Nation is taking positive steps to control the flow of insurgents.
By NATHAN GUTTMAN
For the first time since the war in Iraq began three year ago, the US is seeing positive moves from Syria to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.
Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, the senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Iraq, said this week that the US has seen a decline in the number of insurgents entering Iraq through the Syrian border.
According to Jeffery, this decline can be attributed partly to the Syrian decision to impose a visa regime that limits the ability of foreign fighters to enter the country "which is something that we pressed them to do."
Jeffrey called this decision by Damascus "a positive development." The senior adviser on Iraq said, at the same time, that another reason for the decline was the successful American military operations along the entry route.
In a meeting with a group of Middle Eastern journalists at the State Department Tuesday, Ambassador Jeffrey stressed that, though there was some positive action from Syria, there was still much to be done in order to close the border. "This is something the Syrians can do more about and we want them to do that," Jeffrey said.
The issue has been a major point of conflict between the US and Damascus in the past three years and the US has focused much of its diplomatic power on attempts to get Bashar Assad's regime to close the border. While the Syrians have claimed that they did not have the ability to control their long land border with Iraq, the US argued that much of the infiltration could be stopped by tightening the control over foreigners entering Syria and by patrolling known entry areas to Iraq.
Apart from the issue of infiltration, which was now in decline, the US also asked Syria to stop giving shelter to former Ba'athists and supporters of the resistance in Iraq "who are being wined and dined - well, maybe not wined - in Damascus and Aleppo and other places," according to Jeffrey.
Diplomatic sources in Washington confirmed that the issue of the Syrian-Iraqi border was "a smaller problem than in the past" for the US, but pointed out that the US still had other issues with the Assad regime, among them the Syrian role in the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri, the involvement of Syria in Lebanon and their support for the Hizbullah.
While the US was issuing praise for the Syrian regime's actions on the Iraqi border, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem on Thursday blamed America's "double standard" in the Middle East for the current turbulence in the world.
"The double-standard [policy] practiced against Iran and Syria is regretfully the reason for the confusion in the international arena," Moallem told reporters after meeting with former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani. "Those who espouse such a policy should bear full responsibility for the turbulence in the international arena." Moallem was apparently referring to the US.
Moallem said the US's diplomatic pressure was directed at Syria's "stands and policies that serve their peoples' interests and do not serve hegemony and occupation."
"There is an international law and international agreements and treaties, which, if applied in all world countries, would lead to a more just world," Moallem said.
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