Forty former U.S. officials and Syrian American political leaders have signed an open letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling on them to have a stronger position against the waves of normalization with the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Arab nations, Turkey and some European states are making efforts to rehabilitate President Assad and help him regain power in Syria.
UAE is the leading country in that effort, but even Saudi Arabia has decided to resume diplomatic ties with Syria after 12 years break.
“Unconditional regime normalization is not inevitable,” the signatories wrote in their letter sent Monday to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Opposing regime normalization in word only is not enough, as tacitly allowing it is short-sighted and damaging to any hope for regional security and stability.”
The letter expressed the signatories’ apprehensions about the U.S. approach to Syria.
The letter’s signatures include former U.S. special envoys to Syria Frederic Hof, James Jeffrey and Joel Rayburn and former assistant secretaries of state for Near Eastern affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Anne Patterson. Also signing on were former CENTCOM chief Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, former CIA acting director John McLaughlin and William Roebuck, former US deputy special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
The letter was also signed by Syrian American political leaders such as Mirna Barq, Zaher Sahloul, Shadi Martini, Wael Sawah, and Farouk Bilal.
The letter warned that regional normalization “erodes the international community’s capacity to shape a political process aimed at meaningfully resolving the crisis.”
Despite Washington’s warnings, U.S. partners, including the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Egypt, have recently boosted their engagement with Syria’s government. Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia is also said to be discussing a resumption of ties, and there’s increasing talk of Syria’s potential readmission into the Arab League.
Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute who coordinated the letter, accused the administration of publicly opposing normalization while privately giving Arab states a tacit yellow light.
“[The U.S.] message is, we will never normalize, and we discourage normalization,” Lister said. “None of that is, ‘Don’t you dare normalize with the regime.’”