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warming US-Syrian ties?

July 27, 2009

SatelliteSyria’s envoy to the US, Imad Mustafa, recently noted:

…that the Obama administration had lifted the ban imposed on exporting goods to the Syrian Aviation Industry, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

Speaking on Syrian national television , Mustafa revealed that the US had also lifted the ban on exporting IT products, whether they were hardware or software, adding that US President Barack Obama was considering lifting more such restrictions.

Perhaps these small economic steps will lead to ultimately prying Damascus away from both Iran and Hizbollah?  After all, Syria has in the last few years been experimenting with loosening up its economic sector from the otherwise tight (and tight-fisted) government controls.  Certain other constraints such as high unemployment and inflation are hurting the economy, so this might be a two-fer for Pres Asad:  warmer ties with the US, and better a better economic outlook in this global recession.

Still, these are early times in a US-Syrian thaw.  Prof. Joshua Landis, co-director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma in the Jerusalem Post noted:

Syria is willing to take steps in both Iraq and Lebanon if America were to relieve economic sanctions in the country. But he also says that Syria is unlikely to significantly shift its policy unless it regains control of Golan Heights. The reason, he said, is that without the Golan, Syria’s only leverage is its relationship with Iran and with its proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas – the three entities that are putting pressure on Israel.

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