Lehigh University
Lehigh University


The far-reaching implications of Syria’s civil war

Members of the Lehigh community will have the opportunity to learn more about the 2.5-year-old Syrian civil war next week when Lehigh hosts a three-day conference featuring two dozen international experts from a wide variety of backgrounds

The Workshop on Global and Regional Implications of the Syrian Crisis begins Sunday at 8 p.m. in Neville Hall with a keynote address titled “Humanitarian Assistance and the Syria Crisis” by Anne C. Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration at the United States State Department. Secretary Richard and her office work on the frontlines of the Syrian refugee crisis.

It will continue on Monday, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Baker Hall of the Zoellner Arts Center, with panel discussions involving professors, political analysts, ambassadors and researchers from the U.S. and Syria and from Syria’s neighbors in the Middle East. The discussions will be streamed live on www.lehigh.edu/Syria.

At 8 p.m. on Monday, Henri Barkey, the conference’s organizer, will moderate a conversation between Robin Wright of the U.S. Institute of Peace and Hisham Melhem of al-Arabiya News Channel. On Tuesday, conference participants will hold closed discussions with students. The full agenda can be found here.

“This conference is designed to do two things,” said Barkey, department chair of international relations. “First, we want to educate the Lehigh campus and the larger community about what’s going on in Syria.

“Second, we are inviting a variety of people from Syria and its neighbors—Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel—and other countries with an interest in the region, such as the U.S. and France. Our hope is that by bringing together people who may not know each other but who are working on the same issue, we might create synergy and facilitate a constructive dialogue.”

The United Nations estimates that more than 120,000 people have been killed since March 2011 in a war pitting the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the ruling Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party against the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups. Two million Syrians have fled the country and two million more have been displaced from their homes. The country’s estimated population (2012) is 22 million.

In August 2013, Assad’s government was widely suspected of using chemical weapons in an attack that left more than 1,200 civilians dead. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Syrian government of committing a “moral obscenity” against its people.

Barkey, who is the Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor of International Relations, said the Lehigh workshop is unique in terms of the number and variety of people it is bringing together. The event is being sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the department of international relations and the office of international affairs.

“We would like to see a continuation of this kind of event,” said Barkey. ”Maybe Lehigh can emerge as a hub—we would very much like Lehigh to do more work on Syria.”

Topics of the panel discussions include the following:
  • An Assessment of Conditions inside Syria and its Borderlands
  • The Neighbors and Interested Parties I: Iran, Russia, Turkey and Iraq
  • The Neighbors and Interested Parties II: Gulf Countries, Kurds, Lebanon and Israel
  • Views of the Region from Inside Syria: How the Opposition Perceives the Neighbors and the Interested Parties? What is Assad’s Government Strategy?
  • U.S. and Western Options?
Barkey served from 1998 to 2000 as a member of the U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff, working primarily on issues related to the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. He has also served the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as a visiting scholar in the organization’s Middle East Program.

Barkey has written, co-authored and edited five books, including Turkey’s Kurdish Question, Reluctant Neighbor: Turkey’s Role in the Middle East, and European Responses to Globalization: Resistance, Adaptation and Alternatives.

His opinion columns have appeared in Newsweek, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He is a frequent guest on the PBS program “Newshour” with Jim Lehrer and on National Public Radio.

Posted on Wednesday, October 30, 2013

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