U.S. Relations With Syria
More information about Syria is available on the Syria Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Syria in 1944 following U.S. determination that Syria had achieved effective independence from a French-administered mandate. Syria severed diplomatic relations with the United States in 1967 in the wake of the Arab-Israeli War. Relations were reestablished in 1974. Syria has been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since the list's inception in 1979. Because of its continuing policies in supporting terrorism, its former occupation of Lebanon, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts to stabilize Iraq. Syria is subject to legislatively mandated penalties, including export sanctions under the Syrian Accountability Act and ineligibility to receive most forms of U.S. aid or to purchase U.S. military equipment. Following events in Syria beginning in March 2011, subsequent Executive orders have been issued in response to the ongoing violence and human rights abuses taking place in Syria.
During 1990-2001, the United States and Syria cooperated to a degree on some regional issues, but relations worsened from 2003 to early 2009. Issues of U.S. concern included the Syrian Government's failure to prevent Syria from becoming a major transit point for foreign fighters entering Iraq, its refusal to deport from Syria former Saddam Hussein regime elements supporting the insurgency in Iraq, its interference in Lebanese affairs, its protection of the leadership of Palestinian rejectionist groups in Damascus, its human rights record, and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. In early 2009, the United States began to review its Syria policy in light of changes in the country and the region, leading to an effort to engage with Syria to find areas of mutual interest, reduce regional tensions, and promote Middle East peace.
In March 2011, a group of Syrian students was arrested in the southern city of Dara'a for writing political graffiti on walls that said, “Down with the regime.” The government’s brutal response to the Syrian people’s call for freedom and dignity sparked nation-wide demonstrations and escalating tensions, which descended into an armed conflict that has lasted more than seven years, taken more than 500,000 lives, and displaced over 12 million people within the country and beyond its borders. The U.S. government has supported the international community’s efforts to work towards a negotiated political solution to the conflict under the auspices of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
After the rise of ISIS in 2014, the U.S. government has worked closely with the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS to achieve a lasting defeat of the terror group. Working by, with, and through local partners, the Coalition is close to the complete defeat of ISIS in Syria.
U.S. Assistance to Syria
The United States is the largest single country humanitarian donor for the Syria response, providing nearly $8.1 billion in humanitarian assistance for those displaced inside Syria and the region since the start of the crisis. The U.S. government supports emergency food assistance, shelter, safe drinking water, urgent medical care, humanitarian protection activities, and other urgent relief to the 13.1 million people suffering inside Syria, as well as the more than 5.6 million refugees from Syria in the region.
In northwest Syria, from 2012 to 2018, the United States provided stabilization assistance in support of the Syrian opposition, local councils and civil society organizations to counter the influence of al-Qa’da (AQ) affiliate groups. This support included: mobilizing Syrian activists to undermine AQ efforts to recruit Syrian youth and disenfranchised Syrians; supporting independent media and civil society activists to expose AQ’s true nature; and, non-lethal assistance to units of the Free Syrian Army and Free Syrian Police who protected communities resisting AQ influence and control.
In southwest Syria, the United States provides stabilization assistance to bolster the de-escalation arrangement. To-date, this assistance has included: capacity-building for local governance entities; essential service restoration; and, non-lethal support to units of the Free Syrian Army and Free Syrian Police to promote safety and stability.
In northeast Syria, the United States is working with our partners in the Global Coalition to Defeat-ISIS to support immediate stabilization and early recovery efforts in areas liberated from ISIS control, including Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) removal, the restoration of essential services and building local capacity to support longer-term sustainability. The United States has led stabilization assistance efforts in areas of Syria liberated from ISIS control, but seeks greater contributions from Coalition members and regional partners so that they can assume greater military and financial responsibility for securing the region.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The United States maintains comprehensive sanctions on Syria that broadly restrict the ability of U.S. persons to engage in transactional dealings involving Syria. Syria has been subject to U.S. economic sanctions since 2004 under the Syria Accountability Act, which prohibits or restricts the export and re-export of most U.S. products to Syria. Sanctions in August 2008 prohibited the export of U.S. services to Syria and banned U.S. persons from involvement in the Syrian petroleum sector, including a prohibition on importing Syrian petroleum products. In response to regime brutality against peaceful protesters beginning in 2011, the U.S. Government imposed additional sanctions beginning in April 2011, designating those complicit in human rights abuses or supporting the Assad regime. In April and May 2012, the U.S. Government authorized additional sanctions for serious human rights abuse against the Syrian people and for efforts and activities undertaken to evade sanctions. The U.S. Government is continuously identifying and designating individuals and entities subject to U.S. sanctions related to Syria, including but not limited to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons and other atrocities against its own people.
Syria's Membership in International Organizations
Syria and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank. Syria also is an observer to the World Trade Organization.
The U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended its operations in February 2012. The Government of the Czech Republic, acting through its Embassy in Damascus, serves as protecting power for U.S. interests in Syria.
Syria maintains an embassy in the United States at 2215 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-232-6313). On March 18, 2014, the State Department notified the Syrian Embassy that their operations must be suspended immediately and that all personnel at the Embassy who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents must depart by March 31, 2014. After this date of ordered departure, the United States will no longer regard accredited Embassy personnel as entitled to any of the diplomatic privileges, immunities, or protections. This notification also requires the suspension of operations of Syria’s honorary consulates in Troy, Michigan and Houston, Texas.
More information about Syria is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
Department of State Syria Country Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Syria Page
USAID Syria Page
History of U.S. Relations With Syria
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions Page
Library of Congress Country Studies