A Washington think tank canceled a congressional forum featuring the first cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Tuesday after protests from the Syrian opposition. When Assad’s cousin eventually did speak in another location, he defended his family’s regime and called for the U.S. to work with the Syrian government.
Siwar al-Assad, the son of President Assad’s uncle Rifaat and nephew of former President Hafez al-Assad, was scheduled to be part of the 82nd Capitol Hill Conference put on by the Middle East Policy Council, a small Washington think tank. The event was to be held Tuesday at the Rayburn House office building. He was to speak alongside the Washington representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government and Brian Katulis, a senior Middle East fellow for the Center for American Progress.
But when Washington-based representatives for the Syrian opposition found out about the event, they lodged protests with the organizers and also with the office of Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who had reserved the room for the event. When Connolly’s office realized he’d be hosting a member of Syria’s first family in the Capitol complex, he cancelled the room reservation.
This reminds Think Tank Watch of another recent event at different think tank that caused quite a stir. We are, of course, referring to the July 8, 2015 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam's Secretary General of the Communist Party.