March 10, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9222

Syrian Opposition Elements: Biden Administration Is Rushing To Promote Iran Deal, Instead Of Addressing Syrian Crisis

March 10, 2021
Iran, Syria | Special Dispatch No. 9222

The election of Joe Biden to the White House sparked concern in the Syrian opposition, which fears the return of the lenient policies of the previous Democratic president, Barack Obama, towards both the Assad regime and Iran. According to the opposition, these policies were manifest in a failure to press Assad to reach a political solution in Syria, and in giving Iran a free hand in Syria as part of efforts to conclude the nuclear deal with it.  These fears were heightened when Biden – who was Obama's vice president – announced his willingness to renew the nuclear deal with Iran,[1] and removed the Yemeni Houthis from the list of terror organizations, [2] moves that were seen by the Syrian opposition as unearned concessions to Iran. Another source of concern was the minimal attention devoted to the Syria issue in Biden's presidential campaign, and his failure to even mention it in his first foreign policy speech as president, on February 4, 2021. These facts strengthened the feeling in the Syrian opposition that the U.S. president had "forgotten" them and that resolving the Syria crisis is not a priority for the White House.

In this context, the joint president of Syria's Constitutional Committee, Hadi Al-Bahra, tweeted on February 22 that Biden is continuing Obama's policy of concessions to Iran, "which cost the Syrians dearly" at the time.[3]

Al-Bahra's tweet

Similar criticism of Biden was also expressed in articles by Syrian oppositionists. For example, intellectual Michel Kilo warned that, given the U.S. disregard of the disaster in Syria, its new deal with Iran will likely be at the Syrians' expense, just like Obama's deal. Journalist 'Abd Al-Jalil Al-Sa'id likewise assessed that Biden's silence on Syria indicates that he means to use the Syrian card in negotiating a deal with Iran. Journalist Ghazi Dahman assessed that the U.S. is not rushing to resolve the crisis in Syria since this crisis serves its interests: it allows the U.S. to maintain its presence in eastern Syria at no considerable cost, and to use it as a bargaining chip vis-a-vis Iran and Russia.    


The following are translated excerpts from these three articles.

Michel Kilo: We Must Not Repeat The Foolish Actions Of Obama, Who Struck A Deal With Iran At Our People's Expense

In an article in the London-based daily Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, Syrian oppositionist Michel Kilo attacked the Biden administration for ignoring the situation in Syria and for making concessions to Iran although past experience teaches that the Iranian regime takes advantage of this. He wrote: "Announcing [an intention] to reward Iran for its role in Yemen, the U.S. revoked the Houthis' designation as a terror organization, on the grounds that the Yemeni people are starving and the administration of U.S. President Biden feels specifically responsible [for their fate]. [The Americans don't care if this move eventually] leads the U.S. to provide the Houthis with everything they need in order to continue starving the Yemenis and in order to equip their people, who are responsible for deepening the suffering of the Yemenis, spilling their blood, occupying their homeland, destroying their homes and murdering their children. [The Houthis do this] with the active support of Iran,  the country that has established terror organizations in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, [organizations] full of murderers and mercenaries who fight [Iran's] wars and who, as organizations established by [Iran's Islamic] Revolutionary Guards [Corps], are in charge of expanding its influence and presence in one of the world regions most important to the West and to the U.S.

"How do you expect us to understand this, honorable gentlemen of the White House? Is this a necessary prelude to negotiations with Iran over its lack of commitment to the nuclear [deal]?  Are these messages meant to improve the atmosphere ahead of revoking your boycott of [Iran] and opting to contain it, in the manner of Barack Obama, who forgave [its actions] in Syria and warned his aides – one of whom was the [current] president, Biden – saying: 'From now on, I don't want any of you to mention Syria'?![4]

"It seems that the new master of the White House does not need anyone to remind him of this. Those who have been placed in charge of Syria's fate, some of whom are Iran supporters, such as [Special Representative for Iran] Robert Malley, while others are PKK [supporters], such as [National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa] Brett McGurk, will not remind him of [Syria].  On the contrary, they will help him to quickly transition to the post-Syria stage… Otherwise, how come they managed, overnight, to bring Libya from war to a solution at the press of a button [by appointing a new government with UN sponsorship and American support]? [Why] did they strengthen the Iranian occupation force in Yemen and decide to meet its Houthi agents' food and medicine needs? [Why] did they stop the Saudi 'aggression' against [the Houthis] and [why] does every White House declaration on defending freedom and human rights around the world refrain from mentioning Syria?  

"Are the Syrians not human beings with rights that should be defended? The commitment [to human rights expressed] by Biden and his administration, should it not apply to them as well? Doesn't Syria need peace and an end to the starvation and expulsion suffered by its people, who have been exiled to a distant area inside [their country], where they are being murdered through torture, starvation and humiliation? Those who killed over two million of [Syria's] citizens, do they not deserve to be punished? Do the [Syrian] people not deserve to [see] the implementation of the international resolutions [on Syria], which were welcomed by Washington…, all of which call for transitioning from a state of war to a democratic solution? [Note that] there are no resolutions on Libya  comparable in number and content, and no international resolutions that exonerate the Houthis of [spilling] the Yemenis' blood, starving them, waging war on them, tearing their homeland to pieces and letting the Iranians take over it?

"What is it about Syria? In other words, what crime have its people committed against God and man that [they deserve to hear] the foolish and ignorant Trump call [their country] 'the land of sand and blood' and [to see] President Biden and his administration forget all about [Syria] and ignore its cause… The American generosity does not extend to the Syrians. Their safety and security are not at the top of [America's] agenda, and it does not recognize their right to elect their leaders.

"I write this in order to draw the attention of all the decision makers at the White House. Like most of my fellow [Syrians], I hoped for a [Biden] win in the U.S. presidential elections, and asked my Arab American friends to support him as much as they could. I hope he does not repeat the foolish [actions] of Obama, who made a pointless deal with Iran at the expense of an entire people, and contributed to the massacre of that people by signing [that agreement].  Today the entire region is paying dearly for the Iranian missiles, whose range, thanks to that deal, covers the length and breadth of this region and many of which have targeted the embassy of the White House in Baghdad. It would be a mistake for the master of the White House to believe that concessions and leniency towards Iran will be correctly understood by Iran's leadership, and not as a sign of weakness that will encourage [Iran] to expand further among its neighbors.

"The world will not enjoy peace and security as long someone regards the Syrian people as cowards who will succumb to his will even if he ignores their rights and leave their necks under the murderers' knives. If that happens, nobody should blame anyone except for himself…"[5]

Syrian Journalist: There Is Concern That Biden, Like Obama And Trump, Will Fail To Formulate A Clear Policy On Syria

In a February 9 article on the UAE-based Al-Ain news platform, Syrian journalist 'Abd Al-Jalil Al-Sa'id expressed concern that Biden's silence on the Syrian crisis was a continuation of the vague American position on the Syrian issue, which, he said, contributed to this country's deterioration. He wrote: "U.S. President Joe Biden chose to present the general outlines of his administration's global foreign policy from the State Department building. Many who follow American issues noted the nature of this precedent, [pointing out that] this symbolic location is a clear indication that diplomacy is the first preference of the new president.  

"In his first foreign [policy] speech, U.S. President Biden disregarded the Syrian crisis, an unprecedented disaster in an Arab country steeped in conflicts and internal strife that have destroyed everything and turned half its people into refugees outside their country or displaced persons within it.  

"The Syrians fear this vague American stance, especially since the administration of the former president, Donald Trump, throughout his term in office, did not have a clear plan for Syria, and focused on managing the crisis instead of settling it or even forcing the sides to engage in serious negotiations leading to a just and comprehensive political solution.

"The concern regarding this dangerous American [stance] stems from the comparison between the policy of Biden and that of his patron and close friend, former president Obama, who provided [nothing but] moral support to the opposition movements in Syria, with general or vague statements that eventually brought the crisis to its present state.

"Perhaps the decision makers at the White House are waiting for a comprehensive approach on Syria [to be decided on], and that is why they advised Biden not to include Syria in his speech before this expected approach is formulated.  The one that should be most involved in this is National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, a veteran American diplomat who understands all the details of the Syrian picture, despite their complicated [nature]…

"Filling the hearts of the Syrians with hope and optimism regarding their country and the state we have reached is almost impossible… More than that, the magnitude of the Syrians' economic hardships, in all parts of the country, make them doubt that [the components of] this Arab entity will ever be able to unite and to continue coexisting in the future, for the forces occupying Syria – both states and militias – control its decision-making and thwart every gesture of good will raised for discussion by any local element.    

"Hence, the most important question in the context of Syria is still [the following]: Did the president of the world's most powerful country refrain from mentioning Syria because he regards it and its difficult crisis as one of the issues to be handled as part of the future deal he means to make with the Iranian regime, which is yearning for dialogue with the U.S., in its new guise? Is it possible that this deal will later [involve] giving valuable gifts [to Iran] at the expense of the Syrians and their disaster?"[6]

Syrian Journalist: The Present Situation In Syria Is Convenient For U.S. In Its Negotiations With Russia, Iran

Ghazi Dahman, a columnist for the Al-Arabi Al-Jadid daily, assessed in a February 18 article that Syria is not a priority for the Biden administration and that the U.S. is not interested in acting against the Assad regime. He wrote: "Biden's speech on America's future foreign policy… made no mention of Syria, even though the Syrian issue goes to the heart of the traditional policy of the Democratic Party, which is based on giving weight to human rights in shaping the foreign policy of the U.S. administration. It seems that the Biden administration does not mean to rely on this issue [of human rights] in order prove its intrinsic identity [as a Democratic administration] as long as this involves [accepting] costs and commitments  that it does not mean to undertake…

"The Biden administration's lack of interest in the Syrian issue in the foreseeable future may be exacerbated by the fact that America's situation in Syria is considered to be ideal, requiring no change or action. The U.S. is accomplishing its goals at a low cost, and is maintaining its presence in eastern Syria   without expending considerable resources or devoting substantial military assets to this, because the foreseeable future does not seem to hold any serious dangers compelling it to change its approach…

"In short, leaving the situation unchanged may be the most realistic policy the Biden administration can take on the Syrian issue, since it entails no cost or risk, and also serves the American goal of maintaining a presence in the Middle East while leaving the Syrian issue [as a matter for] negotiations with Iran and Russia.  If staying in Syria is an American interest, any move in a different direction, such as military action to overthrow Assad, is not in the interest of the Biden administration, whose policy is based on avoiding risk. To keep the present balance of power in Syria unchanged, the Biden administration might [in fact] take diligent action to ease the sanctions on Assad, with the excuse of minimizing the damage to the Syrian people, and [thus] keep Assad from falling due to the worsening economic situation."[7]



[1], February 19, 2021.

[2], February 6, 2021.

[3], February 22, 2021.

[4] We can find no evidence of such a quote.

[5]  Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), February 8, 2021.

[6], February 9, 2021.

[7] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), February 18, 2021.

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