Why the U.S. is back on the road to Damascus

Time magazine on the new phase in US-Syrian relations:

Unlike many U.S. embassies in the Arab world that have been forced by security concerns to move from the center of capital cities to fortress-like suburban compounds, the Damascus embassy still occupies prime real estate — just a stone’s throw from the residence of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Syria’s much feared state security apparatus keeps close tabs on everyone entering and leaving the embassy, but it also helps keeps the embassy relatively safe from the occasional jihadist sneak attack. In turn, living close to the Americans may also help Assad sleep more easily at night, say Damascene wags, because the proximity of the embassy would make the U.S. and Israel think twice about every trying to dropping a bomb on him.

But news that the embassy is set, for the first time in five years, to have have a resident ambassador is a sign that the “can’t live with ’em/can’t live without ’em” U.S.-Syrian relationship is about to enter a new phase. The State Department has presented the credentials of Robert Ford, former U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Iraq, to the Syrian government for approval as ambassador in Damascus, according to the Syrian government. The Ambassador’s residence in Damascus has been empty ever since the Bush Administration accused the Assad regime of orchestrating the 2005 assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and removed then-Ambassor Margaret Scobey in protest.

Haaretz reported:

Syria is ready to respond to Israeli “aggression”, Syrian Minister of Information Mohsen Bilal said Sunday, in an escalating war of words between the two countries.

Speaking at a seminar near the Israeli border, Bilal said that Syria would “stand in the face of Israeli ambitions.”

Speaking just kilometres from the Golan Heights – a strategically important plateau at the intersection of Israel, Syria and Lebanon seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War – Bilal said the contentious area was at “the core” of Syria’s interests and vowed it would return to Syria.

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