By Ali Karbalaei

Arab states restoring ties with Syria

April 3, 2023 - 18:9
Diplomatic moves a slap in the face for U.S. and Israel 

TEHRAN- The warming of ties between Syria and Arab states has won global attention. Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 amidst the eruption of war in the country.

The rapprochements come as the United States is losing its influence in the region. Back in 2011, Washington had major sway on Arab states but as the dynamics in West Asia change and Syria emerged triumphant over foreign-backed terrorists, some Arab states are taking matters into their own hands, despite the anger of Washington.

Now, reports have surfaced that Saudi Arabia is planning to invite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Arab League summit that Riyadh will be hosting next month. According to Reuters, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud will travel to Damascus in the coming weeks to hand al-Assad a formal invitation to attend the summit scheduled for May 19.

The two sides are already in talks to reopen their respective embassies.

The Syrian government has yet to comment and it remains to be seen whether al-Assad will accept the invitation.

The news agency also cited a source as saying discussions for a visit by Prince Faisal Al Saud to Damascus or by Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad to Riyadh were postponed because of the earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria in February.

The news comes on the backdrop of al-Miqdad’s trip to Cairo where he held talks with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

The trip is the first by a Syrian official to Egypt since the war on Syria in 2011. The two diplomats discussed bilateral ties as well as regional developments.

The visit comes about a month after Shoukry visited Damascus to meet top officials.

That followed President al-Assad and his wife’s trip to the United Arab Emirates after an official invitation by Abu Dhabi.

Over the past several months other Arab countries have also made moves to restore their diplomatic ties with Damascus, drawing the anger of Washington.

Despite strong opposition from the U.S., some Arab governments have realized that attempts to isolate Syria is not a solution.

The Syrian government has previously stated its condition to return to the Arab League, saying it won’t be of much significance if wide differences between Damascus and its neighbors in the region remain.

Syrian officials have long maintained that before returning to the 22-member bloc, disputes and misunderstandings between Damascus and other sides must be settled first.

This may explain the flurry of bilateral meetings over the past few months – or according to some sources over the past year – to pave the way for Syria’s return.

The main issue of dispute is how Syrian government forces have been dealing with foreign-backed militants during some ten years of war on the country.

The same Arab states, now restoring diplomatic ties, had previously set conditions for the country’s return to the Arab League such as an end to Syrian government forces’ operations against militants, which like the West, they described them as “rebels”, and likewise labelled the war on Syria as a “civil war”.

Since the first day that violence erupted in Syria, the government has been calling on any Syrian militants to lay down their arms and join the political process.

From one province to another many Syrian nationals did exactly that.

However, this will not apply to foreign terrorists who have travelled to the country and occupied Syrian provinces, killed hundreds of thousands, and displaced millions of others. Damascus has declared them as a red line.

The Syrian government vowed to liberate the country’s soil from the terrorists and dismissed any demands from Arab states.

The former British Ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, has countered the U.S. and other Western power's narrative that Damascus had waged war on its own people, arguing that the government had every “legitimate” right to take security measures and put an end to the presence of foreign-backed terrorists.

Ford says there was no such thing as a “civil war”, adding “the government was dealing with terrorists”.

Damascus has been successful in liberating most of the country from terrorists who were supplied weapons, logistical support and other forms of help from outside powers, in particular the CIA and the Israeli regime.

The northern province of Idlib is the only region left occupied by terrorists. Ford says it is no surprise that “civilians, not just in Idlib, but during the ten-year war, fled [militant] occupied areas to government-controlled areas”, not the other way round.

The U.S., under the pretext of fighting Daesh, still keeps occupying the oil rich parts of Eastern and North Eastern regions, pillaging the country’s natural riches in a bid to prevent the government from restoring vital services and humanitarian aid to the nation.

Damascus is also strongly opposed to the incursions and presence of Turkish forces in the country’s north.

Despite Syria’s suspension from the Arab League, Damascus had always retained the support of Arab nations like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, while many reports cited other members as voicing their opposition to the decision.

While many Arab politicians have been calling for Syria’s return to the Arab world by arguing how Damascus played an important role, the country’s return to the Arab League may be considered symbolic. It does reflect the change in the regional approach towards the foreign-waged war on the country.

It also comes during an era as Israel has been increasingly violating Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity by waging attacks on civilian infrastructure and military bases.

Syrian officials have accused Israel of coordinating with terror cells still operating in the country and have vowed to respond to the attacks.

Analysts say the timing for Damascus to take revenge against Israel is not ripe at the moment as the country is still recovering from a decade-long war that was supported by many Western and regional countries who poured vast amounts of weapons and money to militants. 

In the meantime, experts say Damascus is taking the right path by forging warmer and closer ties with regional states.

Some of these states are the same ones that once supported the militants who maimed a countless number of civilians.

As many analysts have noted, the same Arab states would have taken the same security measures as Damascus did, had such a vast number of terrorists occupied their countries and maimed their civilians.

The warming of ties between Syria and its regional Arab neighbors is a slap in the face for Israel.

The regime had pinned its hopes on some of these same Arab states that have normalized ties with the occupying entity to join its campaign to weaken Syria after its victory over terrorist groups.

The facts on the ground suggest the opposite, with Arab states distancing themselves from Israel and forging closer ties with Damascus.

This, for now, is a victory for Syria against Israel.

When the time is right, Syrian officials say the country will take revenge for Israel’s repeated attacks on its soil.  

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