Syrian rebels’ man in D.C.

Radwan Ziadeh has been the loudest advocate in Washington for an intervention to oust al-Assad

Topics: Syria,

Syrian rebels' man in D.C.Radwan Ziadeh

Radwan Ziadeh fled Syria with his wife via the Jordanian border in October 2007. He had come to Washington many times before that, for conferences dealing with his work on Syrian politics. But upon returning to his homeland after one Washington visit, the head of the Syria Security Forces told Ziadeh that if he left and returned again, he would be placed in prison. An arrest warrant was issued for him in 2008, and his family was banned from leaving the country. “I only have Skype conversations with my family back home now,” he says.

In Washington, however, Ziadeh has become a crucial figure for those hoping to establish a new Syrian order. In October 2011 he formed the Syrian National Council (SNC), “to unite the opposition and establish an inclusive organization that would include different groups.” It is now the main umbrella group for exiles and opposition groups. Ziadeh has met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, influential senators like John McCain and Joe Lieberman, and members of President Obama’s National Security Council. A senior fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a Washington-based Muslim think tank, he writes for publications like Foreign Policy and The New Republic, passionately urging the international community to save his people from their own government. And yet, the gap between Ziadeh’s pleas and America’s interests reveal the limitations of those hoping the United States can act as a savior on the international stage.

Ziadeh is one of a small number of liberal democrats in Arab and Muslim countries who harbor virtually no resentments towards the West in general, and the United States in particular, for its interventions in the Middle East, support for local autocracies and unconditional support for Israel. Like the Egyptian scholar Saad Ibrahim and the Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji, Ziadeh sees the West as a partner and its political institutions as a potential model. Unlike Ibrahim and Ganji, however, Ziadeh believes international intervention is the only thing that can stop the slaughter of his people.



He has credibility as a prescient observer of currents in his native land. In April of 2011, Ziadeh predicted that the Syrian people’s “determination is strong enough today, despite the increase in the number of those killed, and people will continue to participate despite the enormous arrest campaign launched by the security services.” More than a year later, Syrians continue to battle with the government despite a death toll monitors say has topped 10,000.

It certainly helps that Ziadeh had connections in the United States long before the uprising began. He has held fellowships at or been affiliated with everywhere from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government to the United States Institute of Peace to the National Endowment for Democracy. It is precisely that comfort in Washington, however, that makes him suspect among his critics. He is derided as a “State Department tool” and a neoconservative puppet on blogs and websites written by Middle Easterners far more hostile to the U.S. It surely doesn’t help that the State Department under President George W. Bush began funneling millions of dollars to Syrian opposition groups beginning in 2006, according to WikiLeaks cables. Syrian dissidents were unwilling to openly accept U.S. money: “[N]o bona fide opposition member will be courageous enough to accept funding,” a February 2006 cable lamented.  But the money still found its way into the country.

Despite the long history of enmity between Syria and the U.S., Ziadeh is confident that the vast majority of his countrymen want the international community to intervene. “Nobody is calling for U.S. troops on the ground,” Ziadeh is quick to say. “Syrians are ready to defend themselves and to force [Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad] to step down.” Rather, calls are coming from within for help as “the only way to stop the killing,” he says. He envisions something like what happened in Libya, where NATO established a no-fly zone and launched an air campaign. “It’s the only way to stop the killing,” he says. “The call for intervention is coming from Damascus, from people on the ground.” The SNC, for which Ziadeh is the spokesman, has daily contacts with citizens inside Syria, and although he admits a consensus is impossible to achieve, he is certain outside assistance is urgently desired.

It is easy to see how “the international community” can become a euphemism for American power, however. A confidential NATO report obtained by the New York Times this week shows that the Libya war was essentially a U.S.-carried effort. “The findings undercut the idea that the intervention was a model operation and that NATO could effectively carry out a more complicated campaign in Syria without relying disproportionately on the United States military,” the Times noted.

In addition, most analysts believe it would be far more difficult to accomplish in Syria what was done in Libya. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, for example, supported the intervention in Libya, but cautioned last month that conditions in Syria were far less conducive to a favorable outcome. “There was significant military and political opposition to Qaddafi at a high level, which surfaced immediately when the unrest and the violence erupted,” Brzezinski said, among other differences he noted.

Brzezinski’s comments are echoed by U.S. officials, who have been reluctant to intervene in Syria to a large degree. They also point to the gap between what many activists frequently want from America, and what America is capable of delivering. From Sudan to Syria, human rights campaigners want the United States to stop oppression across the globe. But with a mixed record at best on foreign interventions, and the U.S. badly overstretched as it is, internationally and economically, Radwan Ziadeh may be asking America more than it is capable and willing to give.

Jordan Michael Smith writes about U.S. foreign policy for Salon. He has written for the New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>