Syria: Issues for the 112th Congress and Background on U.S. Sanctions [April 28, 2011] [open pdf - 389KB]
"This report analyzes bilateral issues between the United States and Syria. Unrest in Syria and the Asad government's violent response are adding new complexity to the troubled U.S.-Syrian relationship. The Obama Administration's policy of limited engagement with Syria to address areas of longstanding concern has been met with criticism from some, including some Members of Congress. Critics believe that the Administration should apply further pressure to the Syrian government and consider implementing harsher economic sanctions against it. The use of violence against Syrian protestors has been accompanied by calls for new U.S. sanctions but also some expression of concern by experts that political unrest in Syria could evolve into a broader civil conflict that in turn could destabilize Syria's neighbors. Despite its weak military and lackluster economy, Syria has leveraged its geographic location and its foreign policy alignment to remain relevant in Middle Eastern politics. At times, Syria has participated in substantive negotiations with Israel, from whom it seeks the return of the occupied Golan Heights. However, Syria also acts at times as a 'spoiler' by hosting U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and facilitating the rearmament of Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon. Syria's long-standing relationship with Iran is of great concern to U.S. strategists, insofar as Syria serves as a conduit for Iranian power projection in the broader Middle East. As the Syrian government has grown more estranged from the United States over the last ten years, Syrian-Iranian relations have improved, and some analysts have called on U.S. policymakers and their regional allies to offer incentives to Syrian leaders in order to realign them away from Iran."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33487
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