Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Russia and the Conflict in Syria: Four Myths

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Russia and the Conflict in Syria: Four Myths
Correcting misinterpretations of Russia's role in Syria's civil war

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2013 - We are pleased to offer members of the media a preview of Council fellow Mark N. Katz's new essay in the summer 2013 issue of the journal Middle East Policy.  Titled "Russia and the Conflict in Syria: Four Myths," Dr. Katz's essay challenges commonly held assumptions about Russia's national interests in Syria, providing guidance to U.S. policy makers assessing Russia's motives amidst efforts to coax Syria's warring parties to peace talks.  A link to the article in full is here

Dr. Katz observes that Russia's support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has not been without costs, most notably in terms of Russia's image and relations with Sunni governments in the region.  That said, he believes that the rapidly changing political landscape in the Middle East, coupled with Russia's increasing openness to a post-Assad Syria, will ultimately leave Russia "down, but not out" in terms of influence in the Middle East:

"Moscow's support for [the Assad regime] appears to have been a grave - but not fatal - mistake.  Indeed, Moscow appears to be trying to ameliorate this by distancing itself from the Assad regime somewhat, successfully courting some (if not all) predominantly Sunni governments in the region despite their opposition to Russian support for Assad..."

Dr. Katz identifies four "myths" about Moscow's Syria policy, and seeks to address them:

  1. The myth that Russia firmly backs the Assad regime, pointing out increased Russian ambivalence towards the Assad regime in public statements;
  1. The myth that Russia holds the key to solving the Syrian conflict, arguing that it is not clear that Russia is willing or able to cooperate in a transfer of power to the opposition;
  1. The myth that Russian support for Assad has seriously damaged its ties with the wider Middle East, asserting that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are  the only states where this is really true;
  1. The myth that after Assad falls, Moscow will no longer have influence in the Arab world, observing that the removal of the Syrian conflict may actually provide an opening for greater Russian engagement in the region.
Please visit the Middle East Policy Council website for a full preview of the new summer 2013 journal, as well as the country page for Syria, featuring articles and commentary on the political, economic and historical factors impacting the current Syrian conflict.

Full article link for "Russia and the Conflict in Syria: Four Myths"

Interviews or other queries:
Contact Mark N. Katz -

Monday, May 20, 2013

United States and Tunisia Launch Small Business Initiative to Strengthen Economic Growth and Integration

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Office of Press Relations
For Immediate Release
May 20, 2013


United States and Tunisia Launch Small Business Initiative to Strengthen Economic Growth and Integration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United States and Tunisia launched an initiative to support the growth of small- and medium-sized businesses, boost trade, and promote broad-based economic growth. The initiative, funded and led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will provide training in Tunisia on the U.S. small business development center model and provide technical assistance to the owners and employees of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to expand trade opportunities in the region and internationally.  Developed under the U.S.-Tunisia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which is led by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the initiative will strengthen Tunisia’s economic cooperation with the United States and improve its prospects for sustainable growth.  Using online platforms and partnerships, it will create greater opportunities for trade between American and Tunisian small businesses.

Tunisian Ambassador to the United States Mokhtar Chaouachi hosted the launch of the initiative at the Tunisian Embassy, which was attended by Acting Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Middle East Bureau Alina Romanowski and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro.

Acting Assistant Administrator Romanowski said, “Tunisia is charting a path toward greater economic growth, transparency and openness. The growth of small- and medium-sized businesses is a key component of Tunisia’s economic development that can benefit groups that have been historically marginalized, such as women and youth, who have been key proponents of democratic reform throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  Measurable economic progress can help bolster democratic reforms both in Tunisia and elsewhere in the region.”

Ambassador Sapiro stated that “Fostering trade and building institutional ties between small businesses in the United States and Tunisia as well as the broader region will promote economic growth and jobs for both countries, and it is an important component of our work in both the TIFA and the Obama Administration’s Middle East North Africa Trade and Investment Partnership.”

The Tunisia SME Project will be implemented by the International Executive Service Corps (IESC) and the University of Texas, San Antonio Small Business Development Center.


This SME initiative was developed under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), signed by the United States and Tunisia in 2002.  The TIFA is designed to serve as a forum to discuss issues of mutual interest with the objective of improving cooperation and enhancing opportunities for trade and investment.


The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for over 50 years.

For more information about USAID and its programs, please visit
Press Contact: USAID Press Office
Telephone: +1-202-712-4320

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