NEW YORK – That was then, this is now.
In 2009, the Obama administration was instrumental in facilitating a free-trade deal that would have seen billions of dollars in commerce flow between the European Union and Syria, as WND was first to report that year.
Now Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are making the case for a military campaign targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who stands accused by the White House of using chemical weapons against his own people.
The Drudge Report is spotlighting a Weekly Standard article reporting Kerry’s frequent visits to Assad, particularly in 2009.
In February 2009, Kerry reportedly led a delegation to engage with Assad.
Agence France-Presse quoted Kerry stating he believes Syria “is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.”
At the time, WND reported the inside deals being made between Assad and the Obama administration.
In particular, Obama dropped his opposition to a multi-billion-dollar partnership deal between the EU and Syria that may have revitalized Damascus’ stagnant economy, Egyptian and other Palestinian diplomatic sources told WND.
U.S. opposition was a main factor in the deal being delayed, since it was drawn up as a draft pact in 2004. The deal is worth an estimated $7 billion a year for the Syrian economy. The Bush administration was particularly opposed to Syria’s interference in Lebanese affairs and Damascus’ military alliance with Iran.
According to the Egyptian and Palestinian diplomatic sources, the Obama administration dropped American opposition to the deal without first extracting a concession from Syria to end its alliance with Iran.
The sources told WND the White House received pledges from Syria to collaborate with the West in Lebanon and Iraq and to play a more constructive role in the Middle East.
“Syria was clear there was no promise to end its ties to Iran,” said a diplomatic source.
Ultimately, after pursuing the EU free-trade pact for years, Assad backed away from the deal after it was offered to him, citing Syrian concerns that it would harm Syrian companies.
Still, the EU remained Syria’s biggest trade partner.
WND first quoted a Syrian official in 2008 stating that if the U.S. dropped its opposition to the EU trade deal and built up Damascus as the primary American ally in the Arab world in place of Saudi Arabia, the Syrians would be willing to discuss scaling back alliances with Iran and making peace with Israel.