The Not-So-Innocent Abroad
Among the more vocal critics of the Assad regime in Syria this year has been Andrew Tabler, a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who lived in Syria from 2001 to 2008. But the story Tabler tells in his new book, In the Lion’s Den, is not one of steady opposition to the vicious dictatorship in Damascus. It is, rather, the story of a very slow—indefensibly slow—disillusionment with the regime.
Tabler was never truly in the lion’s den in the sense that Syrian protesters, risking life and limb in Syria’s streets, have been. Fluent in Arabic and a resident of Cairo, Tabler arrived in Damascus in 2001 to write a comprehensive study of Syria for the Oxford Business Group to help potential investors understand the country. The Syria in which he arrived was seeing a brief “Damascus Spring,” when the death of Hafez al-Assad and accession of his son Bashar gave rise to hopes of reform. But as the Freedom House report on Syria for 2002 noted, “by year’s end, whatever progress had been made was effectively snuffed out as the government curtailed informal gatherings and jailed opposition leaders, critical journalists, and intellectuals.”
About the Author
Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, served as senior director for the National Security Council for the Near East and North Africa and as deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration.