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The Deep Map

Apr 24, 2023

In a surprising turn of events, the Arab world looks ready to bring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in from the cold after suspending him from the Arab League 12 years ago for his bloody crackdown on civilian protests in 2011. But why are US allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates suddenly extending the olive branch to the butcher of Damascus – and why now? How does all of this relate to the massive geopolitical realignment now sweeping the region, and what should the US do in response? 

In this episode, Robert talks with someone who knows the brutality of the Assad regime firsthand. Hadeel Oueis is a Philos senior research fellow and Syrian Christian who was imprisoned by Assad in the early days of the Arab Spring before she managed to escape Syria for the US. Drawing on a trove of insider knowledge, Hadeel explains the background of the civil war, its devastating effect on Syria’s Christian community, the emergence of the breakaway Kurdish region in the country’s northeast, the reasons behind the push for Arab normalization, and the failure of American policymakers to articulate a clear response to any of this.

In addition to her role at Philos, Hadeel Oueis analyzes Near Eastern affairs for BBC Arabic, Deutsche Welle Arabic, Al-Hurrah, and other major Arabic networks. She also has advocated for the rights of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews through JIMENA, and lobbied for peace and pluralism on a variety of other platforms.