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Assad emerges victorious, as Arab governments accept Syria back to the fold

Apparently, most Arab governments see that they have to recognize Assad's rule as a reality and as a means to avoid further destabilization in the region

Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al-Assad (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

ANI Europe
Nicosia [Cyprus], May 15 (ANI): Syrian President Bashar al-Assad emerged victorious, after being shunned by Arab and Western governments for more than 12 years, as most Arab governments, realizing that he would not be toppled and would not accept their conditions, have grudgingly accepted him back to the Arab fold.
Apparently, most Arab governments see that they have to recognize Assad's rule as a reality and as a means to avoid further destabilization in the region.
In March 2011, the Arab League and the majority of Arab governments, reacting to the hard repression of Syrian people and Bashar al-Assad's massacre of protesters and use of chemicals against civilians, as well as his close relations with Iran, suspended Syria's membership and imposed sanctions on his regime.
During that time more than half a million people were killed, and 12 million became refugees, while the rest of the population - with the exception of those close to the regime - were facing famine, do not have safe drinking water or electricity, or were in dire economic straits. 90 per cent of the people live under the poverty line.
At a meeting in Cairo on May 7, the Foreign Ministers of the Arab League - ignoring the objections of Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco and some other states which did not participate at the meeting - voted to reintegrate Syria into the organization, but left individual member states to decide whether they will restore full diplomatic ties with the regime in Damascus.
The decision was made in advance of the Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19 and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud last Wednesday sent an invitation to the Syrian President to participate in the 32nd Regular Session of the Arab League Council Meeting.
Sameh Shoukry, the Foreign Minister of Egypt, justified the decision for the return of Syria to the Arab League, saying that "all the stages of the Syrian crisis have proven that there is no military solution to it and that there are no winners and losers. The decision taken by the Arab League would mark the start of a revived political process in the country."
The devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria gave Arab governments a good excuse to have contact with the Syrian regime concerning the provision of relief to the earthquake victims, while a major role in the rapprochement was played by the re-establishment of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran (that had supported opposite sides in the conflict) which removed one of the main obstacles to the restoration of relations.
Although at the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the Bashar al-Assad regime, was expected to collapse, as several Arab countries supported the various factions trying to topple him, the critical assistance he received from Iran and Russia made it possible for the Damascus regime to regain a large part of the country it lost initially and now the regime controls about two-thirds of Syria.
Gradually, the governments of the Arab states supporting the anti-regime factions began to realize that Bashar al-Assad would not be defeated and that they should try to stop the further destabilization of the region.
Moreover, countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have provided shelter to millions of refugees, in the expectation that the Assad regime would fall in a matter of months, and want to send them back to Syria, as their populations see the refugees as competitors for jobs and state resources.
The change in the stand of Turkey, which has been hosting some 3.5 million Syrian refugees, is quite indicative of this. The Turkish people initially welcomed the refugees in the name of Islamic solidarity, but now see them as a big problem. A poll shows that 85 per cent of the voters want them out of Turkey.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that last year that about half a million Syrians returned to the "safe zones" created by Turkey in northwest Syria and vowed that 1 million refugees would soon return to their country.
Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu in his election campaign has stated that one of his top goals is to return all Syrians to their country within two years.
Lebanon, a country facing economic meltdown last year has started forcibly sending refugees back to Syria.
The Arab League's decision to welcome Bashar al-Assad back to the Arab fold is undoubtedly a major victory for Assad. This is because the Syrian President was admitted back to the League without agreeing to any prior conditions, for example, a firm commitment not to persecute or victimize further Syrian refugees returning to their country.
Assad also avoided undertaking any commitment to stop the production of the Captagon drug, which creates tens of thousands of drug addicts in the countries of the region and is currently the biggest foreign exchange earner of his regime.
Furthermore, the restoration of relations between the Syrian regime and Arab governments represents a major success also for Iran and Russia, whose support allowed Bashar al-Assad to stay in power, although, at the beginning of the crisis in Syria, the collapse of the regime seemed to be inevitable.
At the same time, it is a minor defeat of the US Administration and Western governments that repeatedly expressed their condemnation of the Damascus regime. Now, with the decision of the Arab League, Arab countries appear to be publicly backing an important ally of Russia and Iran, without securing any concessions from Damascus.
Reuters has reported that a bi-partisan group in the US Congress introduced last Thursday a bill prohibiting the US government from recognizing or normalizing relations with any Syrian government led by Assad and expanding an Act that imposed tough sanctions on Syria in 2020.
Gilles Kepel, of the Institute of Political Studies, Paris, points out: "The Arab League's decision to readmit Syria is a game changer in the Middle East, a clear success for Saudi diplomacy and an apparent win for Russia. It is another sign of the strengthening of the illiberal bloc which challenges the West's democracy agenda. It draws the curtain for good on what remained of the dreams of the Arab Spring a decade ago.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: May 15 2023 | 9:42 AM IST

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