012 with the rank of career ambassador, and assignments including Deputy National Security Advisor, and Ambassador to Iraq, Turkey and Albania. He was recalled in 2018 for twenty seven months as chief of mission Syria and Special Representative to the Defeat ISIS Coalition. Jeffrey served between 1969 and 1976 as an Army infantry officer in Germany and Vietnam.

Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis is Sandra Mackey Chair in the Boren College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma and director of the Center for Middle East Studies and the Farzaneh Family Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies. His book: Syria at Independence, Nationalism, Leadership, and Failure of Republicanism will be published by the Arab Center for research and Policy studies this coming year. He is a frequent analyst on TV, radio, and in print and manages “SyriaComment.com,” a newsletter on Syrian politics. He has received three Fulbright Grants to support his research in Syria and won numerous prizes for his teaching. He is past President of the Syrian Studies Association and ha lived 15 years in the Middle East and 4 in Syria. He spent most summers in Syria before the uprising on 2011.

Steven Simon (Moderator)

Steven Simon is Senior Research Analyst at the Quincy Institute and the Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow at the MIT Centre for International Studies. Prior to this, he was Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies for the U.S. 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. 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. His most recent book, Grand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American Ambition in the Middle East, was published this spring.