Relations with Syria meet U.S. interests in Middle East

Politics Materials 20 February 2009 11:13 (UTC +04:00)
Relations with Syria meet U.S. interests in Middle East

Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 19 / Trend . U.Sadigova/

U.S.-Syria ties can be improved as a political influence of Damask to the Middle East may assist Washington in reaching stabilization in the region and ensure Israel with security.

"Washington watches that Syria's integration to the policy of the Middle East is more lucrative than the intimacy of Damask with Iran," head of the Syrian researches center of the Saint - Andrews University Raymond Hinnebusch told Trend in a telephone conversation.

On Feb.18, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stated that Syria need to restore a serious dialogue with the United States on the basis of mutual reverence and achievement of peace in the Middle East.

Assad made the statement after the visit of the U.S. Congress's special delegation headed by Benjamin Cardin to Damask on Feb.17. The American senator, meeting with the Syrian President, said "Washington and Damask should resume dialogue as the U.S. new administration is ready to conduct a new policy".    

Right after Cardin, representative of Senate Commission on Foreign Affairs John Kerry, presidential candidate from democrats, will arrive in Damask.

This is the first visit of the U.S. high-ranking officials in the last five years.

In 2005, The United States called her ambassador back from Damask as a result of Assad's criticism on war in Iraq and boost of ties between Syria and Iran. The U.S. included Syria into the list of countries supporting international terrorism and blames Assad's regime on arm delivery to Hezbollah political movement conducting pro-Iranian policy.  

Head of the Middle East research center of the University of Oklahoma Joshua Landis thinks that The United States is keen to restore ties with Damask as an important player in the Middle East. Thus, eight years old political and economical isolation of Syria from the Bush Administration gave no results.

The isolation policy of the U.S. regarding Syria toughened after the assassination of Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri protesting against the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon which lasted 30 years. The U.S. and then France accused Damask but evidence for the accusations yet lacked.

Relations between Syria and Lebanon improved despite break in diplomatic relations in 2005 following as Damask's reaction for accusations against itself.

"Syria has great influence on (domestic) policy of Lebanon, HAMAS and situation on borders with Iraq, Landis told Trend over phone. So, Syria must be the center of political situation (Middle East)."

But British expert Hinnebusch thinks that investigation of Hariri's murder, in which Syria is the main suspected, can hamper to restore relations of both nations.

In summer of 2008 Syria's President expressed his willingness to restore relations with the U.S. That time indirect talks between Syria and Israel on peace agreement conclusion were launched.. 

Syria and Israel are in hostile relations after Israel's occupation of Syrian territories, namely, Golan hills during six day war in 1967. The sides failed to agree upon launching of direct dialogue after five rounds of indirect talks under Turkey's mediation. Israel refuses from returning Golan until Damask ceases relations with Iran and Hezbollah.

But the problem is Israel's unwillingness to return Syrian territories. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in Knesset that leaving from Golan will be a strike towards Israel's security.

Asad stands for the U.S. joining talks with Israel as Tel Aviv is the strategic and military partner of the U.S. in the region.

Arabic experts think that Assad regards necessity of the U.S. participation in these talks proceeding from Barack Obama's new balanced policy in the Middle East.

The situation can deteriorate if Binyamin Netanyahu, opposing Israel's talks with Syria and Palestine, heads Israel's government. Damask needs the relations with the US as further talks depend on these relations, Akram Huzam, analyst said.

"If Netanyahu becomes Israel's Prime Minister, the talks with Syria will face great problems. So, Syria needs the relations with the US," Huzam told Trend over phone.

But it is still unclear whether Turkey's mediation will pass to the U.S.

Even if the U.S. aids the sides to promote talks it will be impossible without Turkey's mediation as Ankara has strong relations both with Syria and Israel, Syria's analyst Hosni Mahalli told Trend over phone.

The participation of U.S. in the negotiations is not an exception as America is very close ally to Israel Israelis security is the most important thing for America in the Middle East.

"U.S. is interested in the dialogue (between Syria and Israel) that will help reducing radicalism and violence in the region," Landis said.

Significant change in U.S. policy toward Syria will be ultimately be based on real changes in Syrian policy in the region, Director of Program in Arab Politics - Washington Institute for Near East Policy, David Schenker said.

"If Syria continues to sponsor Hamas and Hezbollah and destabilize the situation on Iraqi border, the relations between the two sides will be unsettled," Schenker said.