THEN AND NOW
Syria: An update and a remembrance of what was
After nearly two years of armed fighting, bloodshed and civilian suffering, there is no clear end in sight to the violence in Syria. Baker Institute founding director Edward P. Djerejian, former ambassador to Syria, continues to share his insights with the national and international media, most recently appearing on BBC-5 Live radio to discuss the U.S. decision to supply non-military aid to the Syrian government's opposition.
Why not give Syrian opposition forces the arms and weapons they are calling for, Djerejian was asked. "The opposition has not formed a truly coherent organization where you can readily identify who the parties are, and what their political leanings are," the ambassador said. "There's a great reluctance in Washington to get involved in a situation where all of the sudden one realizes that military assistance, for example, is going into the hands of radicals. Remember there's a background here — the background is Afghanistan, where we armed the mujahedeen that morphed into Al Qaeda. As the opposition becomes more coherent, and as the United States does its own due diligence in vetting and identifying parties that we can support, then I think we are going to begin to see more assistance, and probably military assistance."
With much of the country now in rubble, Baker Institute Middle East research associate Dina Shahrokhi remembers "The Syria I Knew" in an essay for Syria Deeply, a single-issue news website covering the civil war. "When I first lived in Damascus, I felt safer than I did back home in the U.S.," writes Shahrokhi, who spent three years in the city as a student and United Nations worker. "I would take taxis right and left, opting for a cheap micro bus every now and then ... I would spend nights strolling the old city, dining with local friends at 10 p.m., dancing to cheesy Arabic pop until the sun rose ... When I returned to live in Damascus last year, the Syria I knew had changed — but not completely."
• Listen below to the complete BBC-5 radio interview with Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian.