On June 28, 2016, the Tahrir Institute on Middle East Policy (TIMEP) hosted a panel discussion entitled “The Prospect of Syrian Peace,” covering the current security and political situation in Syria. The panelists included Sasha Ghosh-Siminoff, President and Cofounder of People Demand Change LLP; Hassan Hassan, a resident fellow at TIMEP focusing on Syria and Iraq; and Kenan Rahmani, a Syrian-American political and human rights activist. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Nancy Okail, Executive Director of TIMEP.
The event opened with an introduction and a moment of silence observing the tragic death of Syrian photojournalist Khaled Issa. The panel then turned to a macro-level discussion of the changing situation in Syria. Dr. Okail and later Mr. Hassan stressed the difference between the optimism with the cessation of hostilities and the relative vulnerability of Jabhat al-Nusra observed in April and the general cynicism and strengthening of al-Nusra which came with the breakdown of the agreement in June. Mr. Rahmani highlighted the unique situation in Maarat al-Numan, where sustained protest against Jabhat al-Nusra has taken place. He also honored and discussed the life of Mr. Khaled Issa, whose work (pictured above) was displayed at the event. Mr. Ghosh-Siminoff then spoke of the problems with balkanization and politicization of international aid in Syria.
The panel concluded with a final question by Dr. Okail on whether the cessation talks would have been more effective if Jabhat al-Nusra had been included. Panelists generally agreed that though such inclusion would have prevented Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from gaining legitimacy to bomb anywhere they please and claim it was aimed at al-Nusra, it was important to separate the opposition from al-Nusra. Audience questions addressed the possibility of partition, the reality that the opposition needs a credible assurance that Assad will be out of power, and the likelihood of al-Nusra attempting to build a state as the Islamic State has done.