Mock Con speaks on Syria

Samuel Bramlett

In an effort to introduce the the community to prevalent topics for the upcoming presidential election, Mock Convention hosted its first ever For- eign Policy Event on Tuesday.

This first event focused on Middle East foreign policy and featured Am- bassador Robert Ford. Professor Seth Cantey, an assistant professor of politics, moderated the panel.

“I think if we bring speakers like Ambassador Ford we can really show everyone that our first and foremost goal is to be an accurate research proj- ect,” said Andrew McCaffery, ‘16, General Chair for Mock Convention.

Ford served as the United States Ambassador to Algeria from 2006 to 2008 and then as the Ambassador to Syria from 2010 to 2014. He is con- sidered an expert on Islamist movements and speaks several languages including Arabic, which he first learned serving in the Peace Corps in Mo- rocco.

The Middle East Policy Panel focused on issues regarding U.S. foreign policy in Syria and Ambassador Ford’s experiences working as a diplomat. For over four years Syria has been wrought with war and volatility stem- ming from opposition to the Syrian Regime controlled by Bashar al-Assad, said Cantey. There has been perpetual struggle and tension between the es-

tablished regime, a moderate opposition, and the Islamic State. During the panel, Ford shared his opinion on the conflict in Syria and the difficulty of defining or pinpointing opposition leadership, as well as

making sense of the divisions between opposition groups. “I want people to understand the brutality of the Syrian regime that has driven a lot of people to fight back, even if it is with something as atro-

cious as the Islamic State,” Ford said. The Middle East Foreign Policy Panel shed light on the complexity of

the situation in Syria. “I think American foreign policy is especially hard in the Middle East,

Cantey said. The problems tend to be even more complex than in many other places…. Syria is evidence that some problems just don’t have clear solutions. This may be a problem without a solution.”

Early on in the panel, Cantey shared with the audience three names: Bashar al-Assad, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Moaz al-Khatib. He asked audience members to raise their hands for each of the names they recog- nized. While almost all recognized Assad, fewer raised their hands for Baghdadi and fewer still for Khatib.

While Assad is well-known as the President of Syria, Khatib, whom Ford said during the panel is a major player in the moderate Opposition, isn’t recognized as an important figure overall.

Because there is no clear leader or face to the moderate Opposition movement, it is difficult for the international community to extend mean- ingful, effective assistance to Syrians fighting against the regime.

“Within the Syrian Opposition, there is no person we can point to as the one we need to rally around,” Cantey said, echoing what Ford said during the discussion.

Ford said one of the reasons he left the State Department was because of how hard it was to try to defend the policies set out by the Administration regarding Syria, when he knew they would not work.

“I thought Ford had a really interesting perspective and I enjoyed how candid he was,” Emily Zavrel, ‘17, an international politics major who attended the panel said.