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Following is our translation from RIA Novosti with brief commentary by Vince Dhimos. We are now a far cry from “Assad must go.” The West has finally stopped this nonsense, and the Arabs are following suit.
They understand that the real enemy in Syria is Turkey, which wants to carry on where the US left off.
The Middle East has reconciled with Assad. What does this mean for Russia?
MOSCOW, January 16 - RIA Novosti, Ksenia Melnikova. A few years ago, there could be no question of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s diplomatic rehabilitation, but now it is only a matter of time. The countries of the Persian Gulf, considered irreconcilable opponents of the Syrian leader, have decided not only to restore the embassy in Damascus, but also to return Syria to the League of Arab States. What are their motives and what does this means for Russia?
Return to the Arab family
Representatives of the military intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel held secret negotiations, resulting in the decision to restore diplomatic relations with Bashar al-Assad. The publication Middle East Eye, headquartered in London, reports on this, citing sources. According to journalists, an agreement was reached to restore communication between the Syrian government and the Arab world. Embassies will reopen in Damascus and Syria will be returned to the League of Arab States.
Damascus found itself in diplomatic isolation as soon as the civil war in Syria began in 2011. But if some closed the embassies for security reasons, others clearly made it clear that they were not happy with Bashar al-Assad’s remaining in power.
“This regime has lost its legitimacy -- the only right course of action for Assad is to leave now,” commented Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird on closing the embassy.
Eight years later, Assad was still in power, and the Syrian government, with the support of allies, was able to regain control over a significant part of the country.
The main goal, which the Middle Eastern states are pursuing in the current situation, is to reduce the influence of Iran and prevent Turkey’s military expansion in north-eastern Syria. It is Ankara’s growing ambitions in the region that are of increasing concern, notes the Middle East Eye. In particular, according to the periodical, the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, who represented Israel at the talks, stated that "the power of Iran is currently quite fragile; the real threat comes from Turkey."
The package of four measures elaborated at the meeting is mainly aimed at countering Ankara. Representatives of the intelligence services, in particular, agreed to minimize the influence of Turkey in Iraq. These representative are the National Axis Alliance - the largest parliamentary bloc of the Sunni forces of Iraq.
In addition, it was decided to support the Syrian Kurds in the north-east of the warring country. Currently, their fate is rather uncertain because of US President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw American troops from Syria. Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates fear that in this case Turkey will gain control over the Kurdish territories.
In order to prevent another rival in the region - Iran, the participants in the meeting intend to deprive Tehran of the levers of influence on Assad. One way is to return Syria to the League of Arab States (LAS).
You’re no brother of mine
Relations between Damascus and the League finally deteriorated in 2012, when civil war was already in the country for six months. The members of the Arab League almost unanimously opposed the use of force to resolve the conflict. At present, the process of restoring the membership of Syria has already been launched: on January 9, a special meeting was held in the Egyptian capital Cairo, at which this issue was raised. Probably, further steps will be discussed at the summit in late January.
Signs of warming in relations between Syria and Middle Eastern countries appeared last year: the border with Jordan was opened, and Sudan President Omar al-Bashir in December 2018 became the first Arab League member in eight years to visit Damascus.
In November, the UAE authorities sent their diplomats to the Syrian capital. The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates explained: "This step emphasizes the desire of the UAE government to restore relations between the two fraternal countries."
Soon the authorities of Bahrain also began the restoration of their diplomatic presence in Syria. This process began at the UN General Assembly in New York last September at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries. And at the end of December, the Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that "work continues in his embassy in Syria," despite the fact that there has been no ambassador there since 2011. The Emirates noted that the resumption of the diplomatic mission in Syria is necessary to "strengthen and enhance the role of the Arab countries in order to preserve Syria’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as to prevent the dangers of regional interference in its development and internal affairs."
It is not yet clear whether the large western countries will follow this example. Only the Czech Republic has an embassy in Damascus. This embassy, by the way, represents the interests of the United States, whose diplomats left the Syrian capital in 2012.
However, judging by the recent statements by the French and US foreign ministers, the attitude towards Bashar Assad and his regime is changing in the West. Thus, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian allowed the current Syrian leader to participate in the Syrian electoral process. "If Bashar Assad is a candidate, then he will be a candidate. It is the Syrians who must decide what their future will be," he said. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said something like this: in his opinion, the current Syrian leader "will become part of the country's political future."
Syrian processes for Moscow
Western countries are looking for compromises in order to get at least some dividends in the current situation, says, a senior researcher at the IMEMO RAS, EM Primakova, Associate Professor of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Vladimir Avatkov. "Assad is the legitimate Syrian ruler; he did not surrender, continued the fight against terrorist groups, formed the political environment and, of course, must be part of the political process," the expert said to RIA Novosti.
But with regard to the position of the Middle Eastern countries in relation to Syria, the situation here looks different. "Definitely, dividends are received by Iran and Turkey. The strengthening of these two players is largely due to the position of Moscow. It should be borne in mind that Ankara is now actively trying to take on much of what the United States did in Syria. It is quite dangerous and can be as productive as it can counter-productive,” said the political scientist.
Restoration of the representation of Syria in LAS depends directly on the position of the leader of the organization, ie, Saudi Arabia. Here, according to Avatkov, two factors play an important role - the position of the Saudi leadership itself and pressure from the United States, which is interested in getting some benefit from the ongoing processes.
"We need to bear in mind that the withdrawal of the Americans from Syria and the attempt to step aside implies that either they are preparing some kind of action plan, perhaps in a completely different direction, or they realize that they cannot receive significant dividends here and are trying to gain at least something “the way they like, by someone else’s efforts, in this case at the expense of their allies,” the expert said.
He added that the current situation could be a "success of the Russian army and Russian diplomacy," since it is important for Moscow to show the entire world community that it is unacceptable to change regimes by force, and only a legitimate transfer of power is possible. In addition, Russia has the opportunity to show itself as the "organizer of the world" based on the example of the Middle and Near East region.
It is interesting to look back at all the people who declared “Assad must go!” Many of them are gone themselves and Assad is still in power, defending his people.
Here are some links:
Assad must go
From 2018! They were still kicking the dead horse of "Assad must go."
There’s a Right Way to End Syria’s War
The New Special Envoy Must Not Allow Russia to Protect Assad
By Janine di Giovanni
Obama to UN: Assad must go, Sept 2015, the month Russia went in
Last Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that “there would be no role” for Bashar al-Assad “to govern the Syrian people,” and that steps are underway to assemble an international coalition to remove him from power.
Five days and one cruise-missile strike later, he remarked in Moscow, “The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.”
Tillerson is gone!
Aug 2018 (just a few months ago. They were still asleep).
Defense Secretary James Mattis has renewed U.S. calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be removed from power, while at the same time suggesting it was up to the Syrian people to decide their country's fate.
Mattis is gone!
Secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria. — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria, Politico
This turn of events is best described by the title of a paper written by CFR president Richard Haass: How a World Order Ends.