New Article in The Hill – Assad Must Go

The HillBradley Bosserman published an article in The Hill this morning analyzing the implications of the proposed agreement over Syrian chemical weapons. The piece argues that the seemingly contradictory aims of securing chemical weapons and ushering in a transitional government can best be achieved by focusing US policy toward the goal of quickly ending the conflict.

Effectively securing these weapons in the midst of a civil war will be functionally impossible and setting the precedent that gassing your citizens can be a strategy for extracting powerful concessions would weaken norms against chemical weapons use, not strengthen them. The stated policy of the United States is to aid the opposition, support the transition to a post-Assad government, and secure the country’s vast stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. The only way to reconcile these objectives is to actively seek an end to the conflict and usher in a more responsible, transitional government. As the White House has said, Assad must go.

Read the full article here.

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Policy Brief – Intervention in Syria Needs to be Tied to a Larger Strategy

Image: Handout of U.S. President Obama meeting with national security staff to discuss Syria in White HouseToday we have released a new Policy Brief analyzing some of the problems with the Administration’s current approach to winning support for Syria authorization and laying out a framework for a more convincing and strategy-led argument. We believe that:

The U.S. has already rightfully chosen sides in this conflict, sending aid, training, weapons, and logistical support to the rebels. Decoupling this latest action from these ongoing efforts to support the opposition and from the stated policy aim of regime change simply makes no sense. If the administration is going to convince the Congress, the country, and the world that military intervention is now the proper response, they must address this fundamental dissonance by articulating a cogent vision of American involvement in the region that ties the ongoing – and proposed – actions in Syria to American values and concrete U.S. interests. Only then will the President be able to make a compelling case for not only his Syria policy, but also a broader agenda of engagement. There should be at least three components to this argument:

  • Preventing  nuclear weaponization of Iran and constraining its foreign policy adventurism is a legitimate aim of U.S. policy.
  • We need to encourage more constructive engagement from our Gulf partners.
  • We need to help empower more modern and pluralistic forces vis-a-vis violent and radical groups who seek to destroy the emergence of open, tolerant, and prosperous societies.

Download the full Syria Policy Brief.

Update: This report is also available En Español

Discussing Syria and Chemical Weapons on HuffPostLive

I appeared on World Brief this morning to discuss the apparently imminent U.S. attack on Syria. I was joined by Joshua Foust and the host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. You can watch the video on HuffPostLive.

While the chemical weapons attack that occurred last week is terrible, I am more convinced than ever that regional strategy, rather than chemical weapons use, should drive the level and nature of American involvement in the Syrian conflict. I have written previously about why chemical weapons are the wrong Red Line, a point that remains true today. Before we begin striking targets inside Syria, we need to have an earnest conversation about core U.S. interests in the Middle East and how we can best promote them. If Assad’s ouster is our policy goal, than we should be pursuing actions designed to bring that about. The strikes being currently discussed won’t accomplish that end, however. Similarly, if our goal is narrowly to defend the international norms against using chemical weapons, it’s unclear that it would be a useful precedent to establish that the response to chemical weapons use is a handful of perfunctory military strikes explicitly not designed to dole out existential costs upon the culpable government.

In the coming days we will have more analysis on the need to view our engagement strategically rather than tactically. Stay tuned. You can click the image below to watch the full segment on HuffPostLive.

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Quoted in The Hill — President Obama takes flak over Egypt

The Hill

“Where we missed an opportunity over the past year and a half in dealing with Egypt is not that we supported the wrong people, but that we missed an opportunity to support institutions and to really apply pressure where we had it,” said Bradley Bosserman, director of the Middle East and North Africa initiative at the New Policy Institute.

“We need be much more outspoken going forward to make sure that there’s actual, legitimate processes and institutions for people to voice their opinion. We can do all of that while recognizing that the Egyptian people are going to vote for who they want,” he said.

Bosserman said Congress is part of the problem. He said Obama laid out a path forward for the Middle East in his 2009 Cairo speech but failed to follow through with specific incentives, in part because Congress has blocked efforts to approve his $770 million incentive fund designed to advance democratic and economic reforms in Arab Spring countries.

Read the full article here

Webcast: U.S. Policy Toward Syria

President Obama has announced an additional $300 million in direct aid following the apparently confirmed reports that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons sporadically throughout the conflict in Syria.  It is less clear, however, exactly what will be provide, who precisely will receive it, and when the aid will arrive. This decision occurs while the momentum that the rebels seemed to have been building earlier this year appears to be slipping away as the Assad regime retakes territory and becomes resurgent.  To explore this evolving situation, NDN’s MENA Initiative hosted an interactive webcast with leading experts.

Yisser Bittar from the Syrian American Council.

Christy Delafield from the Washington office of the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

Shadi Hamid from the Brookings Institution and Research Director of the Brookings Doha Center.

Watch the full video of our discussion below.

Syria Chat Pic

Press Statement on the Implications of the Iranian Presidential Election

The election of Hassan Rouhani as the next president of Iran is a positive development and represents an opportunity for reform as well as renewed and rational engagement with the west. While it would be naïve to expect any sudden policy shifts from a regime still headed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Rouhani ran on a platform of reform that emphasized not only domestic economic issues, but also his goal of working toward normalizing relations with the international community and creating an environment in which sanctions can be gradually rolled back.

U.S. relations with Iran should continue to be driven by our regional interests and by ensuring the security of our allies. It should be understood, however, that the current policy of sanctions and isolation are not policy goals in and of themselves. American interests will be best served by a more democratic, open, and responsible Iran that respects international norms and laws. If President-Elect Rouhani wishes to normalize Iran’s relationship with the United States and our allies, they will need to bring their nuclear program under transparent monitoring and cease supporting regional terrorism and instability through the forces they control both directly and by proxy.

It is worth noting that Mr. Rouhani was instrumental in negotiating the 2003 Sa’dabad Agreement, in which Iran agreed to suspend nuclear enrichment. Though this deal eventually collapsed, the fact that he has demonstrated a willingness to constrain the Iranian nuclear program should be viewed as a possible opening for new talks. While it will take time for the President-Elect to bring new and hopefully reform-minded personnel into the bureaucracy, the Iranian people have clearly rejected the status quo and spoken out for change. The United States should seize this opportunity to develop a diplomatic relationship with the new President and deploy a strategy designed to encourage Iran to become a more open and responsible member of the global community.

OpEd in The Hill: Time for GOP to Move Beyond Benghazi

The Hill


Time for GOP to Move Beyond Benghazi

by Bradley Bosserman

After 11 congressional hearings, an independent review and the release of 100 pages of relevant interagency emails about Benghazi, all serious questions about the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Libya have been answered. Only political grandstanding remains — and the stakes in the Middle East and North Africa are far too high for the American people to tolerate point-scoring in lieu of genuine action.

In his May address at the National Defense University, President Obama observed that moving forward in the region will require not only a new strategy, but also a new politics. Republican members of Congress have been doggedly focused on perceived shortcomings of U.S. policy in Middle East, but they should now apply that vigor to serious bipartisan efforts to aid the democratic transitions throughout the Arab world, protect American personnel abroad, secure US interests and give our government the tools it needs to plan and execute a real, long-term Middle East strategy. Congressional Republicans can show that they are serious about these goals by pursuing at least these three critical policies:

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Bradley Bosserman Discusses Syria on Latest Episode of Debrief


In the latest episode of Debrief  from The Risk Shift, NDN’s Bradley Bosserman sits down with James Sheehan to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria. James and Brad explore the role that the US can play in rebuilding Syria along with the significance of chemical weapons and the influence of extremist organizations.click_to_play

Founded in January 2012, (TRS) bridges the gap between academia and journalism: it provides the depth that is often missing from today’s media whilst remaining open and accessible to those who are not familiar with academic debate on the subjects at hand. A diverse roster of columnists contribute, with international relations theorists, political scientists, historians and philosophers present. The majority of TRS’ writers are graduate students from academic institutions within the UK and abroad, complimented by current and former think tank employees, journalists, and analysts.

Middle East Engagement Briefing – “A Real Opportunity to Lead”

Bradley Bosserman hosted an interactive webcast on framing a more robust Middle East strategy. This previously unpublished briefing deck highlights some of the latest market research and polling from the United States and abroad, detailing political opportunities and framing mechanics that can successfully support a strategy of broader economic engagement with the Middle East and North Africa.

China’s Power Plays in the Middle East

Jerusalem PostThe Jerusalem Post published an in-depth piece this week analyzing the changing oil geopolitics of the Middle East. Political Editor Ilan Evyatar takes a look at the implications of demand for Middle East oil shifting dramatically over the next few decades from the West to the East. I argue that the US should remain engaged in the region based on a broader economic and strategic relationship in order to counter-balance rising Chinese influence, given Beijing’s track record in the rest of Africa. This entire dynamic is going to be extremely important to medium-term regional politics and there is not nearly enough discussion about this reality here in Washington. The article is excerpted below and I encourage you to read the full piece. 

WHILE THERE appears to be a consensus that China’s rapidly growing energy needs mean it will need to nurture a stable environment and adopt a more proactive foreign policy in the region, not everyone shares Biran’s far reaching vision of a Pax Sinica.

“Surging Chinese demand for energy resources over the next several decades will make their more prominent role in the Middle East inevitable. China is now second only to the United States in consumption and importation of oil, a trend that will only continue as the Chinese continue to urbanize their population and bring millions more cars on line. No country can afford to remain uninterested in a region that it will be so dependent upon,” says Bradley Bosserman, a foreign policy analyst and director of the Middle East program at the NDN New Policy Institute, a center-left Washington think tank.

Bosserman, however, cautions that there has been consistent divergence between the US and China on regional issues, from Iran to Syria and elsewhere. “While a peaceful and agreed-upon settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute would contribute to regional stability, China has never shown much interest in investing diplomatic energy… in other parts of the world where it had economic interests.”

He points to the potential lessons to be learned from China’s engagement in Africa, and warns that while the optimists may believe that China’s growing energy interdependence with the Middle East will lead to Beijing becoming more interested in productive diplomatic engagement, its record in Africa gives “little indication that it will pursue that path.”

“For the past half-century,” says Bosserman, “China’s policy of non-interference has provided capital and investment to corrupt governments who have been more than happy to avoid the complicated work of economic and political reform that is often demanded by the United States and Europe. Throughout Africa, China has consistently valued preferential trading terms, lopsided leasing deals, and short-term profits over the kinds of lasting investments in good governance, political reconciliation, and poverty alleviation that lay the groundwork for real stability. It seems more likely that it is that model that they will try to export to the Middle East rather than some other idealized version.”