The U.S. is doubling-down against the Syrian regime as Middle Eastern governments move toward normalization.
This past week, the foreign ministers of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan convened in Amman to discuss avenues of normalization ahead of the much-anticipated May 19 Arab League summit. The surprise meeting featured several topics of discussion, including counterterrorism, access to humanitarian aid and border security, with officials walking away from the meeting with quite a few agreements on refugees, counternarcotics policy and security in hand.
The meeting was a clear sign that regional players aren’t merely toying around with the idea of normalization with Syria. It was no coincidence that just days later, Syria was readmitted into the Arab League. For many Middle Eastern actors, hitting the reset button with Syria is a welcomed initiative that could, in their eyes, finally turn the page on the country’s 12-year civil war. But for the United States, initiatives to make amends with the Assad regime could be the end of its yearslong isolation campaign against Syria and a threat to its broader strategies against Iran.
The outbreak of civil war forced the U.S. to scramble to find ways of preserving its interests in the region. In addition to large-scale violence and mass atrocities, the conflict ushered in a refugee crisis that fundamentally changed European politics for years and, as important to Washington, created an opening for Russia and Iran to preserve the Assad regime.
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