"Despite its weak military and lackluster economy, Syria remains relevant in Middle Eastern geopolitics. The Asad regime has its hands in each of the four major active or potential zones of conflict in the region (Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, Iraq, and Iran). In the Levant, Syrian leaders aim to dominate the internal politics of Lebanon, and have been accused of involvement in the assassination of four parliamentarians and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Asad regime has resisted U.S. and French attempts to bolster the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, believing that it can weather the storm of U.S. pressure over time. Syria also plays a key role in the Middle East peace process, acting at times as a 'spoiler' by sponsoring Palestinian militants and facilitating the rearmament of Hezbollah. [...]. A variety of U.S. legislative provisions and executive directives prohibit direct aid to Syria and restrict bilateral trade relations between the two countries, largely because of Syria's designation by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of international terrorism. On December 12, 2003, President Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act, H.R. 1828, as P.L. 108-175, which imposed additional economic sanctions against Syria. In recent years, the Administration has designated several Syrian entities as weapons proliferators and sanctioned several Russian companies for alleged WMD or advanced weapons sales to Syria. [...].This report analyzes an array of bilateral issues that continue to affect relations between the United States and Syria."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33487