The Significance of Assad’s Visit to the UAE

March 23 2022

On Friday, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad visited the United Arab Emirates; the U.S. State Department said that it was “profoundly disappointed” at Abu Dhabi’s “apparent attempt to legitimize” the bloodthirsty dictator. Yet as David Adesnik argues, “the Biden administration has sent consistent signals to Arab allies indicating its tacit approval of normalization with Damascus.” Adesnik warns that this attitude toward a “veteran war criminal” like Assad may embolden other enemies of the West, including Vladimir Putin.

During the first months of its tenure, the Biden administration opposed efforts to engage with the Assad regime, warning that the United States would fully enforce sanctions mandated by the [2019] Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act. Last August, however, the White House publicly supported Syria’s inclusion in a four-way energy deal with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon that directly violates the Caesar Act’s proscription of material support for the Assad regime.

Despite that pivot, the administration insists its policy has not changed. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior U.S. officials emphasize that Washington will neither lift sanctions nor pursue normalization with Damascus. Yet Blinken and others are careful not to say that the United States will actively oppose or interfere with such efforts.

In January, senior lawmakers from both parties sent a letter to the president stating their opposition to any “tacit approval of formal diplomatic engagement with the Syrian regime” by Washington’s Arab allies. The authors asserted there should be consequences for such engagement and called on Biden “to utilize the robust, mandatory deterrence mechanisms” in the Caesar Act “to maintain the Assad regime’s isolation.” The State Department’s tepid declaration of disappointment with the Emirates for hosting Assad shows the administration has not heeded lawmakers’ advice.

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Read more at FDD

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy, United Arab Emirates

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela