"Whatever his motives, Rosen’s career in Syria shows how foreign policy works in the 21st century. The shapers of world events often hold no official portfolio, operating through channels that even those inside of government can’t always see or understand. Policy inputs originate far beyond any knowable org chart, and they result from furtive negotiations of access whose true parameters are unknown to all but the required few. At times, policy can resemble a kind of freelance spycraft by which decision-makers on multiple continents find and activate Rosen-like figures who are unencumbered by employment with any publicly accountable organization.
At that rare Moscow appearance, Rosen took some shots at the Assad regime, calling it “feudal” and “incompetent.” When he began criticizing Assad for lacking a post-conflict reconstruction strategy, Bouthaina Shabaan, the Assad regime’s longtime liaison to the Western press, walked out of the speech in dismay. According to attendees, Rosen did not seem perturbed.
“Look, the people Nir interacts with are much higher than Bouthaina,” says Randa Slim, the director of conflict resolution at the Middle East Institute and someone who attended the talk. “She is a political, civilized figure of the regime, and the people Nir interacts with are the ugliest security and intelligence people.”
Some of the most brutal and powerful officials in Damascus apparently saw Nir Rosen as a useful instrument. The question is why—and for what?"
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