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October 19, 2021 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1602

Jordan, With U.S. Consent, Spearheads Efforts To Return Syrian Regime To Arab Fold

October 19, 2021 | By O. Peri and Y. Yehoshua*
Jordan, Syria | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1602

In the recent months there have been conspicuous efforts by some Arab countries, in particular Jordan, to renew their relations with the Syrian regime, headed by President Bashar Al-Assad, and even to restore its legitimacy in the Arab world and in the West. This trend gained momentum following the visit of Jordanian King 'Abdullah II to Washington in July 2021, during which he reportedly presented the Biden administrations with a plan to resolve the Syria crisis, which includes normalization of Jordan's and other Arab countries' relations with Syria, as well as Syria's return to the Arab League, after its membership was suspended in 2011 due to the regime's violent suppression of the Arab Spring protests in the country.  

In the wake of this visit, there were significant signs of rapprochement between Jordan and Syria, which were perceived in the Arab media as "a breach of the siege on Syria and of the Assad regime's isolation." Among these signs were a September 19 visit by Syrian Defense Minister 'Ali 'Ayyoub in Jordan, during which he met with the head of the Jordanian army, Yousuf Al-Huneiti,[1] and an October 3 phone conversation between the Jordanian king and the Syrian president, the first such call since the outbreak of the Syria crisis.[2] 

Jordan's warming of relations with Syria stems mainly from security considerations, based on the assumption that strengthening the Syrian regime will help keep Hizbullah and the pro-Iranian militias, as well as ISIS, away from Syria's border with Jordan. It also stems from economic considerations, seeking to improve the economic situation in Jordan by means of trade with and via Syria. 

Many reports in the Arab press indicate that the Biden administration green-lighted the Jordanian king's initiative of openness towards the Syrian regime, which includes the promotion of projects beneficial to the economy of Jordan, Syria and other regional countries, projects that require a suspension of the U.S. Caesar Act sanctions on Syria.[3]  Chief of these projects are an agreement for the delivery of natural gas from Egypt to Lebanon via Syria, as part of which Syria will receive some of the gas, and a deal to supply Jordanian electricity to Lebanon via Syria, as part of which repairs will be made to Syria's power grid, with foreign funding. [4]

Exempting Jordan and other Arab countries from the Caesar Act, whose effectiveness is questionable to begin with,[5] constitutes a change in the U.S. policy towards the Assad regime.[6]  This development comes amid reports of a decline in Syria's prominence on the U.S. priority list, and of a possible withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Syria in the near future. However, the U.S. green-lighting normalization between the Assad regime and Arab countries does not mean that it intends to normalize its own relations with this country or encourage others to do so, as the U.S. State Department has stressed. State Secretary Antony Blinken clarified that the U.S. did not intend to support normalization or rehabilitation of Assad, lift any sanctions on Syria or withdraw its opposition to the reconstruction of Syria until there was significant progress toward a political solution there.[7]

King 'Abdullah's moves were welcomed by Russia, a major ally of the Assad regime that is encouraging the Arab countries to warm their relations with it. The Russians would especially like to see the Arab countries investing funds in the rebuilding of Syria, so as to recuperate their own large investments in the country.

It should be mentioned that the warming of relations with Syria is not confined to Jordan but is part of a broader move by a number Arab states, including Egypt, Iraq, the UAE and others. Moreover, it is not a new Arab development. Steps towards rapprochement with Syria and calls to renew its membership in the Arab League have been evident for several years, led by Egypt, among other countries.[8] It appears that many Arab states have accepted that the efforts to topple the Assad regime have failed and that "Bashar is staying," as Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman said in March 2018.[9]  

 This report reviews the latest developments in the warming of Arab relations with the Assad regime.

Jordan's Political, Security And Economic Motivations For Rehabilitating The Syrian Regime

The rapprochement between Jordan and Syria, green-lighted by the U.S. and Russia, is manifested in contacts between high-level officials from the two countries. As stated, on September 19, Syrian Defense Minister 'Ali 'Ayyoub visited Amman and met with the head of the Jordanian armed forces, Yousuf Al-Huneiti, to discuss cooperation between the two armies in the securing of the Jordan-Syria border. This was the first visit by a Syrian official in Jordan since 2011.[10] On September 23, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi met with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Al-Mekdad on the periphery of the UN General Assembly in New York,[11] and on September 27 the Syrian ministers of economy, water, agriculture and electricity reached understandings with their Jordanian counterparts about strengthening cooperation in the areas of transportation, agriculture, water and trade.[12] But the most blatant sign of the warming relations was the October 3, 2021 phone conversation between the Jordanian king and the Syrian president, the first in a decade, and there are assessments that a face-to-face meeting between the two is not far off.[13]   

The Jordanian openness towards Syria is also apparent in several practical measures, including the reopening of the Nasib-Jaber border crossing to the passage of people and goods on September 29, 2021,[14]  and the decision to reopen the free trade zone at the crossing, which has been closed for over six years.[15]

In practice, King 'Abdullah has been leading an Arab initiative to rehabilitate the Syrian regime since June 2021, and has presented this initiative to U.S. President Joe Biden and to Russian President Vladimir Putin in his meetings with them over the summer. According to the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, at the king's meetings with the American and Russian presidents a secret Jordanian document was discussed, proposing a "step-for-step" approach vis-à-vis the Syrian regime, aimed at "achieving a gradual change in its behavior in return for incentives that would "reflect positively on the Syrian people and the return of refugees." The document focuses on "combating terrorism and containing Iran’s growing influence" in Syria, and also discusses the withdrawal of the foreign forces that have entered the country since 2011, including the U.S. forces (although there is no explicit mention of the Russian military presence there, ongoing since 2015), and the opening of channels of coordination between the Syrian security forces and their counterparts in the neighboring countries, to ensure the security of the borders. [16]


King 'Abdullah II meeting with President Joe Biden (Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, London, July 20, 2021)

Explaining the policy of openness towards Syria during his visit to the U.S., 'Abdullah said that Jordan seeks to propose solutions to the Syria crisis in cooperation with the Arab countries and the international community, so as to return Syria to the Arab fold.[17] In an interview on CNN, he said that "the [Syrian] regime is here to stay," and that, if the desire is to change the Syrian regime's behavior, rather than the regime itself, a way must be found to engage in dialogue with it.[18]

The rapprochement between the states was presented in the Jordanian press as a vital diplomatic shift in response to changes in the regional power balance. Jordanian journalist Maher Abu Tir wrote: "The entire region is being redrawn. It is being dismantled and reassembled. There is nothing strange about this."[19] In another article he wrote: "All the power-balances in the region have changed, especially those that affect the Syrian dossier… All [those who] bet on the toppling of the Assad regime lost in a frightening way…The upheavals in the inter-Arab and regional relations can be characterized very simply: your former enemies are no longer your enemies and those who were close to you are no longer close. The examples of this are numerous… Who would have believed, for instance, that the Turks would draw close to Egypt, that the Egyptians would draw close to the Qataris or that the Iranians would meet in Baghdad with their Arab rivals[?]… It makes no sense for these changes to take place in the region without [including] Damascus, [especially] given that overt calls are beginning to be heard to return it to the Arab League."[20] Elsewhere Abu Tir stressed that "the official echelon in Jordan would not have upgraded relations with Damascus in this manner had it not had expectations that the international position vis-à-vis Damascus was about to change as well.[21]

A range of considerations – economic, political and security-related – motivate Jordan's bid to rehabilitate the Assad regime. Jordan is very concerned about the presence of Hizbullah and pro-Iranian militias in southern Syria, and wants the regime keep them away from its border. According to reports, King 'Abdullah's August 2021 meeting with President Putin dealt extensively with the situation in southern Syria,[22] possibly reflecting Russia's desire to distance Hizbullah and the pro-Iranian militias from the Syria-Jordan border in accordance with understandings reached by the U.S., Russia and Jordan in 2018, and also as part of the power-struggle between Russia and Iran in Syria.[23] However, judging by past experience, Russia has difficulty curbing Iran's influence in Syria and the presence of pro-Iranian militias in the southern regions.[24]

According to the online daily Raialyoum.com, during the September 19 visit of Syrian Defense Minister 'Ali 'Ayyoub to Amman, Syria  promised that there would be no military presence near the Jordanian border excerpt for the regime's own forces, and that all Iranian and pro-Iranian militias would be removed from the area.[25] The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that Syria admits, off the record, that Iran and Hizbullah have become a liability for it.[26]

Jordan is also concerned about the presence of extremist Islamic forces, including ISIS, in the border region, and about the trafficking of drugs and weapons across the border.[27] It believes that strengthening the Syrian regime in the area can help prevent this,[28] and may also stem the influx of Syrian refugees into Jordan and even facilitate the return of refugees to their homeland. King 'Abdullah recently stated that his country is currently hosting some 1.3 million Syrian refugees, which is a heavy burden on it.[29]  

Jordanian openness towards Syria will also benefit Jordan's flagging economy, which has suffered considerably following the passing of the Caesar Act due to the diminishing trade between the two countries and because Syria is Jordan's gateway to the Mediterranean.[30] Exemption from the Caesar Act will enable Jordan to promote its relations with Syria without risking sanctions.[31] Jordanian economist Raad Al-Tal called renewing economic ties between Jordan and Syria "an urgent national need for both," adding that importing from Syria would ensure availability of goods in Jordan, at low cost.[32]       

U.S. Green-lights Deal To Deliver Energy From Egypt, Jordan To Lebanon – A Move Which Requires Cooperation With Syrian Regime

One of the prominent moves towards the rehabilitation of the Syrian regime  in the Arab world is the approval of agreements to deliver power and natural gas to Lebanon through Syrian territory, agreements that require official Arab contacts with this regime.[33] These agreements are further indication that the U.S. has green-lighted Arab economic ties with Syria, since they violate the Caesar Act, some of whose articles specifically forbid facilitating the maintenance of the Syrian regime's natural gas industry or by providing it with engineering services.[34]

The U.S. cooperation with this project is motivated by the need to extricate Lebanon from its energy crisis, so as to render superfluous Hizbullah's move to import fuel to Lebanon from Iran. Discussions between Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon about the delivery of gas from Egypt to Lebanon through Jordan and Syria were first reported in July 2021,[35] and it was claimed that King 'Abdullah had requested exemptions from the Caesar Act for this purpose, among others. However, the initiative gained momentum only after Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah announced, on August 19, that his organization would begin importing oil from Iran, in flagrant violation of the international sanctions on this country.[36]  Nasrallah's statements on the export of oil from Iran prompted U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea to announce, on August 19, that the U.S. administration had decided to help Lebanon receive power from Jordan and gas from Egypt via Syria. She added that discussions were underway with the World Bank to fund the purchase of the Egyptian gas and the repair of power lines and gas pipelines. [37] Addressing the possible violation of the Caesar Act, she admitted this was a "tricky matter," and added she was in touch with the Treasury Department and the White House in a bid to facilitate this aid to Lebanon.[38]


Energy ministers of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon meet in Amman to discuss delivery of Egyptian gas to Lebanon (Source: Sana.sy, September 8, 2021)

According to reports in the Arab press, the Assad regime has set some conditions for the delivery of energy to Lebanon through its territory, including that repairs to its gas and power infrastructures be funded by other sources and that the fuel and gas needs of the Syrian people be met as well.[39] On September 11, 2021, Syrian Oil Minister Bassam Toma'a announced that Syria will receive a portion of the Egyptian gas in return for allowing the delivery of this gas to Lebanon through its territory.[40]

In the context of reports about American giving a green light to the normalization of Jordan-Syria relations, and the U.S. meeting King 'Abdullah's request to ease or waive Caesar Act sanctions, senior U.S. officials clarified that this political move does not mean that the U.S. agrees to the rehabilitation of the Syrian regime. As mentioned, State Secretary Antony Blinken clarified that the U.S. did not intend "to express any support for efforts to normalize relations or rehabilitate Mr. Assad, [and has not] lifted a single sanction on Syria or changed our position to oppose the reconstruction of Syria until there is irreversible progress toward a political solution, which we believe is necessary and vital."[41] Furthermore, on September 29, 2021, a State Department spokesman clarified that the U.S. has no intentions to normalize or upgrade its diplomatic relations with the Assad regime and does not encourage others to do so.[42] However, it does appear that the U.S. goals in the context of Syria have changed under the Biden administration. Defense Department spokesperson Jessica  McNulty said that "Our sole mission in Syria is the enduring defeat of ISIS."[43]

In this context, various assessments were recently published in the Arab press regarding possible understandings between the U.S. and Russia on the Syrian issue. It was reported that the U.S. National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk, met on September 15 with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and the Russian president's special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev. The Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily speculated following the meeting, whose outcomes were not published, that the U.S. is now more open to the Russian position on Syria, which advocates strengthening the Syrian state institutions, including the presidency, restoring Assad's rule over all of Syria and lifting the Caesar Act sanctions.  The daily speculated that the U.S. may have demanded in return the distancing of Iran and the Iran-backed militias from the Israeli border.[44]

There have also been growing speculations in the Arab media – both by pro-Assad elements and by elements opposed to him – about the possible withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Syria,[45] although U.S. administration sources denied this,[46] as did elements in the Kurdish Autonomous Administration in Syria, which is supported by the U.S.[47]

Calls For Syria's Return To Arab League: It Is An Integral Part Of Arab National Security

Amid the warming of relations between Jordan and Syria, and even prior to this, there were reports in the Arab media about intentions to invite Syria to attend the Arab League summit in Algeria in March 2022,[48] alongside statements by officials in Egypt and Jordan regarding Syria's important role and the hope for its return to the Arab fold. Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Al- Khasawneh said on August 19, 2021 that his country, "as well as Egypt and several other Arab countries, want Syria to resume its seat in the Arab League," and that "the official Arab system can lay the foundations for promoting an initiative and better dialogue with the Syrians by restoring them to their natural place, in the Arab League." [49] Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi said on September 22 that "Syria is a sister-country and there is no choice but to coordinate with it," adding that, "in order to resolve the Arab crisis, there is a vital need for dialogue between the U.S. and Russia and for a collective Arab role."[50] On October 13, the online daily Raialyoum.com reported that, during King 'Abdullah's visit to Qatar, he urged this country to support Jordan's and Egypt's proposal to return Syria to the Arab League, a move which Qatar staunchly opposes.[51] Egyptian Defense Minister Sameh Shoukry said on October 4 that his meeting with his Syrian counterpart on the periphery of the September 24, 2021 UN General Assembly in New York was intended to "see how Egypt could help to extricate Syria from its crisis and to return it to the Arab camp." He added that Syria "is an integral part of the Arab national security" and that "historically, the relations between Egypt and Syria always had special importance."[52]

In response to these developments, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Mekdad said, in a series of interviews in the Syrian media, that his country "welcomes any  initiative to restore the warm and natural relations with sister Arab countries," and that the change in the position on Syria was the result of the Syrian regime winning "the war that was declared on it."  Regarding the Arab League, he said that "Syria is the beating heart of Arab identity and what is the Arab League without its beating heart?"[53] Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Sousan disclosed that contacts, both overt and covert, were underway between Syria and some Arab countries, and that in the next phrase the relations would be repaired so as to "create a better and healthier Arab reality."[54]

As stated, calls for returning Syria to the Arab fold and reinstating it in the Arab League have been heard for several years, and have been encouraged by Russia. Moreover, several moves in the last few years signaled recognition of the Syrian regime by some Arab countries, such as  the reopening of the UAE's embassies in Damascus on December 27, 2018 and of Bahrain's one day later;[55] the renewal of commercial flights between Syria and the UAE emirate of Al-Sharja in May 2018;[56] and the visit of the Omani foreign minister, Yusuf Bin 'Alawi, in Syria and his meeting with Assad in July 2019.[57]

Many of the Arab countries that support normalizing relations with the Assad regime increasingly believe that rapprochement with this regime, and its return to the Arab League, will help distance it from Iran. In this context, Jordanian journalist Maher Abu Tir wrote in the daily Al-Ghad: "Everyone is aware of Baghdad's and Damascus's ties to the Iranian axis. But the Jordanian rapprochement [with these countries] is based on the assumption that it is possible to create an Arab channel for bilateral relations [with them], regardless of their [ties with] Iran, so that Jordan will not pay the price of the situation in the region and so that the Iraqis and Syrians not be isolated from their neighbors and [thereby] forced into the arms of Iran, thinking it to be their only haven…"[58] It should be noted, however, that given the depth of Syria's and Iran's political, economic and military ties, this move is unlikely to succeed.[59] 

Articles In Syrian Press: The U.S. Has Been Worn Down In Syria After Over A Decade Of Destructive Policy

The Syrian state press presented the warming of relations with the Arab world as a victory of the Assad regime and a defeat of the U.S. sanctions on it. Many of the articles highlighted the shift in the U.S. position on Syria, especially its consent to the delivery of energy to Lebanon via Syria. For example, 'Abd Al-Mun'im 'Ali 'Issa, a columnist for the Al-Watan daily, which is affiliated with the regime, wrote on September 20, 2021 that the U.S. has drawn closer to the Russian position on the Syria crisis and is now genuinely interested in resolving it. One of the clear indications of this, he said, is the exemption from the Caesar Act granted to Lebanon for the purpose of importing Egyptian gas via Syria. He added: "This constitutes a significant breach in the wall of the Caesar [Act], which the U.S. kept referring to as the stick that will achieve what heaps of dollars and various broad alliances did not manage to achieve. [This] American exemption is not a passing incident, but a solid step on the track, leading to [further] moves in the future…"[60]

Another Al-Watan columnist, Mundhir 'Id, wrote on September 15 that "the delivery of Egyptian gas to Lebanon has provided the U.S. with an opportunity to do what it wants to do, namely to make a U-turn on the Syria issue and roll back [its former policy] in a way that will be acceptable to the rivals and critics of U.S, President Joe Biden inside America."[61]       

Some of the articles stressed that this was an American defeat. The editor-in-chief of the state daily Al-Ba'th, Bassam Hashem, wrote on September 22 that "in a few weeks we may wake up and [it will be] as though the Caesar Act never existed! There have been no understandings, agreements or settlements [regarding its cancelation], overt or covert, and perhaps there is no need for any. The matter is simple: the U.S. is worn out and exhausted after over a decade of [pursuing] an insane, destructive, absurd and failing policy that only tarnished its reputation…"[62] 

The editor-in-chief of the state daily Tishreen, 'Aref Al-'Ali, wrote on October 3 that the U.S. and the Arab countries have failed and must change their position on Syria and even beg for its forgiveness: "[The fact that] some of [our] Arab brethren are leaping and rushing towards Damascus is not a coincidence. [This development] comes after the U.S., the Western countries, the Zionist entity, the Turkish regime and some of the countries ruled by Sheikhs [i.e., the Gulf states] failed to harm Syria and divert it from its national path. They [now] have no choice but to resume beating a path to Damascus' door and to beg for its forgiveness…"[63]  

* O. Peri is a research fellow at MEMRI; Y. Yehoshua is Vice President for Research and Director of MEMRI Israel.

 

[1] Sana.sy, September 19, 2021.

[2] According to some reports the two maintained ongoing contacts even before this phone call. Raialyoum.com, June 19, 2021; arabic.sputniknews.com, June 22, 2021.

[3] The Caesar Act, which was passed by Congress in December 2019 and came into force on June 17, 2020, enables the U.S. to impose sanctions and travel restrictions on anyone supporting or trading with the Syrian regime. The Act is named after a former photographer in Assad's army who leaked thousands of photos documenting the torture and murder of prisoners in Syrian jails. So far it has not achieved its aim of obtaining concessions from the Assad regime. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1571, "How The Assad Regime Is Dealing With The Caesar Act Sanctions – Part I: Circumventing The Sanctions With Help Of Russia, Iran, Hizbullah," June 8, 2021; Inquiry & Analysis No. 1581 – "How The Assad Regime Is Dealing With The Caesar Act Sanctions – Part II: Increasing Pressure On Syrian Citizens In Order To Fill State Coffers" – June 9, 2021.

[4] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 22, 2021; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), September 29, 2021; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 7, 2021.

[6] Senior Al-Sharq Al-Awsat analyst Ibrahim Hamidi wrote that this exemption is not official and that Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon are waiting for the Biden administration to confirm it in an official document. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 18, 2021.

[7] State.gov, October 13, 2021.

[9] Time.com, March 30, 2018.

[10] Al-Watan (Syria), September 20, 2021.

[11] Raialyoum.com, September 23, 2021.

[12] Sana.sy, September 28, 2021.

[13] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), October 4, 2021.

[14] Alarabiya.net, September 29, 2021. It should be noted that the crossing was officially reopened already in 2018, following the Syrian regime's recapturing of the Dara governorate in the south of the country, but traffic through it has been limited and it was frequently closed for various reasons.   

[15] Al-Ghad (Jordan), October 9, 2021.

[16] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 2, 2021.

[17] Raialyoum.com, July 21, 2021.

[18] Edition.cnn.com, July 25, 2021.

[19] Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 20, 2021.

[20] Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 4, 2021.

[21] Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 28, 2021.

[22] Al-Rai (Jordan), August 23, 2021; Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), August 22, 2021.

[23] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 22, 2021. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1475 - Struggle Between Russia, Iran For Control Over Syria's Centers Of Power – September 23, 2019.

[25] Raialyoum.com, September 26, 2021.

[26] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), September 28, 2021.

[27] Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 8, 2021. 

[28] Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 20, 2021. 

[29] Edition.cnn.com, July 25, 2021. It should be noted that, according to the UN Refugee Agency, some 670,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Jordan (see data2.unhcr.org, September 30, 2021). The discrepancy between the UN figures and the Jordanian ones stems from the fact that many of the Syrian refugees in Jordan are not registered with the UN. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1244 - Debate In Jordan On Syrian Refugees' Future In The Country - From Fear They'll Be Naturalized To Calls For Integrating Them Into Jordanian Society – April 27, 2016.

[30] Arabic.sputniknews.com, June 22, 2021.

[31] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), September 27, 2021; Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 22, 2021; Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 12, 2021.

[32] Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 28, 2021.

[33] As part of this initiative, a Lebanese delegation visited Damascus on September 4, for the first time in a decade. Following talks between the two sides the Syrian regime agreed to facilitate the provision of gas from Egypt and electricity from Jordan via Syria. See Alahednews.com.lb, September 4, 2021. Additionally, on September 8 the energy ministers of Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon met in the Jordanian capital and agreed to set up a workplan and timetable for the delivery of the Egyptian gas to Lebanon. See Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 9, 2021.

[34] Congress.gov, March 1, 2019.

[35] Al-Akhbar (Jordan), July 20, 2021; almodon.com, July 28, 2021.

[36] Alahednews.com.lb, August 19, 2021. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1586 – Intense Opposition In Lebanon To Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's Suggestion To Import Fuel From Iran As A Solution To Lebanon's Energy Crisis , July 7, 2021. It should be noted that, even though the delivery of Iranian oil to Lebanon is a violation of the international sanctions on Iran, which forbid Iranian oil exports, the U.S. did not prevent this and sufficed with making statements, that bringing in fuel from Iran does not serve Lebanon and that this country has no need for Iranian oil. English.alarabiya.net, August 19, 2021; aliwaa.com.lb, September 19, 2021; Alahednews.com.lb, September 18, 2021.

[37] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 20, 2021.

[38] English.alarabiya.net, August 19, 2021.

[39] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), raialyoum.com, September 12, 2021; almodon.com, August 25, 2021.

[40] Sana.sy, September 11, 2021.

[41] State.gov, October 13, 2021.

[42] Reuters.com, September 30, 2021.

[43] Defenseonline.com, October 8, 2021. It should be noted that, even in Trump's era, the U.S. stated on multiple occasions that its goal was to change the conduct of the Syrian regime, not to replace it. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 24, 2020.

[44] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), Setember 14, 18, 2021.

[45] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), August 30, 2021; Al-Watan (Syria), raialyoum.com, September 20, 2021; almodon.com, September 21, 2021.

[46] Al-monitor.com, September 21, 2021.

[47] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 21, 2021; m-syria-d.com, September 28, 2021.

[48] Raialyoum.com, September 20, 2021; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), September 29, 2021.

[49] Independentarabia.com, August 19, 2021.

[50] Raialyoum.com, September 23, 2021.

[51] Raialyoum.com, October 13, 2021.

[52]  Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 5, 2021.

[53] Sana.sy, September 30, 2021, October 7, 2021.

[54] Alahednews.com.lb, October 5, 2021.

[55] Mofaic.gov.ae, December 27, 2018, mofa.gov.bh, December 28, 2018.

[56] Sana.sy, May 24, 2018.

[57] Sana.sy, July 7, 2019.

[58] Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 20, 2021.

[60] Al-Watan (Syria), September 20, 2021.

[61] Al-Watan (Syria), September 15, 2021.

[62] Al-Ba'th (Syria), September 22, 2021.

[63] Facebook.com/Tishreen.news.sy, October 3, 2021.

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