Caitlin Coyle’s Blog

Syrian Politics 101

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 30, 2009

I feel very important in Syria.

As guests of the government we have exclusive access to some of the most important people in Syrian politics. We’ve met Dr. Abdul Fattah Ammourah, the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Higher Education, the Mayor of Al Qunaytirah (Golan Heights), and Minister of Information Mohsen Bilal. 

We have discussed Syria’s strategic position in the Middle East, the Bush Doctrine, the war in Iraq, the many conflicts in Lebanon over the past 60 years and the Arab Israeli conflict. Without question, American politics holds a seat at the table.

In this past week I have learned the power of my little blue passport. It has become very clear that Syria is determined to restore their relationship with the United States. As I listen to the praise of my country, I am continuously taken back the power America holds in the world.

To the Syrians, the presidency of Barack Obama represents a dramatically positive change. Dr. Ammourah explained, “Syria is waiting on what steps Obama will take in the process of exchanging ideas.”

However, the most recent step taken by Barack Obama has been his resigning the Syrian Accountability Act. In the simplest terms, the act renews sanctions and embargos on American goods. The bill, originally signed by President Bush in December 2003, was intended to end what the United States considered Syrian support for terrorism.

Of the many meetings we’ve attended one in particular stood out among the rest. While I have learned a great deal from every meeting, the press conference held with Minister of Information Mohsen Bilal carried great significance. Our unique presence in the press conference was matched by Professor Sullivan extraordinary representation of American principles and foreign policies.

Syrian journalists grilled Professor Sullivan, who, mind you, had no idea he was going to be a part of the Q&A portion of the dialogue.

I have assembled my favorite responses from Minister of Information Mohsen Bilal and Professor Sullivan.

They include:

“We are responsible, all of us to make our world more peaceful and understanding against the clash of civilizations.” – Minister Bilal

“The occupation [of Golan Heights and Palestine] is our own pain and suffering and we are trying to heal.” – Minister Bilal

“We are so hopeful about a new administration in your country who gets so much triumph against pre-emptive strikes and war.” – Minister Bilal

“You voted, you changed. We are pro-change, pro-Barack Obama, who put forth the dialogue and mutual respect.” – Minister Bilal

When asked the difference between resistance and terrorism:

“When innocent victims are targeted, where there is a chance of killing civilizations, there is terrorism. But, the United States was born out of resistance, and some of their means employed terrorism. I am not condoning terrorism, but explaining our history.” – Professor Sullivan

“The entire world suffers from an occupation of intolerance and injustice.” – Professor Sullivan 

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2 Responses

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  1. Chris said, on May 31, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I now see the relationship clearer- thanks for this post-
    You are all getting an amazing insight into middle east politics

  2. Alison Avigayil Ramer said, on May 31, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    This is excellent. It really gives me hope, over here on the other side of the green line, to hear that Syria is speaking so wisely. Keep it comin’ Coyle.


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