Balazs Bokor, Hungary's U.S. Ambassador and Consul General, paid a visit to the University of Oklahoma this past week. The longtime diplomat whose career began under Communist rule in the 1980s has spent much of his career in the Middle East with time spent in Syria.
So who does he turn to when he wants inside information on what is happening back in Damascus?
Josh Landis, a University of Oklahoma professor, who writes a regular blog on Syrian politics, history and religion. Bokor visited Landis as part of a visit here this week and later came to a Transcript editorial board meeting. He was hosted in Norman by City Councilman Tom Kovach, whose parents emigrated from Hungary.
Landis' commentary, www.syriacomment.com, is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. He directs OU's Center for Middle East Studies. He lived in the Middle East, speaks Arabic and is frequently called upon by television, radio and print media for analysis for the day's events.
This week, Landis' thoughts were delivered closer to home. He told the local Democrats' Cornbread and Beans luncheon that the crisis in Syria may be one Middle East intervention the U.S. should avoid. It's a humanitarian disaster unfolding where an estimated 10,000 civilians have been killed, Landis said.
A U.S.-led intervention could lead to many more deaths as no real leader has emerged to replace President Bashar Assad. The professional military's top commanders are minority Alawites, like Assad, and will remain loyal to the last shot.
"They will fight to the last bullet because they know they will hang from the same gallows if they lose," Landis said of the military.
"It's going to be a long and bloody battle to throw the Alawites to the bottom and move the Shiites to the top," he said.
Small militias are popping up around the country. Neighborhoods are arming themselves with no central command. The ethnicity split makes Syria unlike Egypt or Libyan uprisings.
"In a sense, Syria has to figure out what it is and Syria will do that on the battlefield."
He said Turkey and Saudi Arabia may be the ones who take the lead in any intervention with the U.S. playing a supporting role. President Obama has just ended one war in Iraq, is winding down another one in Afghanistan and trying to avoid one in Iran.
"It's a mess. It's a quagmire. It's another Viet Nam," Landis said. "It is a moral dilemma. If America doesn't want to do it, then maybe nobody wants to do it."
The best policy, he said, may be for the Syrians to sort it out themselves.
"In the long run, it may mean fewer killings."