The Times: The United States is to appoint an ambassador to Syria after a gap of four years, the strongest sign yet of President Obama’s desire to re-engage the pariah state and draw it away from the influence of an increasingly isolated Iran.
James Hider: analysis
The United States is to appoint an ambassador to Syria after a gap of four years, the strongest sign yet of President Obama’s desire to re-engage the pariah state and draw it away from the influence of an increasingly isolated Iran.
The move to a fully staffed embassy will be a boost to Syria, which has suffered years of diplomatic isolation because of its strong trade and strategic ties with Iran. The US Administration hopes that engaging with Damascus will encourage it to pursue peace talks with Israel.
George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, described Syria as playing an integral role in the peace process. Syria has called for the US to act as mediator in direct talks between itself and Israel.
Syria is still under US sanctions for supporting Islamist insurgents who cross into Iraq to fight the US-backed Government there.
The new Administration believes that wooing Syria back into the diplomatic fold may encourage it to withdraw its support for insurgents in Iraq, loosen its ties with Iran and prevent the flow of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah.
With Iran facing increasing international isolation over its repression of demonstrators who believe that the re-election of President Ahmadinejad was rigged, the US may see the time as right to press ahead in Syria.
Many analysts believe however that while Syria, with its struggling economy, would welcome the chance to open to the world again, its wily leadership is unlikely to cut its profitable ties to Iran.
It is believed that President Assad will try to play both sides against each while keeping his authoritarian regime in power.