Since March, Syrians have taken to the streets calling for an end to the regime of Bashar al-Assad and a transition to democracy. However, the Syrian opposition has struggled to establish a unified leadership. The United States Institute of Peace hosted the first public discussion in the U.S. with founding members of the Syrian National Council, including opposition figures who are among the leadership of the SNC Council.

Since March, Syrians have taken to the streets calling for an end to the regime of Bashar al-Assad and a transition to democracy. The Syrian government has responded with massive force, killing some 3,000 Syrians and arresting tens of thousands more. Despite government repression, the Syrian uprising has given rise to an active and increasingly capable opposition movement, both inside Syria and among Syrians living abroad.

However, the Syrian opposition has struggled to establish a unified leadership. Now, following an intensive process of negotiations among diverse opposition groups, a Syrian National Council (SNC) has been established to represent the Syrian opposition. The formation of the SNC is an important and positive step in the opposition’s development. Yet significant challenges must still be overcome for the SNC to secure international recognition, broaden its support within Syria, and acquire the legitimacy it will need to establish itself as a viable alternative to the Assad regime.

To discuss these concerns, the United States Institute of Peace hosted the first public discussion in the U.S. with founding members of the Syrian National Council, including opposition figures who are among the leadership of the SNC Council. A prominent Syrian dissident and leader of the uprising who is a resident inside of Syria participated in the discussion.

Speakers

  • Ausama Monajed
    A member of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and executive director of the Strategic Research and Communication Centre in London. Mr. Monajed has been involved in the coordination between protest organizers across Syria, providing logistical support on the ground and managing a network of volunteers abroad to monitor developments, collect information and footage, and feed international and regional media with latest updates. Mr. Monajed previously served as the director of Barada Television, the Syrian opposition TV channel.
  • Murhaf Jouejati, Ph.D.
    A member of the Syrian National Council (SNC), Dr. Jouejati is professor of middle east studies at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. Dr. Jouejati is also a professorial lecturer in political science and international affairs at the George Washington University, as well as a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.
  • Najib Ghadbian, Ph.D.
    A Syrian academic and member of the Syrian National Council (SNC), Professor Ghadbian is associate professor of political science and middle east studies at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of several books and articles in English and Arabic. His Arabic book, “The Second Assad Regime: Bashar of Lost Opportunities,” was published in 2006. Dr. Ghadbian was a signatory to the Damascus Declaration and is currently active within the Syrian opposition abroad.
  • Ms. Dima Moussa
    A Syrian-born attorney and member of the Syrian National Council (SNC), Ms. Mousa has been affiliated with the Human Rights Law Institute of DePaul University, focusing on Arab women's rights. She has also volunteered with an organization that assisted Iraqi refugees in adjusting to life in the United States. In recent months, Ms. Moussa has been active in the Syrian-American community, serving as a media spokesperson for a key grassroots movements in Syria, in addition to independently working with activists inside and outside Syria. Ms. Moussa is fluent in Arabic and English, in addition to speaking Assyrian.
  • Steven Heydemann, Ph.D. Moderator
    Senior Adviser, Middle East Initiatives
    U.S. Institute of Peace

Explore Further

Related Academy Courses

Related Publications

With Syria’s Last Aid Crossing on the Line, Can U.S., Russia Make a Deal?

With Syria’s Last Aid Crossing on the Line, Can U.S., Russia Make a Deal?

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

By: Mona Yacoubian

A crucial deadline that will determine the future of humanitarian aid to Syria looms this week, as the authorization for the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkey-Syria border expires on July 10. The crossing is the last with a U.N. mandate allowing aid to be delivered directly, without having to first go through the Assad regime in Damascus. While Washington has been insistent that the crossing should remain open, with a senior official calling it a matter of “life and death,” Moscow has said the cross-border aid undermines Syria’s sovereignty. Russia has used its veto power in the Security Council to prevent extensions of three other such aid crossings.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Human Rights

Despite the Sham, Syria's Election is Still Significant

Despite the Sham, Syria's Election is Still Significant

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

By: Mona Yacoubian

In the face of international pushback, the Assad regime is going forward with plans for a presidential election on May 26. While the outcome is in no way uncertain — Assad will win amid deeply unfair election practices — the decision to proceed with the vote has major implications for international efforts to resolve the decade-long civil war. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian looks at how the election might affect the situation on the ground in Syria, what it means for the U.N.-backed Geneva peace process and how the Assad regime’s renewed stranglehold on power could affect regional tensions and U.S. interests.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Democracy & Governance

What Can We Learn from Syria’s Devastating Decade of War?

What Can We Learn from Syria’s Devastating Decade of War?

Monday, March 15, 2021

By: Mona Yacoubian

As the Syrian conflict marks its 10th anniversary, the protest movement from which it emerged stands as perhaps the most consequential of the Arab uprisings. The March 2011 peaceful protests that erupted across Syria have since evolved into the world’s most complex conflict. Equally significant, the conflict’s trajectory provides important insights into the complexity of the challenges that lie ahead in Syria, with significant ramifications for the region and the broader international community.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

What is Russia’s Endgame in Syria?

What is Russia’s Endgame in Syria?

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

By: Mona Yacoubian

Five years into Russia’s military intervention in Syria, understanding Moscow’s endgame could provide critical insights into the decade-long conflict’s trajectory, as well as Russia’s posture in the Middle East and beyond. Although still evolving and subject to internal debates, Moscow’s Syria strategy appears to be centered on a “spheres of influence” model. In this model, Syria is divided into distinct realms under the sway of competing external patrons.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications