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.

Read more at FDD

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

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy