Syria Rejoins Arab League: A victory for Al-Assad?

In an effort to resolve the Syrian issue through an “Arab-led political path,” relations with Damascus are being normalised.The normalisation of relations with Damascus has drawn criticism from opposition groups, but the Arab bloc argued it was the right course to take.

According to Iraqi official media, foreign ministers from Arab League countries have decided to reactivate Syria’s membership, which was suspended more than ten years ago.

On Sunday, the ministers met at the Arab League’s headquarters in Cairo and decided to accept Syria back into the fold.

The verdict came about during a conference of top regional officials from Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria last week in Jordan, when they gave the “Jordanian Initiative” the name in an effort to reintegrate Damascus into the Arab world.

Assad Rehabilitation Boosts Further

Syria reunited with the powerful Arab League after 12 years of exclusion due to the suppression of domestic rebellions, which ultimately ignited the ongoing civil war. Basically, this means endorsing President Bashar al-Assad‘s administration, which is in charge of the millions of Syrian citizens who have been massacred. Al-Assad is now even free to participate in the upcoming Arab League conference if he so wishes. 

Countries who initially supported the Syrian people throughout the civil war abruptly shifted their policy to support the dictator in order to protect their own national interests.But leaders are ignoring the atrocities committed by the Assad government over the past ten years in order to find a diplomatic solution to this.  

Normalising his government would give him access to greater resources, which would enable him to continue harming his own people. The decision is a significant defeat for democracy because it would encourage additional dictators to carry out their crimes as one dictator’s crime becomes tolerated.  

The world is more aware than ever of the Arab League’s unwillingness to uphold democracy.

International Reaction

UAE, Saudi Arabia & Iran: 

The most recent actions occurred at a time when the UAE is assisting Syria in re-entering the Arab fold after years of diplomatic exile following the start of the Syrian war in 2011. UAE’s president Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan already congratulated Syria’s readmission as a “positive step”.

Viewing the background will allow us to understand the reason behind this. The Syrian president Bashar al-Assad spoke via phone with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the leader of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), about promising developments in the Arab world. Throughout the call, Assad emphasized Syria’s gratitude for the UAE’s assistance in fostering improved Arab relations that advance shared Arab cooperation and serve the needs of Arab nations and peoples. The two parties also discussed their perspectives on collaboration and bilateral ties in various fields lately.

Saudi Arabia and Iran, two additional allies, intend to reestablish their bilateral ties with Syria. These two regional backers of Syria agreed to resume diplomatic relations this year as part of a historic agreement mediated by China.

Nasser Kanaani, a spokesman for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has already congratulated Syria on its success in reclaiming its position and its seat in the Arab League. Hence, Saudi Arabia had long opposed normalising ties with al-Assad, but last month Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud made his first trip to Damascus in more than a decade. Additionally, the two nations are planning to reopen their embassies and flights between them.

United States of America: 

According to reports from Washington, the United States does not currently have any plans to normalise relations with the Assad government. It doesn’t even sympathise with other nations’ decision to normalise relations with Assad’s government. 

The United States only backs political progress that complies with UN Security Resolutions 2254, which call for holding free elections in Syria between the opposing parties.But that doesn’t mean the US is perceived as taking decisive action to prevent other nations from embracing Al-Assad.

According to analysts, because they lack the political will, the US will not utilise its veto power to prevent its partners from restoring relations with the Assad regime.

United Kingdom:

It has received criticism from the UK. Lord Ahmad, the minister of state for foreign, Commonwealth, and development affairs in the UK, stated that his country is still against engagement with the Assad regime and claimed that Mr. Assad is still detaining, torturing, and killing innocent Syrians.

Jordan, Kuwait & Qatar:

Other Arab countries have opposed full normalisation without a political solution to the Syrian conflict and want there to be conditions on Syria’s return. Jordan, Kuwait, and Qatar had opposed al-Assad’s attendance at the Arab League summit, arguing that it would be premature to extend an invitation until Damascus agreed to hold peace talks. However, the spokesperson for Qatar also stated that their nation would continue to support the Arab consensus and not stand in the way of that.

So,the reintegration of Syria into the Arab League is a crucial step in a larger geopolitical change in the area that has seen states form a number of new diplomatic alliances that have threatened the preexisting regional order.


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Prepared by: Ilman Mohtadin (Associate) and Nusanta Samayel Audri (Lead) of YPF Foreign Policy Team.

Featured Image Courtesy: BBC

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