Syria's peace: what, how, when?

In February 2013 Syrian political and civil society activists met with scholars, policymakers and analysts around the question Syria's peace: what, how, when? You can read an account of the day, or watch a film of Session 2, In Conversation: Fawaz Gerges and Rosemary Hollis with Robin Yassin-Kassab (on the right).

Now we invite you to continue the debate online. Were France and Britain right to push for the lifting of the arms embargo? How important are emerging civil administrations? What role should international Syrian elites have now and in the future? Ultimately, where will peace come from?

Below you will find analyses put forward by panellists, workshop participants and conveners. We welcome your contributions.

The event was organised by openSecurity and supported by the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, NOREF.


When will Islamic State use its chemical weapons?

The west turned a blind eye to the possible use of chemical weapons by militant Islamists allied against the Assad regime in Syria. Now that Islamic State almost certainly possesses them, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Syria's digital civil war

Militarised spyware has played a crucial role in the Assad regime's offensive against the Syrian opposition. But further risk remains as Syrians' data has been swept up in the global surveillance dragnet. 

The two big holes in the strategy against IS

The US-led campaign against Islamic State isn’t working. It won’t unless it addresses Shia sectarianism in Iraq and Assad’s atrocities in Syria.

Deadly cargo: explosive weapons in populated areas

It’s been a year of searing images of horrifying mass civilian injury and death, from Gaza to eastern Ukraine. The world must set standards to curb resort to weapons with wide-area effects where many civilians are at risk.

Turkey, Kobane and the Kurdish question

The US wants Turkey to join the military effort against Islamic State at Kurdish-dominated Kobane, across the Syrian border—but Ankara’s focus is the Kurds within its own.

Starvation as a weapon of war in Syria

Since 1993, there have been calls for the legal and political recognition of starvation as a weapon of war. In Syria, it has regained distressing urgency. 

The failure of the UN: rebuilding from the ruins

Navi Pillay offered a scathing indictment of the UN Security Council's failures to address global crises, most notably in Syria. But the paralysed state of the UN may finally offer the chance to address its inherently undemocratic structure. 

ISIS: the spreading cancer

Sometimes states exaggerate the threat posed by violence from non-state forces. With ISIS in Iraq and Syria, however, the opposite is true: its onward march threatens the region and the international community.

How Qatar's hand casts Syrian shadows

As Qatar assumes an increasing role in the political diplomacy of the Middle East, its subtler interventions in Syria's civil war continue unquestioned.

Syria’s raging civil war and the west’s inertia

The Syrian imbroglio is very difficult, not intractable—and the west cannot continue to throw up its hands in despair.

The curious case of the Tunisian 3,000

A surge of Tunisian jihadists into Syria tells much about the wider story of violence and politics after the Arab Spring.

Finding cracks in Syria's deadly politics to deliver aid

Humanitarian agencies have renewed support after a rare moment of unity in the UN Security Council regarding cross-border aid delivery into Syria, but face only growing challenges and ethical dilemmas navigating the country's complex conflict lines.  

The enduring spectre of chemical weapons in Iraq

The US's failure to destroy the remnants of Iraq's chemical weapons stock, along with many others, haunts as ISIS continues its advance - now with access to this dangerous and unstable arsenal. 

Deliberate starvation: impact on peace and reconstruction in Syria

For the international community, realizing the magnitude of the challenges and the spiralling economic costs, that include ripple effects on stability and foreign investment in the region, may be what it takes.

Aleppo's souq: witness to the modern Syrian state

Aleppo, once Syria's economic heartbeat, bears testimony to the historic diversity and associated vibrancy a crushing war has flattened.   

Razan Zaitouneh and her comrades: spirit of the Syrian revolution kidnapped

More than five months have passed since the kidnap of activists Razan Zaitouneh, Wael Hammadeh, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hammadi, who are a reminder that the Syrian revolution is up against more than the Assad regime.

After fleeing barrel bombs, the long wait for UN aid begins

The Syrian regime is in the business of inflicting suffering on civilians; their cooperation is valuable to aid access but when there’s no cooperation at all, then the UN agencies have to take matters in their own hands.

Syria and the International Criminal Court: justice denied

With Russia and China vetoing a UN Security Council resolution to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, it is time once more to look for other avenues

Syrian refugees in Turkey: defusing the powder-keg

In sharp contrast to wider Europe, Turkey has taken in many refugees from the Syrian civil war—but its hospitality is starting to excite social frictions and sectarian tensions

The shifting balance of identity politics after the Syrian uprising

An account of the drastic identity and narrative shifts during the Syrian uprising. The author focuses on the discourse of the Syrian regime, as well as those of anti- and pro-Assad Syrians. 

Libya, Syria and the “responsibility to protect”: a moment of inflection?

Since the Rwandan genocide and the wars in former Yugoslavia, the idea of a “responsibility to protect” vulnerable populations has acquired currency. The Libyan and Syrian crises have, however, seen the value of that currency recalibrated.

The conscience of Syria: An interview with activist and intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh

A popular Syrian intellectual responds to questions on the Syrian conflict and the west. Throughout, Yassin confronts and reframes several western fears and constructs about Islamists, intervention and the development of the uprising.

On the frontline: citizen journalism in Syria

As the Syrian civil war moves into its fourth year, citizen journalists have filled the gap left by professionals denied access to or evacuated from the most dangerous country in the world for working journalists. But they are painfully aware of the growing uninterest of the international media in the unending conflict.

Lebanon and the Syrian refugee crisis

It wasn’t as if Lebanon didn’t have troubles enough, with a shaky government finally formed last month. But the Syrian refugee crisis is taking a huge toll on a country which desperately needs international support.

Turkey, the EU and Syria: reprioritising refugees’ rights and needs

Turkey, historically a laggard on taking in refugees, is showing the EU in a poor light on accepting Syrian asylum-seekers.

Bulgaria's 'chilly welcome' to Syrian refugees

As the civil war in Syria continues, refugees are desperately seeking refuge. It seems that Bulgaria has consistently preferred to engage in exacerbating the situation. Bulgarians have built a wall and are allowing far-right xenophobic rhetoric to prevail.

Syria: from corridor diplomacy to humanitarian corridors

With the larger substantive issues of ceasefires and political transition at an impasse, the ground broken over humanitarian access has suddenly become a metric for whether the first phase of Geneva II will be considered a success.

Violence against women in Syria: a hidden truth

Despite saturated media coverage of the conflict, violence against women in Syria has largely gone unreported. Often horrifically abused, they have been doubly victimised by the public silence.

Hamas’ response to the Syrian uprising

Are we now witnessing a third phase in Hamas’s response towards the Syrian Uprising?

Time to be bold and make peace in Syria

The regime and main opposition factions in Syria are setting preconditions for victory. Alternative, democratic preconditions need to be set for the Geneva talks to end an unwinnable war.

Syria's refugees: international effort needed

An Amnesty International report has highlighted the huge gap between the Syrian refugee crisis and the global response. Fortress Europe needs to discover an ethos of hospitality

Syria's chemical weapons: is the UN exceeding its mandate?

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should be a technical agency of the UN. But it has arguably become a piece in a geo-political chess game dominated by the US, invited into Syria to act in contravention of its remit. 

Geneva II: prospects for a negotiated peace in Syria

With a fractious opposition internally and rival external powers engaged, the prospects are challenging for the ‘Geneva II’ conference on Syria. Threat of indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court could concentrate combatant minds.

Brokering Geneva II

How can the US and Russia look past their longstanding rivalry to move the political track forward and bring Syrian parties to the negotiating table?

Iran nuclear deal: the fall-out

The interim nuclear deal between the western powers and Iran faces significant domestic and international challenges. But after long hostility it may prove a trust-building stepping-stone to a larger agreement.

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