President Barack Obama announced today that he had renewed sanctions against the nation of Syria because of “serious concerns” about the nation’s behavior. In a letter informing Congress of his decision, the president accused Syria of “pursuing weapons of mass destruction,” and “undermining US and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq,” and for generally posing a “continuing threat to US interests.”
The United States has recently been engaged in high-level talks with the Syrian government on numerous issues, and the administration has assured the nation that it is committed to an Israel-Syria peace deal. Since the later comment (and the declaration that bilateral relations had significantly improved) was made only yesterday, it seems remarkable that the administration is suddenly taking a hostile approach to the nation.
US-Syrian relations was extremely strained under the Bush Administration, even before an October, 2008 attack by US helicopters on a Syrian border town. The former administration also pressured the IAEA to act against Syria on the basis of claims it made about a facility destroyed by Israeli warplanes. The IAEA found only minute traces of evidence in its investigation, which was hampered by the fact that the site was destroyed months before it was even informed about it. Obama’s accusation that Syria is “pursuing weapons of mass destruction” may be an indication that allegations about the site remain a priority for the US.