Engaging damascus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Over the course of successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, the United States has defined an ambitious policy agenda toward Syria. This agenda has had both negative and positive dimensions. On the negative side, Syria has long been engaged in behaviors that the United States considers threatening or offensive. These behaviors include virtually all of the post-Cold War "hot buttons": support for terrorism, development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities, maintenance of a hegemonic position in Lebanon, and (until 1997) involvement in narcotics trafficking. This long record makes Syria, in many ways, a paradigmatic "rogue regime." On the positive side, the United States has, under most recent administrations, recognized the centrality of Syria to Arab-Israeli peacemaking and the potential strategic gains from bringing Syria into the moderate Arab camp. As a result, the United States has never, at least until recently, treated Syria in the same manner as other Middle Eastern rogues, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran or Iraq under Saddam Hussein.Washington has consistently maintained normal diplomatic relations with Damascus.While the U.S. designation of Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism brings the automatic imposition of specific U.S. sanctions on Damascus, Syria is the only state sponsor that has never been placed under comprehensive trade and economic sanctions. In addition, successive administrations have usually left Syria out of their more categorical statements about rogue regimes. Indeed, during the 1990s, the Syrian track of the Middle East peace process provided a framework for sustained U.S. engagement with Damascus. In this approach, outstanding bilateral differences over terrorism and WMD were to be resolved in the context of a peace settlement between Israel and Syria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Road Ahead
Subtitle of host publicationMiddle East Policy in The Bush Administration's Second Term
PublisherBrookings Institution Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)0815752059, 9780815752059
StatePublished - 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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