Assad wants to be back in the Arab fold. The U.S. stands in the way.

A decision late last year by the United Arab Emirates to reopen its embassy in Damascus and overtures being made to Assad by other Arab states gave rise to expectations that he would soon be welcomed back into the Arab fold, eight years after the rebellion against his rule isolated him from most Arab countries.

But the Trump administration has pressed its allies to hold back, warning that any moves to participate in the rebuilding of Syria would trigger U.S. sanctions designed to pressure Assad into accepting political reforms, U.S. officials say.

Many Arab states, meanwhile, are unsure whether they want to rehabilitate a leader who remains bound to Iran by a long and close alliance, according to diplomats in the region. Iran has gained influence in Syria by helping Assad win the war…

Russia is pushing in the opposite direction and urging Arab governments to build bridges with Damascus, say diplomats who have been briefed on the issue. Moscow is trying to persuade Arab governments to reengage with Assad to curtail Iran’s influence, according to the diplomats.