Are we helping Syria to fly the terrorist skies?
By Michael Singh There have been news reports over the last day or two suggesting that, according to the Syrian government, the United States has granted approval for the export of spare parts to rehabilitate Boeing 747s owned by Damascus. By way of background, any such export would require a license from the U.S. Department of ...
By Michael Singh
By Michael Singh
There have been news reports over the last day or two suggesting that, according to the Syrian government, the United States has granted approval for the export of spare parts to rehabilitate Boeing 747s owned by Damascus. By way of background, any such export would require a license from the U.S. Department of Commerce (for the relevant regulations on this issue, see here).
To the casual observer, the approval of spare parts for civilian aircraft might seem unremarkable. Except, of course, for the fact that Syria serves as the conduit for Iranian weapons bound for Hizballah in Lebanon, which is among the reasons cited by the Commerce Department for restricting U.S. exports to Damascus. These arms shipments provide Hizballah the capability to intimidate Lebanese citizens and potentially destabilize the entire region.
Troublingly, there is a history of allegations that Iran and Syria have used civilian transport for illicit arms shipments. Recall, for example, the 2007 case of a train in Turkey which, having been bombed by Kurdish guerillas, was found to be carrying arms bound for Syria from Iran hidden among construction materials. Or more recently, the case of the ship, also bound for Syria from Iran, that was detained by Cypriot authorities and reportedly found to be carrying cargo in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1747.
Until the Syrian government ends its provision of arms to terrorist groups like Hizballah, it makes little sense for the United States to help Damascus maintain its aircraft fleet.
Michael Singh is a senior fellow and the managing director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He was a senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. Twitter: @MichaelSinghDC
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