On May 15, THO and the Syrian American Council (SAC) hosted Congressional staffers for a luncheon briefing on U.S. policy in Syria. The briefing featured a panel of distinguished speakers: Professor Michael Gunter, THO Advisory Board member and Professor of Political Science at Tennessee Technological University; Col. Brian Cook, Director of Theater Strategy at the U.S. Army War College’s Department of Military Strategy, Planning & Operations; and Mr. Shlomo Bolts, Policy and Advocacy Officer at SAC.
The briefing – titled U.S. Foreign Policy in Syria: Regional and Strategic Challenges – followed the Trump administration’s announcement that they would be arming the YPG for an upcoming military offensive on ISIS-held Raqqa. This decision to arm the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia with links to the PKK, prompted outrage in Turkey, a NATO member and strategic U.S. ally. The military and diplomatic implications of this decision featured heavily in the panelists’ remarks, as did questions of long-term U.S. strategy concerning the broader Syrian conflict. The speakers offered a wealth of knowledge concerning the political, military, and humanitarian conditions in Syria today, and provided insight into the role the U.S. could play in Syria’s future.
The discussion was off the record and was followed by a Q&A session. This event was the culmination of several months of THO outreach on Capitol Hill, where THO staff organized sit-downs with dozens of congressional staffers working for Foreign Affairs Committee members.