By Sami Moubayed
".....Syrians already feel that the US is ungrateful for a range of accomplishments in which Syria has assisted, such as harboring 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, tightening control of the border, hammering out the Doha Agreement, ending the presidential dilemma in Lebanon, and helping moderate the behavior of Iran.
Although the US is upset that Syria has managed to shake off US-imposed isolation, Washington does realize that Syria's cooperation is needed to get things done in the Middle East. In December 1990, former US secretary of state James Baker described Syria as "a major Arab country who happens to share the same goals as we do"......
The late president Hafez al-Assad, eager to comply, met with Baker for the first time on September 14, 1990, signaling the start of a 10-year honeymoon between Damascus and Washington. Then, on November 23, Assad met with Bush, who requested Syrian support in Operation Desert Storm, and promised to hold an Arab-Israeli peace conference once Kuwait was liberated......
In response, Bush refused to channel $400 million in housing-development loans to the Israeli housing minister, who was none other than Ariel Sharon. The money had been earmarked to settle Russian Jews coming in from the former Soviet Union into the West Bank and Gaza. Giving them a free hand in Lebanon was another reward by the US administration to the Syrians; a reward for Assad's participation in Desert Storm.
As Bush promised Assad, the Madrid Conference took place in October 1991. In 1994, he gave a speech at Tufts University in which he said, "Syria's role is important to American interests." Two years later, Baker gave another speech at Tufts, saying: "Had it not been for Syria's approval and positive position, adopted by president [Hafez] al-Assad, the peace process would not have been launched."
President Bill Clinton tried again to court Syria, meeting with Assad twice in 1994, once during an historic visit to Damascus. He noted that Syria "is the key to the achievement of enduring and comprehensive peace" in the Middle East. A satisfied Syria smiled at the initiatives and gestures of the United States....."