Syria

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Overview

Syria was historically the political center of the Middle East, while today its capital, Damascus, is recognized by UNESCO as the Arab Capital of Culture. Over the past 60 years, since 1961, Syria has been ruled by the Ba’ath Party, the same party that ruled Iraq until the fall of Saddam Hussein, and for three decades, the most powerful figure in Syria was dictator Hafiz al-Assad. The former defense minister came to power after overthrowing the Syrian leadership in 1970, and built an elaborate intelligence network that aided Assad’s tight grip on power and created a police state that has produced scores of human rights abuses. Upon his death in 2000, control of the government shifted to Assad’s son, Bashar, who has managed to remain in power despite internal threats from enemies of his father and Islamic militants.

 
Over the years, United States-Syrian relations have ranged between grudging mutual accommodation and outright mutual hostility. Syria has been on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism since the list’s inception in 1979. Because of its continuing support and safe haven for terrorist organizations, Syria is subject to legislatively mandated penalties, including export sanctions and ineligibility to receive most forms of US aid or to purchase US military equipment. On the other hand, Issues of US concern include the Syrian government’s failure to prevent Syria from becoming a major transit point for foreign fighters entering Iraq, its refusal to deport from Syria former Saddam regime elements who are supporting the insurgency in Iraq, its ongoing interference in Lebanese affairs, and its deplorable human rights record. The Obama administration, however, has taken steps towards resuming dialogue with Syria by sending high-level diplomats to Damascus and appointing Robert Stephen Ford as the US ambassador to Syria.
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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Syria is located in the Middle East and rests on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It shares borders with Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, Israel to the southwest, and Lebanon to the west. Prominent geographic features are the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, which run parallel to the Mediterranean from the Golan Heights (occupied since 1967 by Israel) to the Turkish border; the Euphrates River valley, which traverses the country from the north to the southeast; the remote Jebel al-Druz Mountains in the south; and the semidesert plateau in the southeast. The east flank of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains is dotted with valley oases, the largest of which, lying 70 miles by road across Lebanon from the coast, is the site of Damascus, the capital. The climate of the Damascus region is roughly comparable to that of Phoenix, Arizona.

 
Population: 21.1 million (World Bank)
 
Religions: Sunni Muslim 74%, other Muslim (Alawi, Isma’ili, Shi'a) 13%, Druze 3%, Christian (Eastern Orthodox, Uniate, Nestorian) 10%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and others 9.7%.
 
Languages: Arabic (official), North Levantine Arabic 48.9%, Northern Kurdish 5.2%, Najdi Arabic 2.8%, Armenian 1.8%, North Mesopotamian 1.7%, Levantine Bedawi Arabic 0.4%, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic 0.2%, South Azerbaijani 0.2%, Adyghe 0.1%, Domari 0.05%, Western Neo-Aramaic 0.07%, Mesopotamian Arabic 0.01%, Lomavren, Turoyo.
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History

On the crossroads of history, Syria was occupied by Akkadians, Amorites, Hittites, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Arameans, Hebrews, Egyptians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Iranians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, European Crusaders, Mongols, Mamluks and Turks. Syria is the site of the oldest preserved Jewish synagogue and the earliest identified Christian church. Damascus is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world still standing. What is now Syria entered the 20th century as part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. After World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, nationalists proclaimed the independent Arab Kingdom of Syria with Emir Faisal of the Hashemite dynasty king. However, in July 1920, French troops defeated Faisal’s Arab army at the Battle of Maysalun and imposed military rule. Faisal moved on to Iraq, where he was king until his death in 1933.

 
In 1922, the League of Nations gave Great Britain control of Transjordan and Palestine, and France what would evolve into present-day Syria and Lebanon. Nationalist revolts, protests and strikes continued throughout the 1920s and 1930s, particularly among the Sunni majority. After the Free French and the British drove out the pro-Nazi Vichy government, Syria proclaimed its independence in 1943. In 1945, the French tried to reestablish control, but pressure from the newly-created United Nations forced them to withdraw the last of their troops on April 17, 1946. Syria’s first decade of independence was chaotic. It saw a failed invasion of Israel in 1948, a military coup in 1949, twenty cabinets and four constitutions.
 
The Ba’ath Party was founded in 1945 in Damascus by Michel Aflaq, a Christian, and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Sunni Muslim. It was conceived as a secular, pan-Arab nationalist party and it gained its greatest popularity in Syria and Iraq. Democracy was restored in Syria in 1954 and Ba’athists won seats in the next parliamentary elections. In 1959, when Syria joined Egypt to form the United Arab Republic, the Ba’ath Party leadership, as part of the union agreement, agreed to disband the party. This did not sit well with the party rank and file, and the union with Egypt was not popular with Syrians in general. A military coup in Syria put an end to the United Arab Republic in 1961. Ba’athist military officers, with help from other nationalists, seized power on March 8, 1963, a month after Iraqi Ba’athists gained control, albeit briefly, in their country. In Syria the Ba’athists banned all other political parties, but factions developed within the party itself.
 
Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel during the June 1967 War, and in 1970 Syrian forces failed in their attempt to invade Jordan. On November 12, 1970, the minister of defense, Hafiz al-Assad, led a bloodless military coup that removed Syria’s civilian leadership. Assad and his son have ruled Syria ever since.
 
Hafiz al-Assad would prove to be much less interested in ideology than previous Ba’ath leaders. His main concern was securing personal power. The Alawites, the religious minority to which Assad belonged, follow a syncretic version of Islam that combines elements of Twelfer Shi’ism with Christian practices. For example, in addition to observing Muslim holidays, the Alawites also celebrate Christmas and Epiphany. They are considered heretics by orthodox Sunni Muslims, some of whom refer to them as “little Christians.” The Alawites are centered in eastern Syria. Because they constitute barely 10% of the Syrian population, Hafiz al-Assad, in order to stay in power, had to create a coalition of Syria’s non-Sunni minorities. During the final years of his life, five of his seven closest advisors were Christians.
 
Within a few years of seizing power, Assad was supreme commander of the armed forces, head of the Ba’ath Party and head of the executive branch of the government. He was responsible for choosing all government ministers and their deputies, all senior civil servants, all military officers and all judges. Although he had allowed the legalization of friendly political parties and of a basically impotent parliament, Assad retained the right to dissolve that parliament.
 
On October 6, 1973, Syria and Egypt attacked Israel in an attempt to regain lost territory. A negotiated settlement ended the fighting after three weeks, but the Golan Heights remained under Israeli control. In 1975, Assad sent Syrian troops into Lebanon, which was immersed in a complex civil war. They remained there for 30 years. In 1982, 200 members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood staged an insurrection in the northern city of Hama. Assad responded with overwhelming force, pounding the city with mortars for three weeks and killing more than 10,000 civilians. Beginning in the 1980s, Assad used terrorism as a foreign policy tool. He supported Abu Nidal’s Palestinian terrorist group, the Fatah Revolutionary Council, and Abdullah Ocalan’s Kurdish Workers Party, among others. He was also widely accused of supporting numerous terrorist organizations through intermediaries so that he personally could deny involvement in their acts. The terrorists who blew up the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, killing 19 US soldiers, planned their attack in Syria.
 
Assad intended to pass on control of Syria to the oldest of his four sons, the charismatic Basil, but on January 21, 1994, Basil was killed in a car accident while driving to the airport in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Assad then turned to his second son, Bashar.
 
Bashar al-Assad was born in Damascus on September 11, 1965, and attended the elite Fraternity School. Because Basil was the heir apparent, Bashar was free to pursue a relatively normal life. More bookish and intellectual than his flashy older brother, who went straight into military training, Bashar chose to study medicine. This probably pleased his father, who, as a youth, had hoped to become a doctor, but was prevented from pursuing his goal because his family lacked the necessary financial resources. Bashar earned his medical degree from Damascus University in 1988 and then met his military service requirement by working as an army doctor. He moved to England in 1992 to do postgraduate training in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital in London. He would later marry Asma Akhras, a Syrian who was raised in London.
 
When Basil died, Bashar returned to Damascus for the funeral and found that his life was about to be turned upside down. Having decided to groom Bashar to be his successor, Hafiz al-Assad set to work to bolster his credentials with the all-important military. Bashar, after his obligatory two years as an army doctor, had left the service with the rank of captain. Now he was enrolled in a course for tank battalion commanders and then put in charge of a tank unit in November 1994. He was promoted to major in January 1995. The following year he enrolled in the command and general staff course at the Higher Military Academy and he graduated with honors in July 1997. He was immediately promoted to lieutenant colonel and put in charge of the same Republican Guard brigade that Basil had commanded. Early in 1999 he moved up to the rank of staff colonel.
 
To further strengthen Bashar’s status, his father insisted that respected members of the military praise him publicly. Even more important, Hafiz set about eliminating from positions of power, in the military and in the intelligence and security agencies, anyone who might challenge Bashar, including Hafiz’s own brother, Rifa’t. They were replaced by trustworthy loyalists. Bashar’s brother-in-law, Asif Shawkat, the husband of Bashar’s older sister, Bushra, was given a position in Syrian Military Intelligence and quickly promoted to second-in-command. Hafiz al-Assad also initiated a public relations campaign to sell Bashar to the Syrian citizenry, blanketing the country with posters of Hafiz, Basil and Bashar with captions that read, “our leader, our ideal and our hope.”
 
Acknowledging the public’s cynicism about governmental corruption, Hafiz put Bashar in charge of a highly visible anti-corruption campaign (just as he had done earlier with Basil) with offices throughout the country where citizens could go to express their complaints. Of course real anticorruption prosecutions were extremely selective, as possible challengers to Bashar found themselves charged with various offenses, while regime loyalists survived unscathed.
 
Bashar was given the chairmanship of the Syrian Computer Society, a position previously held by Basil. However, unlike his late brother, Bashar, an academic, took the post seriously and is credited with promoting the introduction of the Internet to Syria, a development that is rarely a foregone conclusion in dictatorships. Hafiz also gradually educated Bashar in Syria’s relationship with Lebanon, and by late 1998 Bashar was handling the management of Lebanese affairs. He met with a wide range of Lebanese political figures and took a particular liking to Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah. Combining his two portfolios, anticorruption and Lebanon, Bashar targeted the Syrian business associates of Lebanon’s billionaire prime minister, Rafiq al-Hariri, a Sunni Muslim whom Hafiz al-Assad wanted removed from power.
 
When Hafiz al-Assad died on June 10, 2000, the Syrian parliament quickly lowered the minimum age for presidents from 40 to 34 and Bashar was sworn in. Many Syrians and foreign observers found it hard to believe that Bashar al-Assad could stay in power for long and considered him a transitional president until the real powers-that-be decided who would take his place. But Hafiz had done a good job of eliminating Bashar’s most dangerous contenders. In addition, the most powerful players in the military, the intelligence services, the government bureaucracy and the Ba’ath Party were content to leave Bashar alone…as long as he didn’t try to rock the boat.
 
For example, Bashar convinced the parliament to pass a law legalizing private banks, but not one private bank actually opened. More significantly, Bashar released more than 600 political prisoners, and he encouraged the formation of political and cultural forums where citizens could discuss democracy. Syrian intellectuals were so refreshed by this climate of openness that they called it the “Damascus Spring.” Soon hundreds of pro-democracy advocates were meeting at these forums and circulating petitions promoting a more open society. Even members of parliament were calling for an end to the emergency laws that had been in place since December 1962. Then the crackdown began. The authorities shut down the discussion forums and arrested almost all of their most vocal members. It is unclear whether the dismantling of the discussion groups was an example of the Syrian old guard overruling Bashar’s reformist tendencies or if the creation of the forums in the first place was a trick to identify regime opponents.
 
Bashar has been uncompromising in his anti-Semitism. When Pope John Paul II visited Damascus in May 2001, Bashar used his welcoming speech to denounce the Jews, saying, “They tried to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and the same way they tried to betray and kill the Prophet Muhammad.” At an Arab summit conference in Beirut in March 2002, he declared that all Israelis were legitimate targets for terrorist attacks.
 
Syrian troops invaded Lebanon in 1975 to “stabilize” the country during its civil war. This action was not really that surprising considering that Syrians had, for centuries, considered both Lebanon and Palestine part of “Greater Syria.” In the current context, the Syrian occupation created a buffer zone that allowed Syria to support anti-Israeli terrorist groups without having them actually operate from within Syrian borders It also ensured that Lebanon remained a closed market for Syrian products and a place of employment for more than one million Syrians, most of whom would otherwise be unemployed if they had to return to Syria. Assad maintained control of Lebanon through the use of 30,000 troops, an extensive military intelligence network and financial support of Shi’ite political parties, including Hezbollah, Shi’ites constituting one-third of the Lebanese population.
 
On August 27, 2004, Bashar ordered Rafiq al-Hariri, the longtime enemy of the Assad family, to have the Lebanese parliament amend its constitution to allow the pro-Syrian president of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, to remain in office after his six-year term expired in November. Although Hariri was humiliated by the way the young Bashar treated him, he pushed through the amendment anyway…in a ten-minute legislative session. One week later, France and the United States co-sponsored a resolution in the United Nations, which was passed by the Security Council, demanding that Syria withdraw its 20,000 remaining troops from Lebanon and disband the armed wing of Hezbollah. This was a stunning development for Bashar and the Syrian leadership because France had always been Syria’s leading Western supporter.
 
On October 20, Rafiq al-Hariri resigned as prime minister and began to make plans for the May 2005 parliamentary elections, which would be monitored by international observer groups. On February 2, 2005, Hariri and the Lebanese opposition publicly called for the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops. Twelve days later, Hariri was assassinated by a massive truck bomb in Beirut that also killed nineteen other people. There followed a series of increasingly large street demonstrations, starting with one for Hariri’s funeral. On March 8, Nasrallah and Hezbollah mobilized 500,000 pro-Syrian demonstrators. Six days later, the combined Sunni, Christian and Druze opposition brought out one million people for the largest demonstration in Lebanese history. Following the release of a United Nations report that implicated the Syrian leadership, including one of Bashar’s younger brothers and his sister’s husband, in the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, or at least in a refusal to seek out the perpetrators, Bashar al-Assad agreed to withdraw his troops. The last of the Syrian troops finally left Lebanon on April 26, 2005. Although this was a blow to Bashar’s prestige, Syria maintained major influence in Lebanon through its intelligence presence, its deep involvement in Lebanon’s security forces and its business connections.
 
Beginning in 2007, diplomatic relations with the Western world began to improve as the European Union revived relations with Syria and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Damascus. Three years later, the US finally posted Ambassador Robert Stephen Ford to Syria.
 
The pro-democracy protests in the Middle East in 2011 spread to Syria. They began on March 16, 2011, when about 150 people protested the detention of political prisoners. Reports say that 35 protestors were arrested. Two days later, a “Day of Rage” was held in several cities including Damascus, Homs, Banyas, and Deraa, resulting in the death of four people. Their deaths led to violent unrest and several additional deaths.
 
Protestors hope to decrease corruption and poverty and end emergency law.
 
Timeline (Syrian History)
History of Syria (Wikipedia)
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Syria's Newspapers

Al Baath (Arabic)

Al Jamahir (Arabic)
Al Thawra (Arabic)
Champress (Arabic)
Champress (English)
Syria Today (English)
Tishreen (Arabic)
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History of U.S. Relations with Syria

Because US immigration records before 1920 defined “Syrian” as any immigrant from the Ottoman province of Greater Syria, which included the modern day countries Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Cyprus, and parts of Turkey and of Jordan, it was estimated that immigrants from this historic region numbered 200,000 in the 1920s. New York City, and specifically the area around Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, continue to be the center of Syrian life in America. Other large communities can be found in Boston, Detroit, Dearborn (Michigan), New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Houston.

 
Over the years, United States-Syrian relations ranged between grudging mutual accommodation and outright mutual hostility. But even when the relationship was strained severely, American foreign policy toward Syria with regard to the broader Arab-Israeli conflict has remained consistent. The US endorses UN Security Council Resolution 242, the implementation of which would entail the return of the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights to Syrian control.
 
For its part, Syria has often vehemently criticized American policy in the Middle East. At the same time, however, it has recognized that Resolution 242 contains provisions in its favor. Syria has been willing to negotiate with the United States over the Arab-Israeli conflict and other regional issues, as long as the diplomacy is conducted quietly and behind the scenes. Syria has also adhered scrupulously to the commitments and promises it has made to American negotiators.
 
Since the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s, the United States has strongly supported Israel but has simultaneously indicated, particularly after the October 1973 War, that it acknowledges the legitimacy of some of Syria’s grievances against Israel. In the aftermath of Israel’s attack on Syrian forces in Lebanon in 1982, the United States was forced to choose between irreconcilable Israeli and Syrian ambitions in Lebanon; the administration of Ronald Reagan chose to endorse the Israeli position. President Reagan supported the May 17, 1983, Lebanese-Israeli accords and linked this peace treaty to his attempts to revive the Arab-Israeli peace process. However, Syria stymied the Reagan initiative, in part by inciting opposition to American policies among its surrogates and proxies in Lebanon. The United States also suspected Syria of having played a role in attacks on the American Embassy and on the Marine barracks in Beirut. Although the degree of Syrian complicity was never determined, American officials believed that Syria at least had foreknowledge of and acquiesced in the attacks.
 
Syrian-United States relations reached their nadir in December 1983, when the two nations engaged in near warfare. On December 4, United States carrier-based warplanes attacked Syrian antiaircraft installations in Lebanon’s Biqa Valley (two were shot down), and on December 13 and 14, US battleships shelled Syrian positions. From a military viewpoint, the clashes were not highly significant. However, they marked the first American-Syrian armed conflict and reinforced Syria’s view of the United States regional policy as gunboat diplomacy.
 
In June 1985, Syrian-United States relations improved dramatically when Syria interceded on behalf of the US after the hijacking to Beirut of Trans World Airlines flight 847. Reagan expressed his appreciation of Syria’s role in securing release of the hostages, albeit in guarded language. Yet to some observers Syria’s ability to impose its will on the hijackers confirmed Syrian links to terrorism. Although Syria had been accused repeatedly of supporting Palestinian terrorism against American, West European, and Israeli targets in the Middle East and in Western Europe, there had been little evidence, much less proof, of direct Syrian complicity in terrorist attacks against Western targets.
 
However, when a Jordanian, Nizar Hindawi, was apprehended on April 17, 1986, after attempting to smuggle a bomb aboard an Israeli El Al Airlines plane in London, he confessed that Syrian intelligence officers had masterminded the abortive attack and that Syria had provided him with the training, logistical support, and explosives to carry out the plot. Britain reportedly collected evidence that corroborated Hindawi’s story. As a consequence, on May 6, 1986, Vice President George H.W. Bush said of Syria, “We are convinced their fingerprints have been on international terrorist acts,” and on November 14, 1986, the United States imposed sanctions on Syria “in response to Syria’s continued support for international terrorism.” The US withdrew its ambassador that same year. A US ambassador returned to Damascus in 1987, partially in response to positive Syrian actions against terrorism such as expelling the Abu Nidal Organization from Syria and helping free an American hostage earlier that year.
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Current U.S. Relations with Syria

Syrian Americans:

Entertainment:
F. (Fahrid) Murray Abraham: Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Abraham won an Academy Award for Best Actor for Amadeus (1984). The actor is known for his television and theater work. His father migrated from Syria in the 1920s.
Jerry Seinfeld: He was born to a mother of Syrian Jewish ancestry. Seinfeld is known for acting in and producing the sitcom Seinfeld.
Moustapha Akkad: The film director was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1930 and moved to the US in 1949 to study film direction and production at UCLA. He was best known for directing Mohammad, Messenger of God (1977)and Lion of the Desert (1981). He was killed on November 9, 2005, in Amman, Jordan, by a suicide bomber, although he ws not the target.
Paula Abdul: Abdul’s father was born in Aleppo, Syria, and moved to the US before her birth. She has had six number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for “Best Music Video – Short Form” and twice won the “Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography. She was also a judge on American Idol for 8 years.
Steve Jobs: Jobs’ biological father, Abdulfattah Jandali, was born in Homs, Syria and emigrated to the US in the 1950s. Jobs was born in San Francisco. He is the co-founder and CEO of Apple and previously worked for Pixar Animation Studios as the chief executive. He was the executive producer of Toy Story (1995).
Vic Tayback: Tayback’s parents moved to Burbank, California from Aleppo, Syria when he was a teenager. He is famous for his role in the 1974 movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and the related television series Alice (1976-1985).
 
Athletes:
Kelly Slater: Born in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Slater was born to Irish and Syrian parents. He is a professional surfer and has been crowned ten times as the ASP World Champion and became the most successful champion in the history of surfing in 2007.
 
Politicians:
Mitch Daniels: A Republican, Daniels was elected Governor of Indiana in 2004. He served as the Director of the US Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush (2001-2003; and was the former President of Eli Lilly and Company’s North American operations. He was born in Pennsylvania, but has Syrian paternal grandparents.
Robert Isaac: The former Republican Mayor of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was of Syrian Christian descent. He served five terms (1979-1997.
Rosemary Barkett: Barkett was born in Mexico to Syrian immigrant parents. She moved to Miami, Florida, in 1946. She is a federal judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and was the first woman to serve as the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
 
Writers:
Jack Marshall: The poet won the PEN West Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for From Baghdad to Brooklyn. His mother was a Syrian Jew.
Louay M. Safi: He is the author of 11 books and several papers and an advocate of Arab and Muslim-American rights. He was born in Damascus but moved to the US in the early1980s.
Mona Simpson: The sister of Steve Jobs is an American novelist and a UCLA English professor. She was born to a Swiss and German mother and Syrian father.
 
Miscellaneous:
Yasser Seirawan: Born in Damascus, he emigrated to Seattle when he was seven. He is a chess grandmaster and a 4-time US champion.
Hala Gorani: Gorani was born in Seattle to parents who were born in Aleppo. She is a news anchor for CNN’s International Desk.
 
The first significant wave of Syrian immigration occurred in The 1880. Immigration Act of 1924 put a quota on Syrian immigration, but was reversed in 1965. Between 1961 and 2000, about 64,000 Syrians came to the US. Before 1960, many Syrian immigrants were Christian, but after 1965, many Muslim Syrians arrived.
 
Syrians arriving in 1880 mainly settled in New York, Boston, and Detroit. Since then, they have settled in all states, but especially the urban centers of each state. Today, New York City has the largest pool of Syrian immigrants. Particularly, the Borough of Brooklyn (especially around Atlantic Avenue, which is known as little Syria). Boston, Detroit, Dearborn, Michigan, Toledo, Ohio, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are known to have large Syrian populations. Since the 1970s, California, particularly Los Angeles, is increasing its Syrian population. Houston is the most recent destination for Syrian immigrants.
 
Syria has been on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism since the list’s inception in 1979. Because of its continuing support and safe haven for terrorist organizations, Syria is subject to legislatively mandated penalties, including export sanctions and ineligibility to receive most forms of US aid or to purchase US military equipment.
 
Syria’s dubious record regarding human rights abuses and support for terrorism did not stop the Bush administration from outsourcing the interrogation and torture of Canadian Maher Arar, who was kidnapped by the CIA and shipped to Syria in 2002. The US suspected him of having links with al-Qaeda. He spent a year in prison in Syria and was often subjected to torture. Arar was finally released when a Canadian government commission of inquiry cleared his name. Although the Syrian government agreed with the Canadians that Arar was “completely innocent,” the US government continues to maintain that he is a terrorist.
 
Relations since the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri have considerably deteriorated. Issues of US concern include the Syrian government’s failure to prevent Syria from becoming a major transit point for foreign fighters entering Iraq, its refusal to deport from Syria former Saddam regime elements who are supporting the insurgency in Iraq, its ongoing interference in Lebanese affairs, its protection of the leadership of Palestinian rejectionist groups in Damascus, its deplorable human rights record, and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
 
In May 2004, the Bush administration, pursuant to the provisions of the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, imposed sanctions on Syria which banned nearly all exports to Syria except food and medicine. In February 2005, in the wake of the Hariri assassination, the US recalled its ambassador to Washington.
 
On September 12, 2006 the US Embassy was attacked by four armed assailants with guns, grenades and a car bomb (which failed to detonate). Syrian Security Forces successfully countered the attack, killing all four attackers. Two other Syrians killed during the attack were a government security guard and a passerby. The Syrian government publicly stated that terrorists had carried out the attack. The US government has not received an official Syrian assessment of the motives or organization behind the attack, but security was upgraded at US facilities. Both the Syrian ambassador to the US, Imad Mushtapha, and President Bashar al-Assad, however, blamed US foreign policy in the region as contributing to the incident.
 
The Obama administration has taken tentative steps towards resuming dialogue with Syria. A visit by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry and a high-level American delegation to Syria in February 2009 renewed speculation of a rapprochement. Robert Stephen Ford was appointed as Ambassador, the first US ambassador to Syria after a five-year break.
 
The administration continues to enforce the 2004 sanctions, but hopes to increase the number of waivers made to the sanctions.
 
With regards to the 2011 protests, the Obama administration decided to side with the Syrian government. However, it stated that Assad’s March 30, 2011, speech on reforms fell short of expectations, especially with regards to democracy.
 
A total of 142,897 people identified themselves as being of Syrian ancestry in the 2000 US census.
 
In 2006, 30,556 Americans visited Syria. The number of visitors has fluctuated between a low of 9,253 (2002), and a high of 38,939 (2004) in recent years. Also in 2006, 4,030 Syrians came to the US. The number of tourists has stayed close to 4,000 in recent years.
 
Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War (Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, Congressional Research Service)
The Future of U.S.-Syrian Relations (by Martin S. Indyk, Director, Saban Center for Middle East Policy)
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Where Does the Money Flow

In 2010, US exports to Syria totaled $511.5 million, while US imports to Syria totaled $429.3 million.

 
Top US exports in 2010 included corn ($272.6 million) and soybeans ($160.6 million). Syrian imports of these two products are increasing. The US is its primary corn supplier.
 
Top US imports in 2010 included fuel oil ($398.7 million); collectibles such as artwork and antiques ($9.7 million); and tea, spices, and preparations ($8.2 million).
 
Due to sanctions imposed in 2004, US exports to Syria have been mostly limited to those related to food or medicine.
 
Trade under the Obama administration has increased, about 50 percent in 2010, due to increasing oil prices and Obama’s efforts to grant more waivers under the Syria Accountability act, which allows increased US exports to Syria with regards to information technology, telecommunication equipment, and civil aviation components. According to Syria Today, trade will continue to grow in 2011 due to rising agricultural prices.
 
In February 2009, the US Department of Commerce approved a license permitting Boeing to make renovations and repair two 747 jetliners belonging to Syrian Arab Airlines, a state-owned company. 
 
Commerce Department Waives Syria Sanctions (by Claudia Rosett, Forbes)
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Controversies

Nuclear Facilities Built by North Korea in Syria

On September 6, 2007, a structure in Kibar, Syria was attacked by Israeli planes. Israel admitted to the air strike but denied US involvement. The US stated that the air strike destroyed a nuclear reactor.
 
In April 2008, the Bush administration accused North Korea of aiding Syria to build that nuclear weapons facility. The Bush administration presented photos showing similarities and linkages supporting their accusation. However, US officials admitted that Syria might not have been designing nuclear weapons.
 
Syria and North Korea have denied any nuclear ties. The Syrian government asserts that the charges were “false allegations.” Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha proclaimed that the reports were, “absolutely, totally, fundamentally ridiculous and untrue.” Meanwhile, a South Korean negotiator announced that the site was a missile factory, but Syrians claimed that it was an agricultural research center. Israel believes that the center was being used to extract uranium.
 
North Korea’s Syrian connection (by Bill Powell, Time)
Syria: There are no N. Korea-Syria nuclear facilities whatsoever (by Avid Issacharoff and Barak Ravid, Haaretz.com)
US opens dossier on Syrian facility (by Greg Miller and Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times)
 
US Commandos Kill Eight Syrians
American helicopters flying from Iraq landed inside Syria in October 2008 and dropped Special Forces who killed eight people. Washington officials admitted it had targeted “foreign fighters,” while Syria warned that it held the US “wholly responsible for this act of aggression and all its repercussions.” It described the dead as Syrian civilians, five of them members of the same family. Syrian state television reported that the attack was against a farm near Abu Kamal, five miles from the Iraqi border. Doctors in nearby al-Sukkariya said another seven people were taken to hospital with bullet wounds. The incident threatened to unleash a new wave of anti-American feeling in Syria and across the Middle East at a time when President Bashar al-Assad, already being courted by Europe, was looking forward to improved relations with Washington after the November presidential election. News of the attack led bulletins across the Arab world - suggesting it will have wide resonance.
 
Bush Administration Targets Cousin of Assad
In March 2008 the Bush administration imposed sanctions on a powerful businessman — and cousin of Syria’s president — who was suspected of corruption. The US Treasury Department froze the assets of Rami Makhlouf, a controversial figure with major interests in Syria’s economy. The move came on the heels of the slaying of senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mugniyah in the heart of the Syrian capital. Until then, sanctions against Syria had gone after support for terrorist activities, narcotics and meddling in Lebanon. The steps taken against Makhlouf represented a jolt to the status quo because they came under a new presidential executive order that allowed sanctions to respond to corruption, as well. “There will undoubtedly be many Syrians who take some satisfaction from this move, but many will also be anxious because the US has penetrated a new level of sovereignty,” said Joshua Landis, an expert on Syria who teaches at the University of Oklahoma.
U.S. Takes Aim at Shadowy Syrian Businessman (by Marc Perelman, Jewish Daily Forward)
 
Pelosi Visit to Syria Draws Criticism
Shortly after becoming Speaker of the House, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-SF) set off in 2007 on a controversial trip to the Middle East, which included a visit to Syria. Bush administration officials made it quite clear they did not want Pelosi to visit Syria, a nation listed as a state sponsor of terror and home to terror group Hezbollah. Pelosi was the highest ranking US official to go to Syria since former Secretary of State Colin Powell visited the nation in 2003. Defying the White House’s Middle East policy by meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Pelosi said, “The road to Damascus is a road to peace.”
 
After meeting for three hours with al-Assad, the House speaker announced that the Syrian president was “ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel.” Assad had repeatedly said over the past year that Damascus was willing to negotiate with Israel as long as talks led to the return of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel after it was attacked by Syria and six other neighbors in the 1967 Six-Day War.
 
Shocking officials in Jerusalem, where she had visited two days earlier, Pelosi said she also told al-Assad that Olmert had wanted to relay the message that Israel was ready for peace talks with Syria. That came as a surprise to the prime minister, whose office denied any such conversation and said that “what was discussed with the House speaker did not include any change in Israel’s policy, as it has been presented to international parties involved in the matter.”
 
Pelosi’s trip to Syria also sparked controversy because of her decision to wear a head scarf and abaya while visiting a mosque. She mingled with Syrians in a market and made the sign of the cross at a Christian tomb during a visit to pursue dialogue with the country’s leader.
Nancy Pelosi’s Syria Head Scarf Controversy (by James Joyner, Outside the Beltway)
 
Maher Arar
Maher Arar, a Canadian-Syrian citizen was seized at JFK Airport in New York City in September 2002 by the US government for allegedly being a member of al-Qaeda. The US held him for two weeks in solitary confinement before extraditing him to Syria for torture. One year later, he was released to his home in Canada when its government a commission of inquiry that cleared him of charges of terrorism.
 
The US had originally acted upon information that was partially supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Their suspicions were based on Arar’s relationsip with Abdullah Almalki, a member of al-Qaeda. During his US detention,Arar was denied a lawyer because he was not a US citizen.
 
When transferred to Syria, he falsely confessed that he had trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In October 2003, Syria released him, claiming that they could not find terrorist links and that they did not torture him.
 
The Canadian Commission of Inquiry, with which the US refused to participate, announced that Arar had no links to terrorist activity. The Commission also indicated that Canadian officials did not agree to Arar’s detention in Syria and believe that US information was “inaccurate and unfair.”
 
A Canadian court awarded Arar $10.5 million as a settlement for his false imprisonment and an additional $1 million to cover his legal costs. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology to him.
 
In January 2004, Arar sued former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on grounds that his constitutional rights and the Torture Victims Protection Act had been violated. Arar’s case was dismissed in 2006 because US actions were based on national security. His case was finally turned down by the Supreme Court on February 1, 2010.
 
Maher Arar (Wikipedia)
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Human Rights

According to the State Department, “The government systematically repressed citizens’ abilities to change their government. In a climate of impunity, there were instances of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life. Members of the security forces tortured and physically abused prisoners and detainees. Security forces arrested and detained individuals—including activists, organizers, and other regime critics—without due process…During the year the government sentenced to prison several high-profile members of the human rights and civil society communities. The government violated citizens’ privacy rights and imposed significant restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and travel…Violence and societal discrimination against women continued, as did sexual exploitation, increasingly aimed at Iraqi refugees, including minors.”

 
Arbitrary of Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were several reports of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life.
 
In early January, Yusuf Jabouli died in custody. When his body was returned to his family on January 7, seven days after his arrest, his family was not allowed to open his coffin or invite others to the funeral. The reasons for his arrest are unknown.
 
There have also been several suspicious Kurdish deaths. About 18 Kurdish soldiers died of unknown causes while serving in the military. The families’ victims claim that the government deliberately killed them.
 
Human rights observers claim that the defense minister, Ali Habib Mahmud, and the military attorney general, decided to suspend further action against the military customs officers named in a military investigation report for shooting Sami Matuk and Joni Suleiman.
 
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Torture has long been an instrument of political power in Syria. In 1984, Amnesty International released a list of 38 types of torture used by Assad’s regime. In addition to the usual practices, Syrian torture included “The Black Slave,” in which the victim is strapped onto a device which, when turned on, inserts a heated metal skewer into his or her anus, and “The Chicken,” whereby the victim is strapped to a revolving wooden bar resembling a roasting spit and subjected to beating with sticks.
 
Article 28 of the Syrian constitution prohibits mental and physical torture, as well as humiliating treatment. However, security forces frequently engage in torture tactics. Human rights organization state that abuses go unreported. Additionally, those who were tortured while detained refused to allow their names revealed for fear of government reprisal.
 
Abuses include “electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; burning genitalia; forcing objects into the rectum; beating, sometimes while the victim was suspended from the ceiling, other times on the soles of the feet; alternately dousing victims with freezing water and beating them in extremely cold rooms; hyperextending the spine; bending the detainees into the frame of a wheel and whipping exposed body parts; using a backward-bending chair to asphyxiate the victim or fracture the victim’s spine; and stripping prisoners naked for public view.”
 
Human Rights Watch released a report that Kurdish citizens were especially likely to be tortured.
 
The government failed to investigate torture cases reported in 2008.
 
 
Prison and Detention Center Conditions:
Prison conditions were poor and fell below international health and sanitation standards. Some security officials at prisons demanded bribes from family members. There was severe overcrowding that resulted in inmates sleeping on the floor. There were several incidents of prison officials withholding food. Finally, the government did not allow international human rights observers to visit.
 
Due to the prison riots at the Sednaya prison from July to December 2008, officials denied visits to inmates.
 
Human rights organizations did not provide adequate medical care and denied medical treatment to some prisoners. An example was the political prisoner and Damascus Declaration National Council Secretary General Riad Seif, who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison while suffering from prostate cancer. Although human rights observers called for his lawful release, the government did not follow through. He received limited medical treatment and continued to have poor health.
 
Although there were separate detention facilities for men, women, and children, the government sometimes detained minors with adults.
 
Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution promotes freedom of speech and press, but the government restricts these rights, often through Emergency Law which prohibits publishing false information that opposes the “goals of the revolution.”
 
The government extensively influences the media as the Ba’ath Party owns most newspaper publishing houses. The government bans all Kurdish-language publications.
 
In May 2009, Prime Minister Mohamad Maji al-Utri outlawed partnerships between the public-sector and media outlets except with the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency. However, the decree’s compliance and enforcement is unknown.
 
The government allowed foreign broadcasts and uses of satellite dishes.
 
Internet Freedom
The Internet is widely available and used by about 17 percent of population, but its information is censored by the government through Emergency Law. Access to websites associated with Kurdish opposition groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood was restricted as well as social networking sites and pan-Arabic newspapers such as Asharq al-Awsat.
 
Freedom of Assembly
The constitution allows for the right of assembly, but Emergency Law restricts this. Demonstrations and gatherings of more than three people require the consent of the Ministry of Information. The government or Ba’ath Party organized most public demonstrations.
 
By the end of 2009, the government had failed to file charges against the individuals involved in the 2006 demonstrations that destroyed the Norwegian embassy and damaged the Danish, Chilean, and Swedish embassies. The embassies received less than the necessary amount of financial aid.
 
Freedom of Religion
The government generally abided by the constitution with regards to freedom of religion. However, the government disapproved of public proselytism and monitored groups practicing militant Islam.
 
The constitution requires the president to be Muslim and the source of legislation to be Islamic.
 
All religions were required to register with the government which monitors all religious meetings except for worship.
 
Jewish citizens were outlawed from government employment, participation in the armed forces, and contact with Israel on the basis of national security. They are also the only religious group whose identity cards state their religion.
 
Official Corruption and Government Transparency
In 2009, the government led a successful national anticorruption campaign, but many officials were exempt due to impunity
 
Several police officers accepted bribes from child laborers and drivers while prison officers who accepted bribes allowed families of detainees to visit without police surveillance.
 
No government body is responsible for monitoring corruption in the private sector.
 
Multiple officials, however, were subject to arrests. On February 8, 2009, the government arrested Brigadier General Hasan Makhlouf and 20 other customs officials. Four days later, the Ministry of Finance seized their assets. However, there no trial date has been released yet.
 
Women
Although rape is a felony, marital rape is not considered a crime. Additionally, if the man (or woman) who commits rape agrees to marry the victim, then there will be no punishment.
 
The law also does not outlaw domestic violence, even though about a quarter of women were victims of this (according to a 2006 survey). Many cases were unreported due to social stigma. Women who tried to file cases were subject to sexual harassment by police instead of aid.
 
Gender-based violence is prevalent among Iraqi refugees. The UN Refugee Agency reported 700 known cases of such violence in 2008. The Agency also reported safe houses in Damascus for women and children who suffered from violence in Iraq or Syria.
 
Trafficking in Persons
Although the government did not fully comply with the international minimum standards to eliminate trafficking, the law prohibits trafficking. Syria was both a destination and a transit point for trafficked women from South and Southeast Asia and Africa as well as Eastern Europe and Iraq.
 
National/Ethnic/Racial Minorities
Although the government generally respects the rights of minorities, there are several exceptions towards the Kurdish minority. For example, it limited the use and teaching of Kurdish. Additionally, Syria passed a law that 60 percent of words on signs need to be written in Arabic. Officials allegedly targeted Kurds.
 
Many Kurds, such as political security agent Sedo Rashed Ali, were arrested. Ali’s whereabouts remained unknown by the end of 2009.
 
Syria: Security Forces Fire on Protestors
In the 2011 protests, security forces used ammunition against protestors in Daraa, Sanmein, and Tafas, killing about 26. As of March 18, the death toll in the Daraa rose to 61 and 12 in Latakia.
 
On March 25, several thousand protestors participated in a funeral procession for those killed in the previous day’s protests. It began peacefully but security forces fired shots after demonstrators attempted to destroy a statue of Hafez al-Assad.
 
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Debate

What Position Should the U.S. Take Regarding Anti-Government Protests in Syria?

Protests in Syria broke out in March 2011 against the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Large protests began in Dara’a when several pupils were arrested for graffiti. Since then, the US government has not taken much action.
 
Obama Administration
The Obama administration has failed to take action in Syria such as it has taken in Libya. The military option is not “on the table” and recalling US Ambassador Robert Ford is unlikely. The administration argues that there have been fewer deaths in Syria than Libya, making military engagement unnecessary. Obama has been working to improve relations with Syria; therefore, any action against Assad is not probable until the outcome becomes more certain. 
 
Additionally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that many members of Congress believe that Bashar al-Assad is a reformer.
 
 
Republican Perspective
The conservative stance, on the other hand, is more active. South Dakota Senator John Thune hopes to recall Robert Ford and believes that Assad is not a reformer.
 
The former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, accused the Obama administration of being naïve. Pawlenty wants to tighten sanctions and calls for the president “to speak strongly and clearly to the people of Syria that we hope and believe and support their drive towards freedom and getting rid of Bashir Assad.”
 
Thune Urges Obama to Recall Ambassador to Syria (by Erin McPike, Real Clear Politics)
Tim Pawlenty on Syria: What the President Should Do (by Daniel Halper, Weekly Standard)
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Past Ambassadors
Charles, Hunter
 
Charles F. (Chuck) Hunter was assigned to the US Embassy in Damascus as the Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’affaires in August 2009. He earned a B.A. in French from Lawrence University in Wisconsin in 1983 and received an M.A. and Ph.D. in French from Stanford University in 1989.
 
Hunter joined the US Information Agency in 1990 and was sent to Cairo as a junior officer trainee the following year. In Algiers he served as Assistant Public Affairs Officer from 1992 to 1993 before heading to Tunis for additional Arabic study. Hunter then spent three years in Muscat before returning to Washington in 1998 as Public Diplomacy Desk Officer for the Levant. He directed the press office in the Bureau of Public Affairs in 2000-2001, where he occasionally acted as the spokesman for the Department of State. In 2002 Hunter was granted the American Political Science Associate Congressional Fellowship, through which he worked for Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).
 
Hunter was then posted to the US Consulate General in Jerusalem as Public Affairs Officer from 2002 to 2005. Upon his completion of this assignment he because the director of the Bureau of Legislative Affairs’ Congressional Liaison Office (2005-2006), and then the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader, based in Al-Hillah, Iraq (2006-2007).
 
Before becoming Chargé d’affaires to Syria, Hunter spent two years as Deputy Director for Western European Affairs, under the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
 
Hunter is fluent in both Arabic and French.
 
 
 
Maura Connelly
A native of Jersey City, New Jersey, Maura Connelly served as Chargé d’affaires in Damascus from August 2008 until August 2009. Connelly was selected to be a page in the US House of Representatives in 1975 and graduated from the Capitol Page School two years later. She attended Georgetown University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in the Science of Foreign Service in 1981. She later attended the Naval War College, where she was granted a master’s degree in national security affairs in 2001.

Connelly joined the Foreign Service in 1985, and her first assignment was at the Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa as a consular officer. In 1988-1990 she served in Algiers as a political officer, and as acting head of the political section for nearly one year. Her next posting was in 1990, where served in Washington as a staff assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs during the Gulf War.

Connelly then pursued two years of Arabic language (1991-1993) training. She then moved to the Consulate in Jerusalem (1993-1996) to serve as the Political Section Chief. From 1996-1997, she returned to Washington and served as in a newly created position designed to support the US/Egypt Partnership for Economic Development, coordinated inter-agency efforts to expand and improve our bilateral relationship with Egypt. In 1997, Connelly returned to the Middle East, serving in Amman as the first refugee coordinator where she monitored US government contributions to two regional organizations operating in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel.

After her attendance at the National War College, Connelly was assigned in 2001 to the United States Mission to the UN, where she held the position of Deputy Counselor for Political Affairs. This was followed by her return to the Middle East in 2003-2005 to be the Deputy Principal Officer at the Consulate General in Jerusalem. She served at the US Embassy in London as the Minister Counselor for Political Affairs from 2005-2008.
 
Connelly speaks French and Arabic.
 
 
 
George Wadsworth
Appointment: Oct 9, 1942
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 30, 1942
Termination of Mission: Left Damascus, Feb 8, 1947
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Syria; also accredited to Lebanon.
 
Paul H. Alling
Appointment: Apr 10, 1947
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Syria. Took oath of office, but did not
proceed to post.
 
James Hugh Keeley, Jr.
Appointment: Oct 8, 1947
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 2, 1948
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 22, 1950
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 9, 1947. Commissioned to the Republic of Syria.
 
Cavendish W. Cannon
Appointment: Sep 20, 1950
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 30, 1950
Termination of Mission: Left post May 8, 1952
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Syria.
 
James S. Moose, Jr.
Appointment: Jun 25, 1952
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 14, 1952
Termination of Mission: Promoted to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Syria.
James S. Moose, Jr.
Appointment: Sep 11, 1952
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 30, 1952
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 30, 1957
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jun 4, 1953.
 
Charles W. Yost
Appointment: Dec 24, 1957
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 16, 1958
Termination of Mission: Syria incorporated into the United Arab Republic, Feb 22, 1958
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 29, 1958. Commissioned to the Republic of Syria.
 
Note: The Embassy in Damascus was reclassified as a Consulate General on Feb 25, 1958. The mission was re-established as an Embassy on Oct 10, 1961, with Ridgway B. Knight as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.
 
Ridgway B. Knight
Appointment: Dec 7, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 11, 1962
Termination of Mission: Left post May 27, 1965
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 30, 1962.
 
Hugh H. Smythe
Appointment: Jul 22, 1965
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 28, 1965
Termination of Mission: Syria severed diplomatic relations with the U.S., Jun 6, 1967; Smythe left post Jun 8, 1967
 
Note: A U.S. Interests Section was established on Feb 8, 1974, in the Italian Embassy with Thomas J. Scotes as Principal Officer. The Embassy in Damascus was re-established on Jun 16, 1974, with Scotes as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.
 
Richard W. Murphy
Appointment: Aug 9, 1974
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 9, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 23, 1978
 
Talcott W. Seelye
Appointment: Jul 31, 1978
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 17, 1978
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 31, 1981
 
Robert P. Paganelli
Appointment: Sep 28, 1981
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 12, 1981
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 13, 1984
 
William L. Eagleton, Jr.
Appointment: Oct 4, 1984
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 6, 1984
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 31, 1988
 
Edward Peter Djerejian
Appointment: Aug 12, 1988
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 2, 1988
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 25, 1991
 
Christopher W. S. Ross
Appointment: Aug 2, 1991
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 25, 1991
Termination of Mission: Left post Mar 22, 1998
 
Ryan Clark Crocker
Appointment: Jun 29, 1998
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 6, 1999
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 30, 2001
 
Theodore H. Kattouf
Appointment: Aug 7, 2001
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 12, 2002
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 23, 2003
 
Margaret Scobey
Appointment: Dec 12, 2003
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 10, 2004
Termination of Mission: 2005
 
Maura Connelly (Chargé d’affaires)
Appointment: August 2008
Termination of Mission: August 2009
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Syria's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Moustapha, Imad

Imad Moustapha became ambassador of Syria to the United States on March 31, 2004. Moustapha holds a doctorate in computer science from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and is fluent in English and French and speaks some German.

 
Moustapha previously served as dean of the faculty of information technology at the University of Damascus and secretary-general of the Arab School on Science and Technology. He is a co-founder of the Network of Syrian Scientists, Technologists and Innovators Abroad (NOSSTIA), and was an active consultant to several international and regional organizations on science and technology policies in the Middle East. In addition, Moustapha served as a member of the Syrian team responsible for drafting reform strategies for the ministries of culture, education and higher education.
 
A prolific writer with more than 200 published articles in English and Arabic, Moustapha has also authored, co-authored and edited several books and has appeared in numerous television news programs around the world.
 

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Syria's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Syria

Ford, Robert
ambassador-image

On February 16, 2010, President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Robert Stephen Ford as the next U.S. ambassador to Syria. This was a significant gesture because the United States has been without such an official for five years, ever since the Bush administration broke off diplomatic relations with the Middle East country. Ford’s confirmation hearing was held on March 16, but his confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans who disagree with the policy of reengaging the Syrian government. President Obama finally gave Ford a recess appointment on December 29.

 
Although the U.S. blamed Syria for the assassination of Lebanon’s prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, Obama decided after taking office to begin rebuilding relations with officials in Damascus. With Ford, Syria would gets not only a career Foreign Service officer, but also one of the State Department’s top Arab specialists who has already served at other diplomatic posts in the Mideast and North Africa.
 
A native of Denver, Ford earned his bachelor’s degree in 1980 from Johns Hopkins University and his Master of Arts from the university’s School of Advanced International Studies in 1983.
 
After serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco, he joined the Foreign Service in 1985 as an economics officer. His early postings included Izmir, Turkey, Cairo, Egypt, Algiers, Algeria (1994-1997), and Yaounde, Cameroon.
 
From 2001-2004 he was deputy chief of mission in Bahrain, but he was sent to Iraq after the March 2003 U.S. invasion. He served first as the U.S. representative in the Shiite city of Najaf and then as political counselor to Ambassador John D. Negroponte in Baghdad. He remained in Iraq until June 2006.
 
President George W. Bush appointed Ford as ambassador to Algeria in May 2006 and he presented his credentials there on September 4. Then, it was back to Iraq in 2008, where he served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy.
 
Ford speaks German, Turkish, French, and Arabic.
 
Ford’s wife, Alison Barkley, is also a US diplomat, and also served two tours in Iraq.
 
Robert S. Ford Biography (State Department)
Progress and Pain Marked Envoy's Tenure in Iraq (by Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times)

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Overview

Syria was historically the political center of the Middle East, while today its capital, Damascus, is recognized by UNESCO as the Arab Capital of Culture. Over the past 60 years, since 1961, Syria has been ruled by the Ba’ath Party, the same party that ruled Iraq until the fall of Saddam Hussein, and for three decades, the most powerful figure in Syria was dictator Hafiz al-Assad. The former defense minister came to power after overthrowing the Syrian leadership in 1970, and built an elaborate intelligence network that aided Assad’s tight grip on power and created a police state that has produced scores of human rights abuses. Upon his death in 2000, control of the government shifted to Assad’s son, Bashar, who has managed to remain in power despite internal threats from enemies of his father and Islamic militants.

 
Over the years, United States-Syrian relations have ranged between grudging mutual accommodation and outright mutual hostility. Syria has been on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism since the list’s inception in 1979. Because of its continuing support and safe haven for terrorist organizations, Syria is subject to legislatively mandated penalties, including export sanctions and ineligibility to receive most forms of US aid or to purchase US military equipment. On the other hand, Issues of US concern include the Syrian government’s failure to prevent Syria from becoming a major transit point for foreign fighters entering Iraq, its refusal to deport from Syria former Saddam regime elements who are supporting the insurgency in Iraq, its ongoing interference in Lebanese affairs, and its deplorable human rights record. The Obama administration, however, has taken steps towards resuming dialogue with Syria by sending high-level diplomats to Damascus and appointing Robert Stephen Ford as the US ambassador to Syria.
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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Syria is located in the Middle East and rests on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It shares borders with Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, Israel to the southwest, and Lebanon to the west. Prominent geographic features are the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, which run parallel to the Mediterranean from the Golan Heights (occupied since 1967 by Israel) to the Turkish border; the Euphrates River valley, which traverses the country from the north to the southeast; the remote Jebel al-Druz Mountains in the south; and the semidesert plateau in the southeast. The east flank of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains is dotted with valley oases, the largest of which, lying 70 miles by road across Lebanon from the coast, is the site of Damascus, the capital. The climate of the Damascus region is roughly comparable to that of Phoenix, Arizona.

 
Population: 21.1 million (World Bank)
 
Religions: Sunni Muslim 74%, other Muslim (Alawi, Isma’ili, Shi'a) 13%, Druze 3%, Christian (Eastern Orthodox, Uniate, Nestorian) 10%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and others 9.7%.
 
Languages: Arabic (official), North Levantine Arabic 48.9%, Northern Kurdish 5.2%, Najdi Arabic 2.8%, Armenian 1.8%, North Mesopotamian 1.7%, Levantine Bedawi Arabic 0.4%, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic 0.2%, South Azerbaijani 0.2%, Adyghe 0.1%, Domari 0.05%, Western Neo-Aramaic 0.07%, Mesopotamian Arabic 0.01%, Lomavren, Turoyo.
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History

On the crossroads of history, Syria was occupied by Akkadians, Amorites, Hittites, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Arameans, Hebrews, Egyptians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Iranians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, European Crusaders, Mongols, Mamluks and Turks. Syria is the site of the oldest preserved Jewish synagogue and the earliest identified Christian church. Damascus is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world still standing. What is now Syria entered the 20th century as part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. After World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, nationalists proclaimed the independent Arab Kingdom of Syria with Emir Faisal of the Hashemite dynasty king. However, in July 1920, French troops defeated Faisal’s Arab army at the Battle of Maysalun and imposed military rule. Faisal moved on to Iraq, where he was king until his death in 1933.

 
In 1922, the League of Nations gave Great Britain control of Transjordan and Palestine, and France what would evolve into present-day Syria and Lebanon. Nationalist revolts, protests and strikes continued throughout the 1920s and 1930s, particularly among the Sunni majority. After the Free French and the British drove out the pro-Nazi Vichy government, Syria proclaimed its independence in 1943. In 1945, the French tried to reestablish control, but pressure from the newly-created United Nations forced them to withdraw the last of their troops on April 17, 1946. Syria’s first decade of independence was chaotic. It saw a failed invasion of Israel in 1948, a military coup in 1949, twenty cabinets and four constitutions.
 
The Ba’ath Party was founded in 1945 in Damascus by Michel Aflaq, a Christian, and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Sunni Muslim. It was conceived as a secular, pan-Arab nationalist party and it gained its greatest popularity in Syria and Iraq. Democracy was restored in Syria in 1954 and Ba’athists won seats in the next parliamentary elections. In 1959, when Syria joined Egypt to form the United Arab Republic, the Ba’ath Party leadership, as part of the union agreement, agreed to disband the party. This did not sit well with the party rank and file, and the union with Egypt was not popular with Syrians in general. A military coup in Syria put an end to the United Arab Republic in 1961. Ba’athist military officers, with help from other nationalists, seized power on March 8, 1963, a month after Iraqi Ba’athists gained control, albeit briefly, in their country. In Syria the Ba’athists banned all other political parties, but factions developed within the party itself.
 
Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel during the June 1967 War, and in 1970 Syrian forces failed in their attempt to invade Jordan. On November 12, 1970, the minister of defense, Hafiz al-Assad, led a bloodless military coup that removed Syria’s civilian leadership. Assad and his son have ruled Syria ever since.
 
Hafiz al-Assad would prove to be much less interested in ideology than previous Ba’ath leaders. His main concern was securing personal power. The Alawites, the religious minority to which Assad belonged, follow a syncretic version of Islam that combines elements of Twelfer Shi’ism with Christian practices. For example, in addition to observing Muslim holidays, the Alawites also celebrate Christmas and Epiphany. They are considered heretics by orthodox Sunni Muslims, some of whom refer to them as “little Christians.” The Alawites are centered in eastern Syria. Because they constitute barely 10% of the Syrian population, Hafiz al-Assad, in order to stay in power, had to create a coalition of Syria’s non-Sunni minorities. During the final years of his life, five of his seven closest advisors were Christians.
 
Within a few years of seizing power, Assad was supreme commander of the armed forces, head of the Ba’ath Party and head of the executive branch of the government. He was responsible for choosing all government ministers and their deputies, all senior civil servants, all military officers and all judges. Although he had allowed the legalization of friendly political parties and of a basically impotent parliament, Assad retained the right to dissolve that parliament.
 
On October 6, 1973, Syria and Egypt attacked Israel in an attempt to regain lost territory. A negotiated settlement ended the fighting after three weeks, but the Golan Heights remained under Israeli control. In 1975, Assad sent Syrian troops into Lebanon, which was immersed in a complex civil war. They remained there for 30 years. In 1982, 200 members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood staged an insurrection in the northern city of Hama. Assad responded with overwhelming force, pounding the city with mortars for three weeks and killing more than 10,000 civilians. Beginning in the 1980s, Assad used terrorism as a foreign policy tool. He supported Abu Nidal’s Palestinian terrorist group, the Fatah Revolutionary Council, and Abdullah Ocalan’s Kurdish Workers Party, among others. He was also widely accused of supporting numerous terrorist organizations through intermediaries so that he personally could deny involvement in their acts. The terrorists who blew up the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, killing 19 US soldiers, planned their attack in Syria.
 
Assad intended to pass on control of Syria to the oldest of his four sons, the charismatic Basil, but on January 21, 1994, Basil was killed in a car accident while driving to the airport in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Assad then turned to his second son, Bashar.
 
Bashar al-Assad was born in Damascus on September 11, 1965, and attended the elite Fraternity School. Because Basil was the heir apparent, Bashar was free to pursue a relatively normal life. More bookish and intellectual than his flashy older brother, who went straight into military training, Bashar chose to study medicine. This probably pleased his father, who, as a youth, had hoped to become a doctor, but was prevented from pursuing his goal because his family lacked the necessary financial resources. Bashar earned his medical degree from Damascus University in 1988 and then met his military service requirement by working as an army doctor. He moved to England in 1992 to do postgraduate training in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital in London. He would later marry Asma Akhras, a Syrian who was raised in London.
 
When Basil died, Bashar returned to Damascus for the funeral and found that his life was about to be turned upside down. Having decided to groom Bashar to be his successor, Hafiz al-Assad set to work to bolster his credentials with the all-important military. Bashar, after his obligatory two years as an army doctor, had left the service with the rank of captain. Now he was enrolled in a course for tank battalion commanders and then put in charge of a tank unit in November 1994. He was promoted to major in January 1995. The following year he enrolled in the command and general staff course at the Higher Military Academy and he graduated with honors in July 1997. He was immediately promoted to lieutenant colonel and put in charge of the same Republican Guard brigade that Basil had commanded. Early in 1999 he moved up to the rank of staff colonel.
 
To further strengthen Bashar’s status, his father insisted that respected members of the military praise him publicly. Even more important, Hafiz set about eliminating from positions of power, in the military and in the intelligence and security agencies, anyone who might challenge Bashar, including Hafiz’s own brother, Rifa’t. They were replaced by trustworthy loyalists. Bashar’s brother-in-law, Asif Shawkat, the husband of Bashar’s older sister, Bushra, was given a position in Syrian Military Intelligence and quickly promoted to second-in-command. Hafiz al-Assad also initiated a public relations campaign to sell Bashar to the Syrian citizenry, blanketing the country with posters of Hafiz, Basil and Bashar with captions that read, “our leader, our ideal and our hope.”
 
Acknowledging the public’s cynicism about governmental corruption, Hafiz put Bashar in charge of a highly visible anti-corruption campaign (just as he had done earlier with Basil) with offices throughout the country where citizens could go to express their complaints. Of course real anticorruption prosecutions were extremely selective, as possible challengers to Bashar found themselves charged with various offenses, while regime loyalists survived unscathed.
 
Bashar was given the chairmanship of the Syrian Computer Society, a position previously held by Basil. However, unlike his late brother, Bashar, an academic, took the post seriously and is credited with promoting the introduction of the Internet to Syria, a development that is rarely a foregone conclusion in dictatorships. Hafiz also gradually educated Bashar in Syria’s relationship with Lebanon, and by late 1998 Bashar was handling the management of Lebanese affairs. He met with a wide range of Lebanese political figures and took a particular liking to Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah. Combining his two portfolios, anticorruption and Lebanon, Bashar targeted the Syrian business associates of Lebanon’s billionaire prime minister, Rafiq al-Hariri, a Sunni Muslim whom Hafiz al-Assad wanted removed from power.
 
When Hafiz al-Assad died on June 10, 2000, the Syrian parliament quickly lowered the minimum age for presidents from 40 to 34 and Bashar was sworn in. Many Syrians and foreign observers found it hard to believe that Bashar al-Assad could stay in power for long and considered him a transitional president until the real powers-that-be decided who would take his place. But Hafiz had done a good job of eliminating Bashar’s most dangerous contenders. In addition, the most powerful players in the military, the intelligence services, the government bureaucracy and the Ba’ath Party were content to leave Bashar alone…as long as he didn’t try to rock the boat.
 
For example, Bashar convinced the parliament to pass a law legalizing private banks, but not one private bank actually opened. More significantly, Bashar released more than 600 political prisoners, and he encouraged the formation of political and cultural forums where citizens could discuss democracy. Syrian intellectuals were so refreshed by this climate of openness that they called it the “Damascus Spring.” Soon hundreds of pro-democracy advocates were meeting at these forums and circulating petitions promoting a more open society. Even members of parliament were calling for an end to the emergency laws that had been in place since December 1962. Then the crackdown began. The authorities shut down the discussion forums and arrested almost all of their most vocal members. It is unclear whether the dismantling of the discussion groups was an example of the Syrian old guard overruling Bashar’s reformist tendencies or if the creation of the forums in the first place was a trick to identify regime opponents.
 
Bashar has been uncompromising in his anti-Semitism. When Pope John Paul II visited Damascus in May 2001, Bashar used his welcoming speech to denounce the Jews, saying, “They tried to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and the same way they tried to betray and kill the Prophet Muhammad.” At an Arab summit conference in Beirut in March 2002, he declared that all Israelis were legitimate targets for terrorist attacks.
 
Syrian troops invaded Lebanon in 1975 to “stabilize” the country during its civil war. This action was not really that surprising considering that Syrians had, for centuries, considered both Lebanon and Palestine part of “Greater Syria.” In the current context, the Syrian occupation created a buffer zone that allowed Syria to support anti-Israeli terrorist groups without having them actually operate from within Syrian borders It also ensured that Lebanon remained a closed market for Syrian products and a place of employment for more than one million Syrians, most of whom would otherwise be unemployed if they had to return to Syria. Assad maintained control of Lebanon through the use of 30,000 troops, an extensive military intelligence network and financial support of Shi’ite political parties, including Hezbollah, Shi’ites constituting one-third of the Lebanese population.
 
On August 27, 2004, Bashar ordered Rafiq al-Hariri, the longtime enemy of the Assad family, to have the Lebanese parliament amend its constitution to allow the pro-Syrian president of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, to remain in office after his six-year term expired in November. Although Hariri was humiliated by the way the young Bashar treated him, he pushed through the amendment anyway…in a ten-minute legislative session. One week later, France and the United States co-sponsored a resolution in the United Nations, which was passed by the Security Council, demanding that Syria withdraw its 20,000 remaining troops from Lebanon and disband the armed wing of Hezbollah. This was a stunning development for Bashar and the Syrian leadership because France had always been Syria’s leading Western supporter.
 
On October 20, Rafiq al-Hariri resigned as prime minister and began to make plans for the May 2005 parliamentary elections, which would be monitored by international observer groups. On February 2, 2005, Hariri and the Lebanese opposition publicly called for the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops. Twelve days later, Hariri was assassinated by a massive truck bomb in Beirut that also killed nineteen other people. There followed a series of increasingly large street demonstrations, starting with one for Hariri’s funeral. On March 8, Nasrallah and Hezbollah mobilized 500,000 pro-Syrian demonstrators. Six days later, the combined Sunni, Christian and Druze opposition brought out one million people for the largest demonstration in Lebanese history. Following the release of a United Nations report that implicated the Syrian leadership, including one of Bashar’s younger brothers and his sister’s husband, in the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, or at least in a refusal to seek out the perpetrators, Bashar al-Assad agreed to withdraw his troops. The last of the Syrian troops finally left Lebanon on April 26, 2005. Although this was a blow to Bashar’s prestige, Syria maintained major influence in Lebanon through its intelligence presence, its deep involvement in Lebanon’s security forces and its business connections.
 
Beginning in 2007, diplomatic relations with the Western world began to improve as the European Union revived relations with Syria and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Damascus. Three years later, the US finally posted Ambassador Robert Stephen Ford to Syria.
 
The pro-democracy protests in the Middle East in 2011 spread to Syria. They began on March 16, 2011, when about 150 people protested the detention of political prisoners. Reports say that 35 protestors were arrested. Two days later, a “Day of Rage” was held in several cities including Damascus, Homs, Banyas, and Deraa, resulting in the death of four people. Their deaths led to violent unrest and several additional deaths.
 
Protestors hope to decrease corruption and poverty and end emergency law.
 
Timeline (Syrian History)
History of Syria (Wikipedia)
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Syria's Newspapers

Al Baath (Arabic)

Al Jamahir (Arabic)
Al Thawra (Arabic)
Champress (Arabic)
Champress (English)
Syria Today (English)
Tishreen (Arabic)
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History of U.S. Relations with Syria

Because US immigration records before 1920 defined “Syrian” as any immigrant from the Ottoman province of Greater Syria, which included the modern day countries Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Cyprus, and parts of Turkey and of Jordan, it was estimated that immigrants from this historic region numbered 200,000 in the 1920s. New York City, and specifically the area around Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, continue to be the center of Syrian life in America. Other large communities can be found in Boston, Detroit, Dearborn (Michigan), New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Houston.

 
Over the years, United States-Syrian relations ranged between grudging mutual accommodation and outright mutual hostility. But even when the relationship was strained severely, American foreign policy toward Syria with regard to the broader Arab-Israeli conflict has remained consistent. The US endorses UN Security Council Resolution 242, the implementation of which would entail the return of the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights to Syrian control.
 
For its part, Syria has often vehemently criticized American policy in the Middle East. At the same time, however, it has recognized that Resolution 242 contains provisions in its favor. Syria has been willing to negotiate with the United States over the Arab-Israeli conflict and other regional issues, as long as the diplomacy is conducted quietly and behind the scenes. Syria has also adhered scrupulously to the commitments and promises it has made to American negotiators.
 
Since the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s, the United States has strongly supported Israel but has simultaneously indicated, particularly after the October 1973 War, that it acknowledges the legitimacy of some of Syria’s grievances against Israel. In the aftermath of Israel’s attack on Syrian forces in Lebanon in 1982, the United States was forced to choose between irreconcilable Israeli and Syrian ambitions in Lebanon; the administration of Ronald Reagan chose to endorse the Israeli position. President Reagan supported the May 17, 1983, Lebanese-Israeli accords and linked this peace treaty to his attempts to revive the Arab-Israeli peace process. However, Syria stymied the Reagan initiative, in part by inciting opposition to American policies among its surrogates and proxies in Lebanon. The United States also suspected Syria of having played a role in attacks on the American Embassy and on the Marine barracks in Beirut. Although the degree of Syrian complicity was never determined, American officials believed that Syria at least had foreknowledge of and acquiesced in the attacks.
 
Syrian-United States relations reached their nadir in December 1983, when the two nations engaged in near warfare. On December 4, United States carrier-based warplanes attacked Syrian antiaircraft installations in Lebanon’s Biqa Valley (two were shot down), and on December 13 and 14, US battleships shelled Syrian positions. From a military viewpoint, the clashes were not highly significant. However, they marked the first American-Syrian armed conflict and reinforced Syria’s view of the United States regional policy as gunboat diplomacy.
 
In June 1985, Syrian-United States relations improved dramatically when Syria interceded on behalf of the US after the hijacking to Beirut of Trans World Airlines flight 847. Reagan expressed his appreciation of Syria’s role in securing release of the hostages, albeit in guarded language. Yet to some observers Syria’s ability to impose its will on the hijackers confirmed Syrian links to terrorism. Although Syria had been accused repeatedly of supporting Palestinian terrorism against American, West European, and Israeli targets in the Middle East and in Western Europe, there had been little evidence, much less proof, of direct Syrian complicity in terrorist attacks against Western targets.
 
However, when a Jordanian, Nizar Hindawi, was apprehended on April 17, 1986, after attempting to smuggle a bomb aboard an Israeli El Al Airlines plane in London, he confessed that Syrian intelligence officers had masterminded the abortive attack and that Syria had provided him with the training, logistical support, and explosives to carry out the plot. Britain reportedly collected evidence that corroborated Hindawi’s story. As a consequence, on May 6, 1986, Vice President George H.W. Bush said of Syria, “We are convinced their fingerprints have been on international terrorist acts,” and on November 14, 1986, the United States imposed sanctions on Syria “in response to Syria’s continued support for international terrorism.” The US withdrew its ambassador that same year. A US ambassador returned to Damascus in 1987, partially in response to positive Syrian actions against terrorism such as expelling the Abu Nidal Organization from Syria and helping free an American hostage earlier that year.
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Current U.S. Relations with Syria

Syrian Americans:

Entertainment:
F. (Fahrid) Murray Abraham: Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Abraham won an Academy Award for Best Actor for Amadeus (1984). The actor is known for his television and theater work. His father migrated from Syria in the 1920s.
Jerry Seinfeld: He was born to a mother of Syrian Jewish ancestry. Seinfeld is known for acting in and producing the sitcom Seinfeld.
Moustapha Akkad: The film director was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1930 and moved to the US in 1949 to study film direction and production at UCLA. He was best known for directing Mohammad, Messenger of God (1977)and Lion of the Desert (1981). He was killed on November 9, 2005, in Amman, Jordan, by a suicide bomber, although he ws not the target.
Paula Abdul: Abdul’s father was born in Aleppo, Syria, and moved to the US before her birth. She has had six number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for “Best Music Video – Short Form” and twice won the “Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography. She was also a judge on American Idol for 8 years.
Steve Jobs: Jobs’ biological father, Abdulfattah Jandali, was born in Homs, Syria and emigrated to the US in the 1950s. Jobs was born in San Francisco. He is the co-founder and CEO of Apple and previously worked for Pixar Animation Studios as the chief executive. He was the executive producer of Toy Story (1995).
Vic Tayback: Tayback’s parents moved to Burbank, California from Aleppo, Syria when he was a teenager. He is famous for his role in the 1974 movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and the related television series Alice (1976-1985).
 
Athletes:
Kelly Slater: Born in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Slater was born to Irish and Syrian parents. He is a professional surfer and has been crowned ten times as the ASP World Champion and became the most successful champion in the history of surfing in 2007.
 
Politicians:
Mitch Daniels: A Republican, Daniels was elected Governor of Indiana in 2004. He served as the Director of the US Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush (2001-2003; and was the former President of Eli Lilly and Company’s North American operations. He was born in Pennsylvania, but has Syrian paternal grandparents.
Robert Isaac: The former Republican Mayor of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was of Syrian Christian descent. He served five terms (1979-1997.
Rosemary Barkett: Barkett was born in Mexico to Syrian immigrant parents. She moved to Miami, Florida, in 1946. She is a federal judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and was the first woman to serve as the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
 
Writers:
Jack Marshall: The poet won the PEN West Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for From Baghdad to Brooklyn. His mother was a Syrian Jew.
Louay M. Safi: He is the author of 11 books and several papers and an advocate of Arab and Muslim-American rights. He was born in Damascus but moved to the US in the early1980s.
Mona Simpson: The sister of Steve Jobs is an American novelist and a UCLA English professor. She was born to a Swiss and German mother and Syrian father.
 
Miscellaneous:
Yasser Seirawan: Born in Damascus, he emigrated to Seattle when he was seven. He is a chess grandmaster and a 4-time US champion.
Hala Gorani: Gorani was born in Seattle to parents who were born in Aleppo. She is a news anchor for CNN’s International Desk.
 
The first significant wave of Syrian immigration occurred in The 1880. Immigration Act of 1924 put a quota on Syrian immigration, but was reversed in 1965. Between 1961 and 2000, about 64,000 Syrians came to the US. Before 1960, many Syrian immigrants were Christian, but after 1965, many Muslim Syrians arrived.
 
Syrians arriving in 1880 mainly settled in New York, Boston, and Detroit. Since then, they have settled in all states, but especially the urban centers of each state. Today, New York City has the largest pool of Syrian immigrants. Particularly, the Borough of Brooklyn (especially around Atlantic Avenue, which is known as little Syria). Boston, Detroit, Dearborn, Michigan, Toledo, Ohio, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are known to have large Syrian populations. Since the 1970s, California, particularly Los Angeles, is increasing its Syrian population. Houston is the most recent destination for Syrian immigrants.
 
Syria has been on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism since the list’s inception in 1979. Because of its continuing support and safe haven for terrorist organizations, Syria is subject to legislatively mandated penalties, including export sanctions and ineligibility to receive most forms of US aid or to purchase US military equipment.
 
Syria’s dubious record regarding human rights abuses and support for terrorism did not stop the Bush administration from outsourcing the interrogation and torture of Canadian Maher Arar, who was kidnapped by the CIA and shipped to Syria in 2002. The US suspected him of having links with al-Qaeda. He spent a year in prison in Syria and was often subjected to torture. Arar was finally released when a Canadian government commission of inquiry cleared his name. Although the Syrian government agreed with the Canadians that Arar was “completely innocent,” the US government continues to maintain that he is a terrorist.
 
Relations since the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri have considerably deteriorated. Issues of US concern include the Syrian government’s failure to prevent Syria from becoming a major transit point for foreign fighters entering Iraq, its refusal to deport from Syria former Saddam regime elements who are supporting the insurgency in Iraq, its ongoing interference in Lebanese affairs, its protection of the leadership of Palestinian rejectionist groups in Damascus, its deplorable human rights record, and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
 
In May 2004, the Bush administration, pursuant to the provisions of the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, imposed sanctions on Syria which banned nearly all exports to Syria except food and medicine. In February 2005, in the wake of the Hariri assassination, the US recalled its ambassador to Washington.
 
On September 12, 2006 the US Embassy was attacked by four armed assailants with guns, grenades and a car bomb (which failed to detonate). Syrian Security Forces successfully countered the attack, killing all four attackers. Two other Syrians killed during the attack were a government security guard and a passerby. The Syrian government publicly stated that terrorists had carried out the attack. The US government has not received an official Syrian assessment of the motives or organization behind the attack, but security was upgraded at US facilities. Both the Syrian ambassador to the US, Imad Mushtapha, and President Bashar al-Assad, however, blamed US foreign policy in the region as contributing to the incident.
 
The Obama administration has taken tentative steps towards resuming dialogue with Syria. A visit by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry and a high-level American delegation to Syria in February 2009 renewed speculation of a rapprochement. Robert Stephen Ford was appointed as Ambassador, the first US ambassador to Syria after a five-year break.
 
The administration continues to enforce the 2004 sanctions, but hopes to increase the number of waivers made to the sanctions.
 
With regards to the 2011 protests, the Obama administration decided to side with the Syrian government. However, it stated that Assad’s March 30, 2011, speech on reforms fell short of expectations, especially with regards to democracy.
 
A total of 142,897 people identified themselves as being of Syrian ancestry in the 2000 US census.
 
In 2006, 30,556 Americans visited Syria. The number of visitors has fluctuated between a low of 9,253 (2002), and a high of 38,939 (2004) in recent years. Also in 2006, 4,030 Syrians came to the US. The number of tourists has stayed close to 4,000 in recent years.
 
Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War (Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, Congressional Research Service)
The Future of U.S.-Syrian Relations (by Martin S. Indyk, Director, Saban Center for Middle East Policy)
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Where Does the Money Flow

In 2010, US exports to Syria totaled $511.5 million, while US imports to Syria totaled $429.3 million.

 
Top US exports in 2010 included corn ($272.6 million) and soybeans ($160.6 million). Syrian imports of these two products are increasing. The US is its primary corn supplier.
 
Top US imports in 2010 included fuel oil ($398.7 million); collectibles such as artwork and antiques ($9.7 million); and tea, spices, and preparations ($8.2 million).
 
Due to sanctions imposed in 2004, US exports to Syria have been mostly limited to those related to food or medicine.
 
Trade under the Obama administration has increased, about 50 percent in 2010, due to increasing oil prices and Obama’s efforts to grant more waivers under the Syria Accountability act, which allows increased US exports to Syria with regards to information technology, telecommunication equipment, and civil aviation components. According to Syria Today, trade will continue to grow in 2011 due to rising agricultural prices.
 
In February 2009, the US Department of Commerce approved a license permitting Boeing to make renovations and repair two 747 jetliners belonging to Syrian Arab Airlines, a state-owned company. 
 
Commerce Department Waives Syria Sanctions (by Claudia Rosett, Forbes)
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Controversies

Nuclear Facilities Built by North Korea in Syria

On September 6, 2007, a structure in Kibar, Syria was attacked by Israeli planes. Israel admitted to the air strike but denied US involvement. The US stated that the air strike destroyed a nuclear reactor.
 
In April 2008, the Bush administration accused North Korea of aiding Syria to build that nuclear weapons facility. The Bush administration presented photos showing similarities and linkages supporting their accusation. However, US officials admitted that Syria might not have been designing nuclear weapons.
 
Syria and North Korea have denied any nuclear ties. The Syrian government asserts that the charges were “false allegations.” Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha proclaimed that the reports were, “absolutely, totally, fundamentally ridiculous and untrue.” Meanwhile, a South Korean negotiator announced that the site was a missile factory, but Syrians claimed that it was an agricultural research center. Israel believes that the center was being used to extract uranium.
 
North Korea’s Syrian connection (by Bill Powell, Time)
Syria: There are no N. Korea-Syria nuclear facilities whatsoever (by Avid Issacharoff and Barak Ravid, Haaretz.com)
US opens dossier on Syrian facility (by Greg Miller and Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times)
 
US Commandos Kill Eight Syrians
American helicopters flying from Iraq landed inside Syria in October 2008 and dropped Special Forces who killed eight people. Washington officials admitted it had targeted “foreign fighters,” while Syria warned that it held the US “wholly responsible for this act of aggression and all its repercussions.” It described the dead as Syrian civilians, five of them members of the same family. Syrian state television reported that the attack was against a farm near Abu Kamal, five miles from the Iraqi border. Doctors in nearby al-Sukkariya said another seven people were taken to hospital with bullet wounds. The incident threatened to unleash a new wave of anti-American feeling in Syria and across the Middle East at a time when President Bashar al-Assad, already being courted by Europe, was looking forward to improved relations with Washington after the November presidential election. News of the attack led bulletins across the Arab world - suggesting it will have wide resonance.
 
Bush Administration Targets Cousin of Assad
In March 2008 the Bush administration imposed sanctions on a powerful businessman — and cousin of Syria’s president — who was suspected of corruption. The US Treasury Department froze the assets of Rami Makhlouf, a controversial figure with major interests in Syria’s economy. The move came on the heels of the slaying of senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mugniyah in the heart of the Syrian capital. Until then, sanctions against Syria had gone after support for terrorist activities, narcotics and meddling in Lebanon. The steps taken against Makhlouf represented a jolt to the status quo because they came under a new presidential executive order that allowed sanctions to respond to corruption, as well. “There will undoubtedly be many Syrians who take some satisfaction from this move, but many will also be anxious because the US has penetrated a new level of sovereignty,” said Joshua Landis, an expert on Syria who teaches at the University of Oklahoma.
U.S. Takes Aim at Shadowy Syrian Businessman (by Marc Perelman, Jewish Daily Forward)
 
Pelosi Visit to Syria Draws Criticism
Shortly after becoming Speaker of the House, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-SF) set off in 2007 on a controversial trip to the Middle East, which included a visit to Syria. Bush administration officials made it quite clear they did not want Pelosi to visit Syria, a nation listed as a state sponsor of terror and home to terror group Hezbollah. Pelosi was the highest ranking US official to go to Syria since former Secretary of State Colin Powell visited the nation in 2003. Defying the White House’s Middle East policy by meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Pelosi said, “The road to Damascus is a road to peace.”
 
After meeting for three hours with al-Assad, the House speaker announced that the Syrian president was “ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel.” Assad had repeatedly said over the past year that Damascus was willing to negotiate with Israel as long as talks led to the return of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel after it was attacked by Syria and six other neighbors in the 1967 Six-Day War.
 
Shocking officials in Jerusalem, where she had visited two days earlier, Pelosi said she also told al-Assad that Olmert had wanted to relay the message that Israel was ready for peace talks with Syria. That came as a surprise to the prime minister, whose office denied any such conversation and said that “what was discussed with the House speaker did not include any change in Israel’s policy, as it has been presented to international parties involved in the matter.”
 
Pelosi’s trip to Syria also sparked controversy because of her decision to wear a head scarf and abaya while visiting a mosque. She mingled with Syrians in a market and made the sign of the cross at a Christian tomb during a visit to pursue dialogue with the country’s leader.
Nancy Pelosi’s Syria Head Scarf Controversy (by James Joyner, Outside the Beltway)
 
Maher Arar
Maher Arar, a Canadian-Syrian citizen was seized at JFK Airport in New York City in September 2002 by the US government for allegedly being a member of al-Qaeda. The US held him for two weeks in solitary confinement before extraditing him to Syria for torture. One year later, he was released to his home in Canada when its government a commission of inquiry that cleared him of charges of terrorism.
 
The US had originally acted upon information that was partially supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Their suspicions were based on Arar’s relationsip with Abdullah Almalki, a member of al-Qaeda. During his US detention,Arar was denied a lawyer because he was not a US citizen.
 
When transferred to Syria, he falsely confessed that he had trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In October 2003, Syria released him, claiming that they could not find terrorist links and that they did not torture him.
 
The Canadian Commission of Inquiry, with which the US refused to participate, announced that Arar had no links to terrorist activity. The Commission also indicated that Canadian officials did not agree to Arar’s detention in Syria and believe that US information was “inaccurate and unfair.”
 
A Canadian court awarded Arar $10.5 million as a settlement for his false imprisonment and an additional $1 million to cover his legal costs. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology to him.
 
In January 2004, Arar sued former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on grounds that his constitutional rights and the Torture Victims Protection Act had been violated. Arar’s case was dismissed in 2006 because US actions were based on national security. His case was finally turned down by the Supreme Court on February 1, 2010.
 
Maher Arar (Wikipedia)
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Human Rights

According to the State Department, “The government systematically repressed citizens’ abilities to change their government. In a climate of impunity, there were instances of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life. Members of the security forces tortured and physically abused prisoners and detainees. Security forces arrested and detained individuals—including activists, organizers, and other regime critics—without due process…During the year the government sentenced to prison several high-profile members of the human rights and civil society communities. The government violated citizens’ privacy rights and imposed significant restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and travel…Violence and societal discrimination against women continued, as did sexual exploitation, increasingly aimed at Iraqi refugees, including minors.”

 
Arbitrary of Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were several reports of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life.
 
In early January, Yusuf Jabouli died in custody. When his body was returned to his family on January 7, seven days after his arrest, his family was not allowed to open his coffin or invite others to the funeral. The reasons for his arrest are unknown.
 
There have also been several suspicious Kurdish deaths. About 18 Kurdish soldiers died of unknown causes while serving in the military. The families’ victims claim that the government deliberately killed them.
 
Human rights observers claim that the defense minister, Ali Habib Mahmud, and the military attorney general, decided to suspend further action against the military customs officers named in a military investigation report for shooting Sami Matuk and Joni Suleiman.
 
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Torture has long been an instrument of political power in Syria. In 1984, Amnesty International released a list of 38 types of torture used by Assad’s regime. In addition to the usual practices, Syrian torture included “The Black Slave,” in which the victim is strapped onto a device which, when turned on, inserts a heated metal skewer into his or her anus, and “The Chicken,” whereby the victim is strapped to a revolving wooden bar resembling a roasting spit and subjected to beating with sticks.
 
Article 28 of the Syrian constitution prohibits mental and physical torture, as well as humiliating treatment. However, security forces frequently engage in torture tactics. Human rights organization state that abuses go unreported. Additionally, those who were tortured while detained refused to allow their names revealed for fear of government reprisal.
 
Abuses include “electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; burning genitalia; forcing objects into the rectum; beating, sometimes while the victim was suspended from the ceiling, other times on the soles of the feet; alternately dousing victims with freezing water and beating them in extremely cold rooms; hyperextending the spine; bending the detainees into the frame of a wheel and whipping exposed body parts; using a backward-bending chair to asphyxiate the victim or fracture the victim’s spine; and stripping prisoners naked for public view.”
 
Human Rights Watch released a report that Kurdish citizens were especially likely to be tortured.
 
The government failed to investigate torture cases reported in 2008.
 
 
Prison and Detention Center Conditions:
Prison conditions were poor and fell below international health and sanitation standards. Some security officials at prisons demanded bribes from family members. There was severe overcrowding that resulted in inmates sleeping on the floor. There were several incidents of prison officials withholding food. Finally, the government did not allow international human rights observers to visit.
 
Due to the prison riots at the Sednaya prison from July to December 2008, officials denied visits to inmates.
 
Human rights organizations did not provide adequate medical care and denied medical treatment to some prisoners. An example was the political prisoner and Damascus Declaration National Council Secretary General Riad Seif, who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison while suffering from prostate cancer. Although human rights observers called for his lawful release, the government did not follow through. He received limited medical treatment and continued to have poor health.
 
Although there were separate detention facilities for men, women, and children, the government sometimes detained minors with adults.
 
Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution promotes freedom of speech and press, but the government restricts these rights, often through Emergency Law which prohibits publishing false information that opposes the “goals of the revolution.”
 
The government extensively influences the media as the Ba’ath Party owns most newspaper publishing houses. The government bans all Kurdish-language publications.
 
In May 2009, Prime Minister Mohamad Maji al-Utri outlawed partnerships between the public-sector and media outlets except with the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency. However, the decree’s compliance and enforcement is unknown.
 
The government allowed foreign broadcasts and uses of satellite dishes.
 
Internet Freedom
The Internet is widely available and used by about 17 percent of population, but its information is censored by the government through Emergency Law. Access to websites associated with Kurdish opposition groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood was restricted as well as social networking sites and pan-Arabic newspapers such as Asharq al-Awsat.
 
Freedom of Assembly
The constitution allows for the right of assembly, but Emergency Law restricts this. Demonstrations and gatherings of more than three people require the consent of the Ministry of Information. The government or Ba’ath Party organized most public demonstrations.
 
By the end of 2009, the government had failed to file charges against the individuals involved in the 2006 demonstrations that destroyed the Norwegian embassy and damaged the Danish, Chilean, and Swedish embassies. The embassies received less than the necessary amount of financial aid.
 
Freedom of Religion
The government generally abided by the constitution with regards to freedom of religion. However, the government disapproved of public proselytism and monitored groups practicing militant Islam.
 
The constitution requires the president to be Muslim and the source of legislation to be Islamic.
 
All religions were required to register with the government which monitors all religious meetings except for worship.
 
Jewish citizens were outlawed from government employment, participation in the armed forces, and contact with Israel on the basis of national security. They are also the only religious group whose identity cards state their religion.
 
Official Corruption and Government Transparency
In 2009, the government led a successful national anticorruption campaign, but many officials were exempt due to impunity
 
Several police officers accepted bribes from child laborers and drivers while prison officers who accepted bribes allowed families of detainees to visit without police surveillance.
 
No government body is responsible for monitoring corruption in the private sector.
 
Multiple officials, however, were subject to arrests. On February 8, 2009, the government arrested Brigadier General Hasan Makhlouf and 20 other customs officials. Four days later, the Ministry of Finance seized their assets. However, there no trial date has been released yet.
 
Women
Although rape is a felony, marital rape is not considered a crime. Additionally, if the man (or woman) who commits rape agrees to marry the victim, then there will be no punishment.
 
The law also does not outlaw domestic violence, even though about a quarter of women were victims of this (according to a 2006 survey). Many cases were unreported due to social stigma. Women who tried to file cases were subject to sexual harassment by police instead of aid.
 
Gender-based violence is prevalent among Iraqi refugees. The UN Refugee Agency reported 700 known cases of such violence in 2008. The Agency also reported safe houses in Damascus for women and children who suffered from violence in Iraq or Syria.
 
Trafficking in Persons
Although the government did not fully comply with the international minimum standards to eliminate trafficking, the law prohibits trafficking. Syria was both a destination and a transit point for trafficked women from South and Southeast Asia and Africa as well as Eastern Europe and Iraq.
 
National/Ethnic/Racial Minorities
Although the government generally respects the rights of minorities, there are several exceptions towards the Kurdish minority. For example, it limited the use and teaching of Kurdish. Additionally, Syria passed a law that 60 percent of words on signs need to be written in Arabic. Officials allegedly targeted Kurds.
 
Many Kurds, such as political security agent Sedo Rashed Ali, were arrested. Ali’s whereabouts remained unknown by the end of 2009.
 
Syria: Security Forces Fire on Protestors
In the 2011 protests, security forces used ammunition against protestors in Daraa, Sanmein, and Tafas, killing about 26. As of March 18, the death toll in the Daraa rose to 61 and 12 in Latakia.
 
On March 25, several thousand protestors participated in a funeral procession for those killed in the previous day’s protests. It began peacefully but security forces fired shots after demonstrators attempted to destroy a statue of Hafez al-Assad.
 
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Debate

What Position Should the U.S. Take Regarding Anti-Government Protests in Syria?

Protests in Syria broke out in March 2011 against the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Large protests began in Dara’a when several pupils were arrested for graffiti. Since then, the US government has not taken much action.
 
Obama Administration
The Obama administration has failed to take action in Syria such as it has taken in Libya. The military option is not “on the table” and recalling US Ambassador Robert Ford is unlikely. The administration argues that there have been fewer deaths in Syria than Libya, making military engagement unnecessary. Obama has been working to improve relations with Syria; therefore, any action against Assad is not probable until the outcome becomes more certain. 
 
Additionally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that many members of Congress believe that Bashar al-Assad is a reformer.
 
 
Republican Perspective
The conservative stance, on the other hand, is more active. South Dakota Senator John Thune hopes to recall Robert Ford and believes that Assad is not a reformer.
 
The former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, accused the Obama administration of being naïve. Pawlenty wants to tighten sanctions and calls for the president “to speak strongly and clearly to the people of Syria that we hope and believe and support their drive towards freedom and getting rid of Bashir Assad.”
 
Thune Urges Obama to Recall Ambassador to Syria (by Erin McPike, Real Clear Politics)
Tim Pawlenty on Syria: What the President Should Do (by Daniel Halper, Weekly Standard)
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Past Ambassadors
Charles, Hunter
 
Charles F. (Chuck) Hunter was assigned to the US Embassy in Damascus as the Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’affaires in August 2009. He earned a B.A. in French from Lawrence University in Wisconsin in 1983 and received an M.A. and Ph.D. in French from Stanford University in 1989.
 
Hunter joined the US Information Agency in 1990 and was sent to Cairo as a junior officer trainee the following year. In Algiers he served as Assistant Public Affairs Officer from 1992 to 1993 before heading to Tunis for additional Arabic study. Hunter then spent three years in Muscat before returning to Washington in 1998 as Public Diplomacy Desk Officer for the Levant. He directed the press office in the Bureau of Public Affairs in 2000-2001, where he occasionally acted as the spokesman for the Department of State. In 2002 Hunter was granted the American Political Science Associate Congressional Fellowship, through which he worked for Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).
 
Hunter was then posted to the US Consulate General in Jerusalem as Public Affairs Officer from 2002 to 2005. Upon his completion of this assignment he because the director of the Bureau of Legislative Affairs’ Congressional Liaison Office (2005-2006), and then the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader, based in Al-Hillah, Iraq (2006-2007).
 
Before becoming Chargé d’affaires to Syria, Hunter spent two years as Deputy Director for Western European Affairs, under the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
 
Hunter is fluent in both Arabic and French.
 
 
 
Maura Connelly
A native of Jersey City, New Jersey, Maura Connelly served as Chargé d’affaires in Damascus from August 2008 until August 2009. Connelly was selected to be a page in the US House of Representatives in 1975 and graduated from the Capitol Page School two years later. She attended Georgetown University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in the Science of Foreign Service in 1981. She later attended the Naval War College, where she was granted a master’s degree in national security affairs in 2001.

Connelly joined the Foreign Service in 1985, and her first assignment was at the Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa as a consular officer. In 1988-1990 she served in Algiers as a political officer, and as acting head of the political section for nearly one year. Her next posting was in 1990, where served in Washington as a staff assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs during the Gulf War.

Connelly then pursued two years of Arabic language (1991-1993) training. She then moved to the Consulate in Jerusalem (1993-1996) to serve as the Political Section Chief. From 1996-1997, she returned to Washington and served as in a newly created position designed to support the US/Egypt Partnership for Economic Development, coordinated inter-agency efforts to expand and improve our bilateral relationship with Egypt. In 1997, Connelly returned to the Middle East, serving in Amman as the first refugee coordinator where she monitored US government contributions to two regional organizations operating in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel.

After her attendance at the National War College, Connelly was assigned in 2001 to the United States Mission to the UN, where she held the position of Deputy Counselor for Political Affairs. This was followed by her return to the Middle East in 2003-2005 to be the Deputy Principal Officer at the Consulate General in Jerusalem. She served at the US Embassy in London as the Minister Counselor for Political Affairs from 2005-2008.
 
Connelly speaks French and Arabic.
 
 
 
George Wadsworth
Appointment: Oct 9, 1942
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 30, 1942
Termination of Mission: Left Damascus, Feb 8, 1947
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Syria; also accredited to Lebanon.
 
Paul H. Alling
Appointment: Apr 10, 1947
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Syria. Took oath of office, but did not
proceed to post.
 
James Hugh Keeley, Jr.
Appointment: Oct 8, 1947
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 2, 1948
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 22, 1950
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 9, 1947. Commissioned to the Republic of Syria.
 
Cavendish W. Cannon
Appointment: Sep 20, 1950
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 30, 1950
Termination of Mission: Left post May 8, 1952
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Syria.
 
James S. Moose, Jr.
Appointment: Jun 25, 1952
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 14, 1952
Termination of Mission: Promoted to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Syria.
James S. Moose, Jr.
Appointment: Sep 11, 1952
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 30, 1952
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 30, 1957
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jun 4, 1953.
 
Charles W. Yost
Appointment: Dec 24, 1957
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 16, 1958
Termination of Mission: Syria incorporated into the United Arab Republic, Feb 22, 1958
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 29, 1958. Commissioned to the Republic of Syria.
 
Note: The Embassy in Damascus was reclassified as a Consulate General on Feb 25, 1958. The mission was re-established as an Embassy on Oct 10, 1961, with Ridgway B. Knight as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.
 
Ridgway B. Knight
Appointment: Dec 7, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 11, 1962
Termination of Mission: Left post May 27, 1965
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 30, 1962.
 
Hugh H. Smythe
Appointment: Jul 22, 1965
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 28, 1965
Termination of Mission: Syria severed diplomatic relations with the U.S., Jun 6, 1967; Smythe left post Jun 8, 1967
 
Note: A U.S. Interests Section was established on Feb 8, 1974, in the Italian Embassy with Thomas J. Scotes as Principal Officer. The Embassy in Damascus was re-established on Jun 16, 1974, with Scotes as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.
 
Richard W. Murphy
Appointment: Aug 9, 1974
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 9, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 23, 1978
 
Talcott W. Seelye
Appointment: Jul 31, 1978
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 17, 1978
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 31, 1981
 
Robert P. Paganelli
Appointment: Sep 28, 1981
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 12, 1981
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 13, 1984
 
William L. Eagleton, Jr.
Appointment: Oct 4, 1984
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 6, 1984
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 31, 1988
 
Edward Peter Djerejian
Appointment: Aug 12, 1988
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 2, 1988
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 25, 1991
 
Christopher W. S. Ross
Appointment: Aug 2, 1991
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 25, 1991
Termination of Mission: Left post Mar 22, 1998
 
Ryan Clark Crocker
Appointment: Jun 29, 1998
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 6, 1999
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 30, 2001
 
Theodore H. Kattouf
Appointment: Aug 7, 2001
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 12, 2002
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 23, 2003
 
Margaret Scobey
Appointment: Dec 12, 2003
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 10, 2004
Termination of Mission: 2005
 
Maura Connelly (Chargé d’affaires)
Appointment: August 2008
Termination of Mission: August 2009
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Syria's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Moustapha, Imad

Imad Moustapha became ambassador of Syria to the United States on March 31, 2004. Moustapha holds a doctorate in computer science from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and is fluent in English and French and speaks some German.

 
Moustapha previously served as dean of the faculty of information technology at the University of Damascus and secretary-general of the Arab School on Science and Technology. He is a co-founder of the Network of Syrian Scientists, Technologists and Innovators Abroad (NOSSTIA), and was an active consultant to several international and regional organizations on science and technology policies in the Middle East. In addition, Moustapha served as a member of the Syrian team responsible for drafting reform strategies for the ministries of culture, education and higher education.
 
A prolific writer with more than 200 published articles in English and Arabic, Moustapha has also authored, co-authored and edited several books and has appeared in numerous television news programs around the world.
 

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Syria's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Syria

Ford, Robert
ambassador-image

On February 16, 2010, President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Robert Stephen Ford as the next U.S. ambassador to Syria. This was a significant gesture because the United States has been without such an official for five years, ever since the Bush administration broke off diplomatic relations with the Middle East country. Ford’s confirmation hearing was held on March 16, but his confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans who disagree with the policy of reengaging the Syrian government. President Obama finally gave Ford a recess appointment on December 29.

 
Although the U.S. blamed Syria for the assassination of Lebanon’s prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, Obama decided after taking office to begin rebuilding relations with officials in Damascus. With Ford, Syria would gets not only a career Foreign Service officer, but also one of the State Department’s top Arab specialists who has already served at other diplomatic posts in the Mideast and North Africa.
 
A native of Denver, Ford earned his bachelor’s degree in 1980 from Johns Hopkins University and his Master of Arts from the university’s School of Advanced International Studies in 1983.
 
After serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco, he joined the Foreign Service in 1985 as an economics officer. His early postings included Izmir, Turkey, Cairo, Egypt, Algiers, Algeria (1994-1997), and Yaounde, Cameroon.
 
From 2001-2004 he was deputy chief of mission in Bahrain, but he was sent to Iraq after the March 2003 U.S. invasion. He served first as the U.S. representative in the Shiite city of Najaf and then as political counselor to Ambassador John D. Negroponte in Baghdad. He remained in Iraq until June 2006.
 
President George W. Bush appointed Ford as ambassador to Algeria in May 2006 and he presented his credentials there on September 4. Then, it was back to Iraq in 2008, where he served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy.
 
Ford speaks German, Turkish, French, and Arabic.
 
Ford’s wife, Alison Barkley, is also a US diplomat, and also served two tours in Iraq.
 
Robert S. Ford Biography (State Department)
Progress and Pain Marked Envoy's Tenure in Iraq (by Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times)

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