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 support and safe haven for terrorist organizations, 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.
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 three years, taken more than 146,000 lives, and displaced nearly 9 million people within the country and beyond its borders. The U.S. government has repeatedly called for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside and has led the international community’s efforts to work towards a negotiated political solution to the conflict.
U.S. Assistance to Syria
The United States remains deeply concerned by the humanitarian crisis caused by the violence in Syria and is providing assistance to help internally displaced persons and refugees fleeing Syria. We also support the Syrian people’s aspirations for a democratic, inclusive, and unified Syria and are providing direct, non-lethal support to the moderate Syrian opposition. For more information on our support for the Syrian people, please visit: https://2009-2017.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/03/223955.htm.
Bilateral Economic Relations
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 Syrian 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.
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. Special Envoy to Syria is Michael Ratney; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List. 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