Will the Ukrainian revolution help or harm the Syrian rebellion? The two uprisings currently appear to be on very different trajectories. It is three years since Syrian citizens began protests against President Bashar Assad, precipitating the cycle of violence that would lead to civil war. By contrast, Assad’s Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, was forced from the capital, Kiev, last week after just three months of demonstrations. Assad may view Yanukovych’s humiliation as proof of the need for utter ruthlessness against his opponents. But the two men’s fates remain intertwined.

Feb 25, 2014
Richard Gowan
Europe, Middle East, Syria

For three bloody years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has proved time and time again that his relationship with Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is more important to him than winning the world's approval.

Read the full Foreign Policy article here.

Feb 13, 2014
Richard Gowan

The morning after an aid convoy came under fire when it tried to reach a besieged Syrian city, a meeting here on a draft resolution that would force all parties in the bloody conflict to allow access for humanitarian organizations fell apart when representatives from Russia and China failed to show up, United Nations Security Council diplomats said.

Read the full New York Times article here

Feb 10, 2014
Richard Gowan

The 2014 Jaipur Literary Festival brought together over 240 authors for five days of debate and discussion. CIC Director Barnett Rubin attended and spoke on three panels about Middle Eastern and South Asian politics. Click below for quick recaps and full-length videos.

Dispensable Nation: Afghanistan after the US Withdrawal (Recap)

Jan 30, 2014
Barnett Rubin
Middle East

Il s'en est fallu de peu pour que la conférence internationale sur la Syrie n'échoue avant même d'avoir commencé. Le plus surprenant est que cet obstacle de dernière minute est venu de Ban Ki-moon, le secrétaire général des Nations unies, qui doit présider au lancement de ce processus de négociations, baptisé « Genève 2 », mercredi 22 janvier à Montreux, en Suisse, en présence d'une quarantaine de pays.

Jan 21, 2014
Richard Gowan
Europe, Middle East, Syria

At an international peace conference for Syria in June 2012, participants agreed to what has become known as the Geneva Communiqué. It laid out a six-point plan intended to stop the violence and move the two sides towards a political settlement. The United Nations is trying to implement that framework at peace talks going on now in Switzerland where the two parties have finally agreed to meet.

Jan 27, 2014
Richard Gowan
Europe, Middle East, Syria

In Montreaux Switzerland, Syrian peace talks have begun towards the so-called Geneva II process. Nobody thinks the conference will lead to peace. Even optimists call it a "possible first step" to ending three years of appalling civil war. President al Assad has gained strength by giving up chemical weapons and fighting extremists, despite charges that he's a war criminal. Will the US have no choice but to deal with him, rather than ending his rule-if only to gain a temporary ceasefire for humanitarian reasons?

Jan 24, 2014
Richard Gowan
Middle East, Syria, United States
United Nations

This week, Washington grasped that Ban Ki-moon might be a bit of a chump. The United Nations secretary-general, despite his seven years on the job and nearly four decades before that as a South Korean diplomat, appeared both overzealous and amateurish as he extended and then rescinded a last-minute invitation to Iran to join the Syrian peace talks in Switzerland. The Obama administration’s unconcealed irritation with this gambit has left Ban, who has always prioritized good relations with the United States, looking foolish.

Jan 22, 2014
Richard Gowan
Middle East, Syria, United States
United Nations

A last-minute decision by the United Nations to invite -- and then disinvite -- Iran to this week's widely-anticipated Syrian peace conference threatened to unravel the entire diplomatic effort on Monday. The invitation, delivered by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, exposed a rare fault line between Ban and Secretary of State John Kerry, two close allies who have been working together for months.

Jan 20, 2014
Richard Gowan
Middle East, Syria, United States

It is an absolute certainty that 2014 will be a turbulent year for the United Nations. The organization is struggling with crises ranging from the chaos in the Central African Republic (CAR) to the plight of Syrian refugees. There is little hope that these challenges will dissipate soon. Yet two sets of peace talks this month could well decide whether the U.N. faces a truly dreadful year ahead, or just a very difficult one. 

Jan 06, 2014
Richard Gowan
Horn of Africa, Middle East, Syria

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