The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 5, 2013

Professor heads up Syrian opposition's US offices



LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — As a professor at the University of Arkansas, Syrian-born Najib Ghadbian is no stranger to educating Americans about the Middle East.

Now, he's taking his knowledge beyond the classroom, stepping into a new role as the Syrian opposition coalition's representative in the United States.

In teaching political science, Ghadbian has sometimes asked students to label countries on a blank map of the region. "And out of 25 countries, if I get two or three, that would be great," Ghadbian said.

As a sort of unofficial ambassador for a group President Barack Obama called the "legitimate representative" of Syria's people, Ghadbian faces the challenge not of motivating apathetic students, but of winning over wary politicians to aid the coalition's efforts to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Ghadbian (pronounced gad-BAHN') is setting up offices in New York and Washington as he and other members of the opposition coalition work to build relations with the Obama administration. They're lobbying for political support and humanitarian aid, all while laying the groundwork for a post-Assad Syria.

"It's like being the embassy here without having that title," he said.

The group's mission is already proving complicated. Last week, the U.S. announced it would for the first time provide nonlethal aid directly to the rebels fighting to oust Assad. But the decision was met with criticism by some in Syria, including the head of the rebels, Gen. Salim Idris, who said food and medical supplies won't bring the fighters any closer to defeating Assad's forces.

The Syrian conflict started two years ago as a popular uprising against Assad's authoritarian rule, then turned into a full-blown civil war after rebels took up arms to fight a government crackdown on dissent. The United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed.

Text Only
State and Nation
Photos


Poll

Which foreign crisis is the biggest threat to the security of the United States?

Russia-Ukraine
Israel-Palestine
Iraq
None of the above
     View Results
Facebook
AP Video
13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee