U.S. lifts Syria travel warning


As the Obama administration nominated diplomat Robert S. Ford to be the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005, the U.S. has lifted its travel warnings for Syria, the State Department said.

The lifting of the travel warning comes as the top State Department counterterrorism official, Daniel Benjamin, holds meetings in Damascus this week, and as top U.S. diplomat Bill Burns met with Syrian officials earlier in the week.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Andrew Tabler writes that the U.S. is also considering lifting its veto on Syria’s membership to the World Trade Organization. Damascus is particularly eager to get U.S. sanctions in place since 1979 lifted.

What does the U.S. want in return? Washington has a long check list: “In the short term, the United States wants the regime to return to talks with Israel and cut off the flow of jihadists into Iraq,” Tabler writes in Newsweek. “In the long term, Washington wants Damascus to sign a treaty with Israel … and end its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian party Hamas (whose military leadership is based in Damascus).”

What’s the long-term goal? Driving more of a wedge between Sunni Syria and Shiite Iran, Tabler writes. “That’s why Washington is looking for creative ways to turn sticks (sanctions) into carrots (cash).” Politico



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