The Washington Institute for Near East Policy published an article by former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, in which he talked about efforts to reintegrate Syria into the Arab League, saying that these attempts have increased recently.
David Schenker: Guest Interests and the Troubles of War
The American Institute said that weak interests and fatigue from the war are pushing many Arab League member states to support early elections and normalization with Damascus.
But this approach would only serve to strengthen Bashar al-Assad’s control and help him evade accountability for war crimes. According to the American diplomat.
David Schenker indicated that, in recent weeks, efforts to reintegrate Syria into the “Arab League” have increased.
The country was suspended from the organization in November 2011, after eight months of brutal efforts by the Syrian regime that killed 5,000 civilians.
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Ten years later and an estimated 500,000 Prime Time Zone have been killed, many Arab countries – encouraged by Russia – are taking steps to end Bashar al-Assad’s isolation and restore Syria’s decade-long membership.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: The Arab League is an ancient organization
David Schenker added: “Although the“ Arab League ”is an old, ineffective and largely intrinsic organization, this step is important due to its meanings: greater willingness by the countries of the region to cooperate with Bashar al-Assad politically and economically.
He continued, “In line with” Security Council Resolution 2254 “(of 2015), American policy linked any similar re-engagement with a legitimate political transition.
He added, “However, the countries of the region may undermine the possibilities for real change by welcoming the return of Damascus prematurely.”
Increase Arab involvement
The writer said: “After suspending Syria’s membership for its refusal to implement the“ Arab League ”peace plan in 2011, the organization imposed a series of sanctions that included travel bans on some of the regime’s senior officials, placing restrictions on investments and dealing with the Central Bank of Syria.
He added, “With the exception of Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, all members of the” Arab League “ratified these measures and imposed them, at least in part, over a period of a decade.
He continued, “This is largely due to fears that they will be punished by Western countries if they do not comply with the procedures.”
However, over the past few years, according to the writer, a number of Arab countries have begun to press for an end to the suspension of Syria’s membership, based on economic exigencies, fatigue from war, regional rivalries, and a growing sense that the Assad regime has won.
Senior Trump administration officials opposed these efforts, but contacts between Arab capitals and Damascus intensified, however, between 2016 and 2020, as several countries reopened their closed embassies and re-appointed senior diplomats.
Bashar al-Assad and the cunning of the Emirates
The American Institute says, “The UAE was among those most persistent advocates. Despite initially supporting the rebels, Abu Dhabi reopened its embassy in Damascus in December 2018, and has since called for Syria’s re-membership in the Arab League.
He added, “The idea gained more momentum in March after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov toured the UAE and other Gulf countries.”
In a joint press conference during Lavrov’s visit, Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed underestimated Washington’s approach to the matter and expressed regret that US economic restrictions such as the “Caesar Act to Protect Civilians in Syria” “make it difficult.” Then he called for the reconstruction of post-war Syria.
“The UAE was not alone in following this path,” the US diplomat said. “Tunisia reopened its embassy in 2015, sending a mid-career diplomat to Damascus.”
Oman also returned its ambassador to Syria in October 2020, to be the first Gulf country to do so
Five months later, the Syrian ambassador to Muscat said that the two countries had agreed to boost investment and trade
Jordan also sent a chargé d’affaires to Damascus in 2019, to fill a position that had been vacant since 2012.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry announced last month that Cairo supports Arab normalization with Syria, shortly after his meeting with Lavrov.
Iraq also hosted the Syrian oil minister last week to negotiate a deal to import Egyptian natural gas via Syria.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sent its intelligence chief to Damascus to hold talks with his Syrian counterpart on May 3, in a meeting described by the British newspaper, The Guardian, as “the first public meeting of its kind since the outbreak of the war.” According to some reports, they discussed the reopening of the two embassies.
Egypt, Iraq and Jordan will soon hold a meeting in Baghdad focused on reintegrating Syria into the region, according to an April report in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Bashar al-Assad and the narrow motives
And it seems that a set of narrow motives are driving these efforts – as the former American diplomat says – for the UAE, the reintegration of Assad and the rebuilding of Syria carry a promise to end the deployment of Turkish forces in Idlib, as the Emirati opponent deployed his forces to prevent the influx of more refugees.
“Jordan appears to be driven primarily by its desire to support its economy, return refugees, resume consistent business activity, and revive road transport through Syria en route to Turkey and Europe,” he added. In this regard, the restrictions of the Caesar Act issued by Washington continue to anger Amman. ”
On a larger scale, Egyptian officials seem to support the unconfirmed idea that Syria’s return to the Arab League would gradually enhance its Arabism, thus alienating Damascus from Persian Iran.
Other countries in the region are likely to share similar views. Even some Israeli national security figures improbably estimate that Russia might limit the Iranian invasion of post-war Syria under Assad.
It also appears that most Arab countries, especially Egypt, are ready to endorse the impending presidential election play in Syria as evidence of the political transition. According to the American Institute.
During his April 12 press conference with Lavrov, Foreign Minister Shukry announced that the planned May 26 vote would allow the Syrian Prime Time Zone to “determine their future … and form a government that represents them,” despite the inevitable results in favor of Assad.
Challenge the United Nations and ignore war crimes
Efforts to rehabilitate the Assad regime are inconsistent with “Security Council Resolution No. 2254,” which stipulates the need to hold free and fair elections with the participation of expatriates, and to write a new constitution, in addition to other requirements that Syria has not yet achieved.
The resolution also provides for the full implementation of the Geneva Communique of June 2012, which called for a full political transition to a democratic, non-sectarian Syrian state that respects human rights.
In addition to these still elusive political goals, the Assad engagement initiative also ignores the need for the regime to be held accountable for its gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Technically speaking, these violations do not live up to the international definition of “genocide,” but the “Holocaust Memorial Museum” in the United States described them as “brutal crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
During a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in April, Guterres reiterated that those responsible for such crimes, among them the use of chemical weapons against civilians, should no longer be impunity. “The perpetrators must be held accountable,” he added.
The parody of the “Arab League”
The institute notes that the Arab League’s decision in 2011 to suspend Syria’s membership was astonishing at the time because the organization rarely showed aversion to its members ’crimes against humanity.
In March 2009, for example, it hosted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir at the Qatar summit just weeks after he was indicted by the International Criminal Court for ordering the killing of nearly 500,000 civilians in Darfur.
A decade later, this desire to condone human rights violations appears to be returning to the fore.
On April 21, Syria was stripped of its voting rights in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a decision supported by 87 member states of the Organization.
However, eight member states of the “Arab League” abstained from voting, including Jordan and Iraq, whose Kurdish populations were subjected to chemical attacks during the Saddam Hussein era.
Palestine, which is another member of the “Arab League,” was among fifteen opposing votes, by joining countries such as Iran and Russia.
The institute believes that despite the Arabs ’lack of commitment to Resolution 2254 and the slim chances of success, Washington must continue to press for change in Syria.
It is recognized that the countries of the region are getting tired of the war and the refugee crisis is increasing, but Syria under Assad’s rule will never be a safe haven for the return of these millions of exiles.
Likewise, the re-admission of Syria into the “Arab League” and the financing of post-war reconstruction will not push Assad to sever the regime’s strategic relationship with Tehran, which has lasted forty years.
Instead, normalization with Damascus would simply relieve pressure on the regime and enable it to consolidate its power.
Regardless of the increasing acceptance of Bashar al-Assad in Arab capitals – and even in Israel – his rehabilitation is not inevitable.
However, in order to prevent the collapse of the procedures stipulated in Resolution 2254, the Biden administration will have to reassert its leadership, by appointing a new envoy or other senior official authorized to coordinate the international approach with Europe and the countries of the region.
Washington and the elections of Bashar al-Assad
Washington should also reject the impending presidential elections in Syria, which will almost certainly give Bashar al-Assad another seven-year term even as the Arab League member states try to describe it as a “transitional phase.”
Instead, according to the author, US officials should work with European partners to forge an international consensus regarding the failure of the elections to meet the “free and fair” requirements stipulated in “Resolution 2254.”
At the same time, the United States should increase its humanitarian efforts in Syria and persuade the Gulf states, which are leading the normalization efforts, to provide additional aid as well, especially in areas outside the regime’s control, according to the writer.
He said, “Bashar al-Assad still controls Damascus and its suburbs, but decisions to use chemical weapons and commit other mass atrocities against the Syrian Prime Time Zone go beyond the borders and must prevent their rehabilitation.”
However, at this point, only the United States can prevent this from happening
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