WEBINAR: Syrian Requiem: The Civil War and Its Aftermath

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The UCLA Center for Middle East Development hosted the event, "Syrian Requiem: The Civil War and Its Aftermath," on April 6, 2021.

A compact and incisive history of one of the defining wars of our times, Syrian Requiem is a vivid and timely account of a conflict that continues to reverberate today. Join the Center for Middle East Development, leading Syria experts, and the authors of Syrian Requiem: The Civil War and Its Aftermath for an engaging discussion about the newly published book.

Leaving almost half a million dead and displacing an estimated twelve million people, the Syrian Civil War is a humanitarian catastrophe of unimaginable scale. Syrian Requiem analyzes the causes and course of this bitter conflict—from its first spark in a peaceful Arab Spring protest to the tenuous victory of the Asad dictatorship—and traces how the fighting has reduced Syria to a crisis-ridden vassal state with little prospect of political reform, national reconciliation, or economic reconstruction.

Israel’s chief negotiator with Syria during the mid-1990s, Itamar Rabinovich brings unmatched expertise and insight to the politics of the Middle East. Drawing on more than two hundred specially conducted interviews with key players, Rabinovich and Carmit Valensi assess the roles of local, regional, and global interests in the war. Local sectarian divisions established the fault lines of the initial conflict, ultimately leading to the rise of the brutal Islamic State. However, Syria rapidly became the stage for proxy warfare between contending regional powers, including Israel, Turkey, and Iran. At the same time, while a war-weary United States attempted to reduce its military involvement in the Middle East, a resurgent Russia regained regional influence by supporting Syrian government forces. Telling the story of the war and its aftermath, Rabinovich and Valensi also examine the considerable potential for renewed conflict and the difficult policy choices facing the United States, Russia, and other powers.


Meet the Panelists

AUTHOR— Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich is a professor emeritus of Middle Eastern history at Tel Aviv University. He is Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, former chief negotiator with Syria in the mid-1990s, and the former president of Tel Aviv University from 1999 to 2007. He is president emeritus and counselor of the Israel Institute in Washington, DC, and Tel Aviv, and a distinguished fellow of the Brooking Institution’s Foreign Policy Program. Ambassador Rabinovich is the author of ten books on the modern history and politics of the Middle East, the co-author and co-editor of several other volumes, and the author of numerous essays and papers. His most recent book, “Syrian Requiem” (with Carmit Valensi), was published in February 2021 by the Princeton University Press.


AUTHOR— Dr. Carmit Valensi, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, director of the Syria research program, and editor of "Strategic Assessment," specializes in contemporary Middle East, strategic studies, military concepts, and terrorism. She holds a BA in Middle East history and political science, an MA in diplomacy studies, and a PhD in political science from Tel Aviv University. Her research focuses on "hybrid actors" such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and FARC. From 2010 to 2011, she was a research fellow with the Fox Fellowship in regional and international studies at Yale University. From 2008 to 2010, Dr. Valensi worked as an analyst at the IDF's Dado Center for Interdisciplinary Military Studies, and she is currently a consultant for research and security groups.


COMMENTATOR— Dr. Amr Al Azm received a doctoral degree from University College London in 1991, and he taught at the University of Damascus in Syria until 2006. Currently, he is a professor of Middle East history and anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio. Whilst working in Syria, Dr. Al-Azm was a firsthand observer, and sometimes participant, of the reform processes instigated by Bashar Al-Assad, thus gaining insight into how they were enacted and why they failed. He is also a keen follower and commentator on current events in Syria and the wider Middle East in general. Dr. Al-Azm is a founder and executive board member of The Day After project and currently coordinates the Heritage Protection Initiative for cultural heritage protection in Syria.


COMMENTATOR— Andrew J. Tabler is the Martin J. Gross Fellow in the Geduld Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute, where he focuses on Syria and US policy in the Levant. Until recently, he was senior advisor to the Special Envoy for Syria Engagement at the US Department of State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and Director for Syria at the National Security Council's Middle East Affairs Directorate. He previously served as co-founder and editor-in-chief of Syria Today; as a consultant on US-Syria relations for the International Crisis Group; and as a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs. He is author of "Syria's Collapse and How Washington Can Stop It" (Foreign Affairs, July-August 2013) and the 2011 book In the Lion's Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria.


MODERATOR— Steve Zipperstein is a lecturer of public policy and global studies at UCLA and a senior fellow at the UCLA Center for Middle East Development. He also serves as a lecturer of history at UC Santa Barbara and as a visiting professor of law at Tel Aviv University. Zipperstein is the author of the recently published book, “Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Trials of Palestine” (Routledge, 2020). He is finishing another book regarding the legal history of the Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine between 1939 and 1948. He has also published several academic legal articles. Zipperstein practiced law for more than 37 years in California, Washington, DC, and New York/New Jersey. He is a member of the American Law Institute and a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.


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Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2021