Will U.S.' 'reconsideration' of Syria be enduring?

16:52, January 28, 2011      

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US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford expressed his pleasure to be back to Syria as he presented his credential to Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad on Thursday, January 27. He noted that his return indicated the US determination to resolve its longstanding problem with the Syrian government. Robert Ford resumed his post from a vacancy of nearly six years.

This is aimed at helping the push to a Middle East peace accord. "His (Robert Ford's) appointment represents President Obama's commitment to use engagement to advance US interests by improving communication with the Syrian government and people," the White House said in a recent statement. And media in the Middle East generally deem that the move opened the front door to dialogues with Syria.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Harri was assassinated in Beirut on 14 February 2005, and the George W. Bush administration then accused Syria of having orchestrated the killing, and soon recalled the US ambassador to Syria. After coming to power, the Barack Obama administration, however, called for "a new beginning" in the U.S. ties with the Islamic world; it resolves to recast its image in the Middle East and take the improvement of its diplomatic relations with Syria as a key issue. In February 2010, President Obama formally nominated career diplomat Robert Ford as the first American ambassador to Syria in five years, but US Congress refused to launch the voting on the appointment. In the light of this situation, nevertheless, President Obama bypassed Congress and made a recess appointment to name Robert Ford as the ambassador to Syria. Syrian President Bashar Assad always wanted President Obama to yield, but refused to offer anything in return.

One snag after another with the appointment highlights an impasse of the Obama administration's Middle East policy. As a matter of course, Jewish voters have been traditional alliance or supporters of the Democratic Party. After Obama came to power two years ago, the Republican Party spared no effort to win over more voters, and they criticized the Obama government as partial to the side of Arab countries and too harsh to the traditional alliance Israel. So, Republicans stand in the way on such issued as Robert Ford's appointment as ambassadors to Syria and Turkey.

After the mid-term election last year, some people feared that Republicans would use their majority in the House of Representatives to beef up as much as possible an intensity of support to Israel and try to impede Obama's Middle East policy.

In another development, Eric Cantor, the Republican whip and the only Jewish republican in the House, attempt to divert 3 billion US dollars in the US foreign and security assistance to military budget, so as not to reduce the sum of the money for Israel. Meanwhile, Israel capitalizes on the internal differences within the United States, and has turned fearless and increasingly embolden on such issues as a halt to the settlement construction, so the Palestine-Israel peace talk process is very hard to embark on the normal orbit.

Moreover, the United States have also come to see that it cannot go round Syria eventually in an endeavor to settle the Middle East issue. After the Iraq war, the U.S. labeled Syria with the title of "the Axis of Evil" and imposed sanctions against it. In spite of years of isolation and sanctions, Syria, instead of yielding to external pressures and internal turmoil, has exerted its unique influences on the Palestine-Israel peace talks, and issues relating to Iraq and Lebanon, and this compels the United States to reconsider.

Ambassador Ford indicated that the U.S.-Syrian relations are posing challenges. He said he had conferred with Asad on some domains and discovered where their common interest lie and found the methods of solution acceptable to both sides, and he pledged to ensure the communication unblocked at the top level. But Syria is crystal clear that the United States cannot help it attain its political and economic goals, such as advancing to the Syria-Israel peace talks and the recovery of the Golan height and so on, or taking this opportunity to impel Syria to give up its trump card, -- its ties of alliance with Iran as well as its impact on Hamas, the Hezbollah and Lebanon..

General speaking, the US-Syria relations now has a sign of improvement for a short term. But will the U.S.'s "reconsideration" of Syria will be enduring, and this needs very careful observation.

By People's Daily Online and its author PD senior reporter Li Yida


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