Bashar al-Assad’s Diplomatic Return, Has the Syrian Dictator Finally Won?
At the regional level, there are several indications that diplomatic acceptance of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is on the way, despite allegations of war crimes and torture.
The Arab state of Syria has been plagued by violence, war, crime and mass exodus of Syrians for decades. Be it the countries around Syria or the European states, the Syrian war has affected countries in almost every region. However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a politician and ruler was not affected by the destruction of his country and the dire situation of his people. On the contrary, his position seemed to continue to strengthen, until some important regional powers took the route of meetings and negotiations with Bashar al-Assad.
Recent comments by Turkish and Arab leaders indicate that the diplomatic recovery of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government has begun. Despite allegations of war crimes and torture, obstacles to international acceptance of the Damascus government led by President Bashar al-Assad have begun to be removed.
Despite public opposition
Bashar al-Assad himself faces strong opposition from a large number of his own people, human rights activists and organizations. An example of this was the recent protests by thousands of Syrians and human rights activists in northern Syria. Although the series of these protests continues, but despite this, the leaders of some important countries have signaled that they have accepted the Assad regime by restoring relations with the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, if not at the international level, at least at the regional level. has gone and they are becoming successful in making their place for regional politics
Last week, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan was in Damascus, where he met Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, another unusual move was seen last week, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a long-time adversary of Bashar al-Assad, said in a statement that he would likely meet with Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies soon.
Opposition to Bashar al-Assad since 2011
A sort of rebellion or revolution against Bashar al-Assad in Syria began with peaceful anti-government protests. Bashar al-Assad’s regime began to crack down on these protests in an extremely repressive manner, resulting in most Arab countries severing diplomatic and political ties with Assad. However, after a decade, the situation seems to be changing. Middle East regional leaders are rethinking relations with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus. It is clear that regional leaders are rethinking their policies on Syria, keeping in mind their own security and economic concerns.
Regional reception of President Assad
The Arab state has been supported by the United Arab Emirates in Syria. The UAE and Bahrain closed their embassies in Damascus in 2011, which were reopened at the end of 2018. Along with this, support for the Assad regime gradually started to resume.
A few steps are worth mentioning. In 2021, the energy ministers of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt agreed that Lebanon would export gas from Egypt via Syria and electricity from Jordan. In October 2021, the King of Jordan was the first Arab leader to call on Assad to step down from power in Syria. It was the first telephone conversation between Assad and the Jordanian king in over a decade.
Several countries, including Iraq, Lebanon, Oman and Algeria, have also demanded that Syria be welcomed back into the 22-member Arab League. It should be remembered that Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended in 2011.
Obstacles to reconciliation
Professor Christopher Phillips, an international relations expert associated with Queen Mary University of London, wrote a review for the American newspaper Washington Post in 2019. Turkey is a NATO member.
However, the Turkish President Erdoğan’s indication of a high-level meeting with the Syrian President this month is, in Professor Philip’s view, a sign that Turkey may not be able to stand in the way of the restoration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for much longer. Erdogan’s comments about the meeting with Assad came after Turkish and Syrian officials met in Moscow.
Russia, a key Syrian ally, has been heavily involved in the Syrian civil war. He is also pushing for better relations between Turkey and Syria. The foreign ministers of the three countries are likely to meet later this month.
However, Professor Christopher Phillips told DW, “One should be careful about “seeing’ Erdoğan’s actions as genuine reconciliation.” There is a huge difference in agreeing on reconciliation with each other. Because there are still major obstacles in security matters in the Turkish-controlled areas of Idlib and northern Syria
It should be noted that Turkey has continuously supported the Syrian opposition during the Syrian war and Idlib, the last rebel-held area in Syria, is protected by Turkey, like other small areas in northern Syria. Turkey will not want to withdraw from these parts of Syria anytime soon.
The impact of the Ukrainian war on the Russian ally
The chances of the Assad regime getting substantial concessions from the West are slim. This means that two major obstacles to the restoration of the Bashar al-Assad regime are likely to remain.
At one time, it seemed that some EU member states might be divided on the issue of keeping Syria isolated from the world. Countries such as Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and even Italy and Spain have historical ties across the Mediterranean, including illegal migration, humanitarian aid, regional stability and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, Professor Phillips says. Such issues must be considered.
Professor Christopher Phillips further said that the war in Ukraine has brought about a major change in the situation. According to him, “Before the Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine, there was a real opportunity for Southern European countries to quietly normalize relations with Bashar al-Assad, but the Russia-Ukraine war made European countries a strong ally against Russia.” Is. Currently, no European state or government is willing to reconcile with Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s closest and strongest friend
On the other hand, the US also does not intend to improve or soften its relations with Syria. A spokesman for the US State Department has said, “We will not support normalization of relations with the Assad regime and other countries in this regard.”
In the opinion of Professor Phillips, an expert on Syrian affairs, the only thing that would change this situation would be if there was a sudden need for Syrian support at the international level. For example, the US continued to view Syria as anti-Israel, but in the early 1990s, it changed its attitude towards Damascus. As a result of this change, Syria became part of the US-led coalition fighting Iraqi forces in Kuwait after the invasion of its Iraqi neighbor Saddam Hussein.