The return of Syria is a “scatter of sand” in the eyes of the West Dr. Anat Hochberg-Marom

The return of Syria is a “scatter of sand” in the eyes of the West Dr. Anat Hochberg-Marom
The return of Syria is a “scatter of sand” in the eyes of the West Dr. Anat Hochberg-Marom

After a prolonged disconnection of over a decade, the president of Syria Bashar el Assad, who was invited to participate in the Arab League summit in Riyadh, met there with the top leaders of Arab countries. Beyond being a symbolic meeting and a powerful display of power that attracts a lot of attention, it is a dramatic turning point in the Arab world, leading to the thawing of relations between Syria and its neighbors. A closer look shows that the event was held following intense talks that took place recently between Damascus and the league members, along with prolonged courting efforts by the leaders of Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

The thawing of Riyadh-Tehran relations, along with the renewal of Riyadh-Damascus relations and the tightening of ties between Tehran and Damascus, are among the main factors that contributed to this. In addition, the deadly earthquakes that struck northern Syria in February and the Assad regime’s re-takeover of approximately 65% ​​of the country’s regions under the auspices of Iran and Russia also accelerated the normalization of relations.

In the meantime, the Arab leaders’ recognition of the Syrian dictator and his joining the ranks of the organization – despite his war crimes and murderous policies against his own people that have so far claimed half a million victims and about 12 million refugees and displaced persons – constitute for him, as well as for the leaders of Iran and Russia and the Arab regimes that support him, a victory of consciousness Huge.

All this, among other things, in view of the lifting of the boycott that put an end to Syria’s isolation, which began with the outbreak of the civil war in 2011 and continues to this day. An overall observation of the regional upheavals some of which were described above reflects the enormous changes taking place in the Muslim world and the map of relations and interests in the Middle East, as well as the devaluation of the geopolitical position of the United States, its power and influence on the countries of the region, including in the international arena.

International isolation has failed

About 12 years since it was expelled from the Arab League following the violent suppression of the protests that broke out in the country in March 2011 by the Assad regime, Syria has returned to the ranks of the organization. Although the move was presented as a symbolic act designed to ease the suffering of the Syrian people, it is already evident that the renewal of ties with Syria is a defining event in the Arab world. And so, not only that the decision to do so was approved by 19 of the 22 members of the organization, but that its gradual return to the fold of Arab countries carries substantial geopolitical and security consequences.

As part of the intense contacts that preceded it led by Jordan’s “road map”, President Assad renewed diplomatic relations with the Saudi royal family and even hosted the president of Iran in his palace in Damascus. Ibrahim Raisi. This is, among other things, following the normalization of relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Jordan, and moreover – in view of the “détente” (de-escalation of tensions) between Riyadh and Tehran and in addition to the humanitarian aid given to Syria following the deadly earthquakes. All of these, in turn, constitute a trigger that accelerated the understanding among many of the countries of the region that the international isolation of Syria is not effective and cannot continue forever.

New security architecture

In the view of Arab leaders, the normalization and renewal of economic and diplomatic relations with Syria are part of a long strategic process that will eventually lead to the infusion of approximately 250 billion dollars, which will assist in the rehabilitation of the country and in putting pressure on the international community to lift the sanctions imposed on the Assad regime. Moreover, in the eyes of most of Syria’s neighbors, the recognition of the legitimacy of the regime – despite the war crimes committed by Assad against his own people – is intended to increase internal and regional security and stability, and also to limit Turkey’s involvement and Iran’s enormous influence on it, along with the terrorist activities led by Hezbollah against the countries of the region.

In their view, the lifting of the boycott and the joining of Syria to the Arab League, among other things in view of the “Emperor’s Law” and the heavy lifting of sanctions by the US on it, is an important element in changing the strategic environment and designing a new “security architecture” that is gradually taking shape under their auspices in the Middle East. For, alongside the renewal of relations and agreements between countries the region (such as the upgrading of Turkish-Egyptian relations as well as the signing of the agreements between Israel and Lebanon on the water issue and with the Gulf states as part of the “Abraham Accords”), a change in their approach towards Syria, which is considered an important strategic security axis, is expected to affect the regional balance of power, especially vis-à-vis Iran. It is important to note that Syria is a center for the production and smuggling of drugs to the countries of the region, led by the drug heptagon, which has become the dominant source of income for the Assad regime (according to estimates, the revenue from the export of the drug for 2022 is estimated at 30 billion dollars).

Moreover, the normalization of relations with Damascus reflects their pragmatic-realistic approach and the ability of the countries of the region to adapt and adapt to the geopolitical changes that beset it. While they are “reading the map correctly”, especially in view of the reduction of the presence and involvement of the US and Russia in the Middle East, not only that, but they are ready to accelerate changes and take risks that will help in the expected confrontation with the strengthening of the Iranian threat and the economic instability that originates, among other things, from the unprecedented spread of The Addictive Drug They seem ripe now more than ever to take the lead and take an active part in shaping the new geopolitical equation that is being created these days in one of the most charged and explosive regions of the world.

An overwhelming victory of consciousness

Therefore, it is not for nothing that the inclusion of Syria in the Arab League, which is considered a victory for the conscience of the Syrian dictator and Arab countries, arouses quite a few doubts in the world, alongside opposition and “warning lights” in Jerusalem, as well as in the capitals of the West. A closer look shows that not only does the Assad regime enjoy the fruits of regional recognition and legitimacy for its actions (while the US and the EU countries, on the other hand, strongly oppose the normalization process and even adhere to Security Council Resolution 2254 of December 18, 2015, calling for a ceasefire and a formal political settlement in Syria ), so far no formal commitment has been made on the part of the Syrian president to follow the terms of Syria’s return to the organization.

For example, preventing arms smuggling and curbing the flourishing drug industry in Syria, encouraging the return to Syria of approximately 5.5 million refugees from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey, as well as reviving negotiations with rebel groups operating mainly in Idlib in the northeast of the country.

In addition, the renewal of relations with Syria does not raise the internal rivalries and disputes that exist among Arab countries and between them and the Assad regime, on the contrary. It is already apparent that the process of normalization and getting closer to it may increase regional security tensions and even strengthen the vulnerability of the countries of the region, Israel in particular. This is mainly in view of the increasing pressure on it and the call to refrain from attacks against critical infrastructures in Syria and against Iran and the Hezbollah organization.

In the meantime, a comprehensive observation makes it possible to understand that the inclusion of Syria into the Arab world constitutes an act of defiance and “sand casting” in the eyes of the West, which indicates the failure of the “maximum pressure” policy led by the USA. The international sanctions did not lead to the submission of the regime in Damascus and the removal of Assad government, and it seems that the addition of Syria to the organization is expected to strengthen its power and regional position. All this, while increasing its ability to maneuver between a greater number of regional actors which will lead to a reduction of dependence on Iran, as well as while strengthening the image and status of the Syrian dictator, which is already reflected in his refusal to change his policy lines, especially in view of the efforts to court him by most Arab leaders.

Observing this from a broad geopolitical and security point of view provides additional insights regarding the enormous erosion that has taken place in the image of the US’s power in the eyes of the countries in the region. Since not only is the renewal of relations and the official recognition of the Assad regime contrary to the official line of the American administration, but in the official addition of Syria to the Arab League, Arab countries legitimize the Syrian dictator’s murderous actions and policies.

In addition, this act, beyond violating the norms of international law and harming democracy and human rights, provides cover and inspiration for other murderous leaders around the world, such as Vladimir Putin, to continue unhindered to resort to terrorism and brutal violence against their own people. There is no doubt therefore that this is another nail in the coffin of American hegemony and the power and influence of the United States in the Middle East in particular, and in the international arena in general.

The author is an expert in geopolitics, global terrorism and international crises

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