10:43 AM, Dec 16, 2009 • By RACHEL ABRAMS
U.S. relations with Syria are "more normal than before, and on more than one level," declares Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, by which presumably he means to say that we and they have emerged from Eight Years of Darkness (EYD) to forge new ties in a new spirit of comity; and indeed there is evidence that this is so. Mr. Obama has signaled his intention to send an ambassador to Damascus, a position that's been empty since 2005, when, finding Syrian fingerprints all over the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the prior president yanked our envoy out of there and never sent her back. In the meantime, the Obamic quest to unclench the Iranian fist with an extended hand has continued apace. At least as many (if not more) "high-level" American officials have flitted off to Tehran's proxy in Damascus over the past eleven months as during the entire preceding EYD, when Syria was an international pariah and the transit point-which General Odierno points out it still is today-for jihadis of every stripe heading to Iraq to kill Americans. Khaled Meshaal still maintains control of Hamas from the safety of his Damascene hiding place, Hizballah arms continue to truck through Syria unhindered, and the Assad dictatorship remains on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism along with Cuba, Iran, and Sudan.
But "normal"? Common, usual, unexceptional, sane, rational, accustomed, acknowledged, conventional?