Mitchell tells Assad Syrian sanctions will be eased


The Wall Street Journal reports that "the Obama administration has told Syria that it will work to ease U.S. sanctions against Damascus":

The U.S. decision targets spare aircraft parts, information-technology products and telecommunications equipment, sales of which have been restricted by U.S. sanctions on Syria enacted in 2004. The step was conveyed Sunday by Washington’s special Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, to Syrian President Bashar Assad during an hour-long meeting in Damascus.

The move represents the latest action in a rapidly accelerating rapprochement between Washington and Damascus initiated after President Barack Obama took office this year, said officials from both countries.

Messrs. Mitchell and Assad also discussed Sunday the possibility of the Pentagon dispatching to Damascus its second delegation of officers from the U.S. Central Command to discuss greater cooperation in preventing the flow of al Qaeda militants and other foreign fighters into Iraq through Syrian soil, said Syrian officials.

The White House hopes to woo Mr. Assad away from his strategic alliance with Iran, in an effort to stabilize Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The article notes that this technically won’t be a "formal" easing of sanctions:

While significant, U.S. officials said Monday that Washington’s move doesn’t mark a formal lifting or easing of its sanctions on Damascus. President George W. Bush authorized the sanctions in 2004, under legislation known as the Syria Accountability Act, specifically because of Damascus’s support for the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, which are fighting Israeli forces from Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

Administration officials said Mr. Obama would seek to use his waiver authority under congressionally mandated sanctions to aid purchases of U.S. products deemed important to the welfare of the Syrian people.

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