SYRIA’s RESPONSE TO US ENGAGEMENT
March 15, 2010
US Engagement starting in 2009
1‐ Since January 2009, there have been multiple visits to Syria by
US officials, including:
‐ Administration officials, namely Under Secretary of State William Burns, Special Envoy Senator George Mitchell, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, White House‐NSC Senior Director Dan Shapiro, and Counterterrorism Coordinator Daniel Benjamin, among others.
‐ Members of Congress, such as Senators Judd Gregg, John Kerry, Ted Kaufman and Benjamin Cardin; and Representatives Adam Smith, Tim Walz , Alcee Hastings, Stephen Lynch, Howard Berman, at the head of several congressional delegations.
‐ High‐Ranking military officers from US Central Command.
2‐ US Officials have repeatedly emphasized the importance of improved US relations with Syria, the positive role Syria can play in the region, and the need for Syria to join peace efforts.
3‐ On July 28, 2009, the US administration initiated steps to ease American sanctions against Syria, starting with allowing the export of material related to information technology, telecommunication equipment and civil aviation.
4‐ The US lifted an advisory that warned American travelers about security concerns in Syria.
5‐ The US is getting ready to send back its ambassador to Damascus.
6‐ Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Al‐Miqdad was invited to Washington in October 2009 for high‐level talks with US officials.
7‐ Syrian Ambassador to Washington Imad Mustafa has been having regular meetings at the White House, the State Department and Congress with various US officials, after 5 years of boycott.
Here is how Syria responded to the US initiatives of rapprochement:
1‐ Syria stated clearly that it had no intention of changing
its behavior, and instead criticized US policy in the Middle East.
Syrian officials, such as President Bashar Assad, VP Farouk Sharaa and others in the Syrian Government affirmed repeatedly that Syria will not alter its positions, including its support to Hamas and Hizbollah, and its alliance with Iran, and it is for the US to reconsider its policy.
President Bashar Assad attacked the US role in the Middle East on February 25, 2010 calling it the “new colonization of the region” by the US.
Syrian VP Farouq Sharaa stated on December 11, 2009 that the “US-Israel scheme in the Middle East is destined to fail.” Syrian Ambassador Imad Mustafa said on May 3, 2009 that the US should “change its course of policy” and “support Hamas, for instance, like Syria does.”
2‐ Syria strengthened its alliance with Iran.
President Assad held three summits with Iranian President Ahmadinejad; Syria and Iran signed several bilateral agreements on defense, energy, economy, trade, travel and banking; Assad defended Iran nuclear program repeatedly; and on February 25, 2010, Assad signed a “riendship pact”with Iran, while publicly ridiculing, at a news conference with Ahmadinejad, US requests to Syria to distance itself from Iran.
3‐ Syria continued its meddling in Iraq.
As stated by US Military Commanders, including General David Petraeus on December 13, 2009, “Syria is still facilitating the crossing of terrorists into Iraq”, and “still harbors former Iraqi Baathists such as Izzat AlDouri and Muhammad Ahmad” who are leading the Iraqi insurgency movement.
In addition, Iraqi PM Nouri Al‐Maliki blamed Syria directly for the Baghdad bombings of August 2009 and ordered more troops on the Syria‐Iraqi borders to stop the infiltration of suicide bombers and other insurgents from Syria.
4‐ Syria increased its military support to
According to Israeli and United Nations sources, Syria has provided Hezbollah throughout 2009 and in 2010 with advanced M‐600 surface‐to‐surface missiles, SA‐2 air defense system, large numbers of SA18 shoulder‐fired missiles and the SS‐N‐26 surface‐to‐sea missile, all of which are highly sophisticated weaponry threatening the fragile truce in the region.
5‐ Syria still harbored US‐labeled terrorist groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine‐General Command (PFLP‐GC).
6‐ Syria showed no flexibility on peace efforts with
On November 13 2009, Assad refused direct talks with Israel at a press conference during a presidential visit to Paris. On March 3, 2010, the Syrian Government opposed an Arab league proposal to Palestinian‐Israeli indirect negotiations, blasted the Palestinian Authority for even considering the proposal, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem criticized the Arab States who were behind the proposal. Then, on March 8, 2010, eight Damascus‐based Palestinian groups rejected the Palestinian leadership’ decision to re‐start indirect talks with Israel.
7‐ Syria continued to delay the demarcation of its borders with
Lebanon, the full formalization of its diplomatic relations with the
Lebanese State, and the release of Lebanese detainees from Syrian
In addition, Syria kept transferring weapons, munitions and armed fighters to Hezbollah and to Palestinian militias into Lebanon. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon repeatedly expressed UN concerns about Syria’ behavior in “maintaining Palestinian military bases straddling the borders between Lebanon and Syria,” in “breeching the Arms embargo” required by the United Nations to stop the flow of military material to militias inside Lebanon, and in “refraining from demarcating the borders with Lebanon”.
8‐ Syria refused to cooperate with the IAEA in its investigation of Syrian clandestine nuclear activities, as stated by the Agency Director‐General Yukiya Amano on March 1, 2010.
9‐ Syria’s human rights record further deteriorated in 2009, as mentioned in the State Department Human Rights report released March 11, 2010. According to the report, “the Syrian government systematically repressed its citizens. Syrian Security forces arrested and detained individuals--including activists, organizers, and other regime critics--without due process. The government violated citizens' privacy rights and imposed significant restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and travel. Violence and societal discrimination against women continued, as did sexual exploitation, increasingly aimed at Iraqi refugees, including minors. The government discriminated against minorities, particularly Kurds and Ahvazis...”
Syria’s obligations under US Law and UNSC Resolutions
1‐ The US State Department still lists Syria as a State sponsor of terrorism because of its continuing support and role as a safe haven for terrorist organizations.
2‐ US PUBLIC LAW 108–7 of DEC. 12, 2003 (The Syria
Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act) stipulates
It is the policy of the United States that--
- Syria should bear responsibility for attacks committed by Hizballah and other terrorist groups with offices, training camps, or other facilities in Syria,(…);
- the United States will work to deny Syria the ability to support acts of international terrorism and efforts to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction;
- the Secretary of State will continue to list Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism until Syria ends its support for terrorism, including its support of Hizballah and other terrorist groups in Lebanon and its hosting of terrorist groups in Damascus, and comes into full compliance with United States law relating to terrorism(…);
- the full restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity is in the national security interest of the United States;
- Syria is in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (…) through its continued occupation of Lebanese territory and its encroachment upon Lebanon's political independence;
- Syria's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threaten(s) the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;
- Syria will be held accountable for any harm to Coalition armed forces or to any United States citizen in Iraq if the government of Syria is found to be responsible due to its facilitation of terrorist activities and its shipments of military supplies to Iraq; and
- the United States will not provide any assistance to Syria and will oppose multilateral assistance for Syria until Syria ends all support for terrorism, withdraws its armed forces from Lebanon, and halts the development and deployment of weapons of mass destruction.
The law imposes penalties on Syria until Syria meets all the requirements described in the text of Public Law 108‐17.
The UN Security Council Resolutions UNSCR 1559, 1680
1701 call for the respect of the sovereignty and
independence of Lebanon, for the withdrawal of all foreign forces, and for the
disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese
And ask all States to prevent the supply to any entity in Lebanon of military
material except for the Government of Lebanon.
These Resolutions specifically request that Syria delineates its border with Lebanon, establishes permanent diplomatic representation with Lebanon, and undertakes measures against movements of arms into Lebanese territory.
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