Quake solidarity feeds Washington’s fears of Arab normalization with Syria
State Department spokesman Ned Price blamed Syria’s humanitarian crisis solely on Damascus, ignoring the effects of US occupation and sanctions
By News Desk - February 28 2023

(Photo credit: Syrian Presidency)

US State Department spokesman Ned Price urged the international community in a briefing on 27 February not to let humanitarian assistance to Syria be accompanied by normalization with Bashar al-Assad’s government, signifying Washington’s growing anxiety that the 6 February disaster will bring about an Arab embrace of Damascus.

“Our position on the Assad regime has not changed. Now is not the time for normalization. Now is not the time to upgrade relations with the Assad regime,” Price said at the briefing.

“We believe we can fulfill and that countries around the world can fulfill … these imperatives, addressing the humanitarian needs … of the Syrian people, without changing or upgrading their relationship with the Assad regime,” he added.

Since the devastating earthquake struck Turkiye and Syria, Washington has continuously refused any coordination with the Syrian government, deeming it “counterproductive” and calling on its allies to refrain from engaging with Damascus.

Although some of Washington’s Arab allies remain aligned with US policy on Syria – such as Qatar and Kuwait, the earthquake has seemingly initiated a broader Arab embrace of Syria.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia – who supported extremist groups that fought against the government – have now expressed a need to end the ‘status-quo’ of enmity with Damascus, particularly for humanitarian purposes. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Saudi foreign minister may visit the country soon.

Several Arab states, including Algeria, Tunisia, and Iraq, all disregarded the risk of US sanctions by providing aid to government-held territory through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). After falsely claiming that sanctions do not harm the Syrian people, Washington had to issue a temporary waiver following the storm of criticism against its Syria policy.

“The humanitarian emergency that the Syrian people have faced for more than a decade now is largely a manmade one … owing to the actions of the Assad regime, the brutality that the regime has inflicted on its people,” Price went on to say.

This is despite the fact that US sanctions against Syria have been deemed a violation of human rights and international law by experts. As a result of these sanctions, food costs have surged dramatically, an overall health crisis has been exacerbated, and humanitarian aid has been impeded – both before and after the earthquake.

At the same time, US military forces illegally occupy Syria and provide assistance to extremist armed groups. They have also looted massive amounts of the country’s wheat and oil.

Since the start of the US-backed war in 2011, Syria’s Oil Ministry has incurred losses of at least $107.1 billion as a result of Washington’s policies.

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