Logo Wide

Is the Biden Administration Easing Sanctions on Assad?

The Biden administration may be easing sanctions on Assad, writes Bassam Barabandi for Al-Arabiya.
Is the Biden Administration Easing Sanctions on Assad?


President Joe Biden has identified human rights, women’s rights, and the rights of minorities as his administration’s top priority. This approach is supported by large segments of the American Left, which want a solution to the Palestinian issue, demands recognition of Armenian massacres, and prefers to use diplomacy instead of military engagement and/or sanctions to handle international issues, such as dealing with China, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela.

This is how Democrats concluded that, for achieving their worldview of international foreign policy, the best approach is to blend Obama’s policy — which Biden played a key role in formulating when he served as vice president — with Trump’s policy. This approach allows the Democrats to take advantage of the excess power inherited from Trump’s policy, which highlighted Washington’s global strength and transcended all traditional norms and barriers that have previously guided US government institutions and weakened international powers.

This demonstrates that we are facing a new American era, in which a president wants to prove to the world that he is different from previous Democratic presidents and that he leads a coherent administration, which has a specific and clear vision for dealing with issues and the power and confidence to state their views. 

This strategy also applies to the United States’ involvement in the Syrian crisis, for which American public statements have focused on five key points.

The first key point focuses on chemical weapons and the urgent need for accountability for those responsible from the regime for their use, which creates a threat to international security. The second key point concerns humanitarian aid; the Biden administration emphasizes the need to ensure humanitarian access permits to Syria beyond July, when they are currently set to expire. The third key point revolves around the release of detainees and the fate of those missing in regime-run prisons. The fourth key point focuses on implementing a peaceful political process. The fifth key point determines the role of regional and international parties in that process.

In that context, Biden and US Secretary of State Blinken spoke clearly about ending the Syrian humanitarian crisis as a top short-term priority. The administration will achieve this by persuading Russia to reopen three key crossings in the coming period. This suggests a tacit acknowledgment that Biden and Blinken’s approach to the Syrian crisis reflects the administration’s strategic direction, a pivot towards scaled-back engagement in the region’s crises, focusing on humanitarian intervention, and prioritizing confrontation with China.

It is no secret that the Biden administration wants to reach an understanding with Russia on the humanitarian issue. In return, Washington can offer concessions to Russia by removing some American economic sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime. This concession would allow the regime to better deal with COVID-19’s impact and receive financial aid from the World Bank. The current US administration states that it is important that aid should reach all Syrians and regions of Syria, without affecting the US position on the regime.  

Regarding the political solution, the current administration wants to engage Iran — which is a partial return to Obama’s policies, which stated that Iran should be involved in addressing the region’s problems. This effectively links the fates of Syria and the region to ongoing American-Iranian discussions in Vienna.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

Helpful keywords