The Syrian Envoy to the United States, Imad Moustapha, wasted no time announcing the proposed easing of U.S. sanctions on the state sponsor of terrorism, the Syrian Arab Republic. What did the U.S. get in exchange? Likely not enough to warrant the easing of trade restrictions and other cooperation. Details are sparse, but according to the Wall Street Journal this morning, the list of exportable items will include “spare aircraft parts, information technology products, and telecommunications equipment, sales of which have been restricted by U.S. sanctions on Syria enacted in 2004.”
Engaging the Syrian regime will not bring stability to the region, quite the opposite. The Syrians have increased meddling in Lebanon and made it easier for terrorist groups to operate in the area. And despite its veneer as a legitimate political party, terrorist group Hezbollah remains an Iranian proxy for regional troublemaking.
If anything, the recent decision by the Obama Administration is consistent with the President’s aim to “change” how the U.S. approached relations with countries such as Syria, including other state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and Cuba. In the long run, nothing good will come from cooperating with these countries or groups because the current leaders have no interest in genuinely abandoning terror as a means to an end. The little leverage we had is slowly slipping away. While the Iranian regime takes careful notes, we will try the “European” way.
Easing the minimal trade restrictions imposed by the Bush Administration with the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, made sense because a lot less carrot, a lot more stick is the right formula for this part of the world. Moreover, the reality is that Syria would not be “cooperating” with anyone but for the 2007 destruction by Israel of its nascent nuclear power program. The sanctions regime has barely had time to work.
The Iranian mullahs must be celebrating, for they now have a new source for controlled U.S. goods and technology. Re-exports of sensitive technologies to Iran will happen, and the Syrians will help make it so. Then again, one can take a more cynical view of things and just chalk it off to they know what they are doing. If they want to talk to the Taliban, why not Syria? Change.