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Syria: Can anyone find a dog in this fight?

Panelists at USF St Petersburg debate the state of Syria. Panelists debated the role of the United States in the conflict.

MATHIS THOERRISEN/STAFF

Panelists at USF St Petersburg debate the state of Syria. Panelists debated the role of the United States in the conflict.

By Mathis Thoerrisen, Editor-in-Chief

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  The fifth annual St. Pe­tersburg conference on world affairs was hosted at the University of South Florida Feb. 15-17.

  The conference covered many different topics in­cluding, NATO, global in­ternet espionage, the Syrian war and American immigra­tion policy.

  One of the key forums was “Syria: can we find a dog in this fight.” The pur­pose of the forum was to de­liberate whether or not the United States should pick a side in the Syrian conflict.

  The panel of speakers consisted of Nazek Jawad, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Interdisciplin­ary Global Studies (SIGS), at the University of South Florida, Cynthia L. Hogle, a former cultural intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, Marie-Roger Biloa, the Chief Executive Director of The Africa Inter­national Media Group and Charles B. Skinner, retired U.S. Foreign Service Offi­cer that has taught courses on foreign policy and diplo­macy, 20th-century history, and NATO at the Universi­ty of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and Inter­national Affairs.

  Each of the speakers opened with an opening statement before answering questions from the audience which were coordinated by the moderator, Robert Sat­tin.

  In her opening statement, Hogle talked about how she used to run humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, and the problems they en­countered there. She men­tions how many projects were started individually without any follow up, ren­dering them worthless. Ho­gle thinks, the most impor­tant thing in the Syria sit­uation is to learn from the experiences, good and bad, that the United States has had in the Middle East.

  Skinner spoke about the different rebel groups in Syria, pointing out that sup­porting rebel groups with weapons and money but not with military on the ground could be counterproductive.

  Funneling resources into these organizations is risky because you lose con­trol of where the funds and weapons are actually going. Skinner also talks about the United States’ role in re­gards to Russia, and rais­es the question of whether it was right or wrong to let Russia take the leading role in the conflict.

  Biloa questioned the United States’ involvement in the Middle East, calling it irresponsible and pointing out that much of the prob­lem rests with the countries that fund terrorist organiza­tions. Countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which the United States are reluctant to put pressure on for obvi­ous financial reasons are a few she identified.

  Jawad speak about the complexity of Syria. She points out how Syria has been a fairly secular country until the recent turmoil with the Islamic State. She thinks the cultural and religious di­versity is one of the reasons for the many rebel groups in Syria fighting each other.

  After the initial state­ments, the panelists an­swered questions from the audience. All the questions were well-informed and several of them had to do with the United States role in regards to Saudi Arabia and their support of the Is­lamic State.

  Biloa called the situ­ation, the elephant in the room, something both the other panelists and the audi­ence seemed to agree with.

  So, can we find a dog in this fight?                                                                                                                  

  The panelists say it is not that simple. The crisis in Syria is effected by many outside factors, like the in­fluence of Saudi Arabia, Russia and Qatar, and if the United States want to make a difference, they have to start with these outside fac­tors.

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Syria: Can anyone find a dog in this fight?