"U.S.-Syrian relations, frequently strained by longstanding disagreements over regional and international policy, have warmed somewhat as a result of several developments: the collapse of the Soviet Union, Syria's participation in the allied coalition against Iraq in 1990-91, and Syrian agreement to participate in Arab-Israeli peace talks. This thaw in bilateral relations led some Members of Congress to inquire whether U.S. Administrations had made any private commitments to Syria, such as an undertaking to relax economic sanctions, in return for Syrian support on regional issues. Several legislative proposals have sought to condition relaxation of aid and trade restrictions on further changes in Syrian policy. Recent U.S. Administrations, though not inclined to lift sanctions on Syria at this time, tend to believe it is in U.S. interests to encourage Syria to play a positive role in the Arab-Israeli peace process. The issue for U.S. policy makers is the degree to which the United States should work for better relations with Syria in an effort to enlist Syrian cooperation on regional issues."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB92075