Syria, between silent conflict and loud reconciliation

Syria, between silent conflict and loud reconciliation
Columnist Mohamed al Hammadi - Jusoor Post

In reality, there has been an Arabic struggle over Syria. It was silent, yet massive and controversial, as the Syrian file is considered to be the most diplomatically complicated file in the region. Regarding the proxy war, it was obvious, and a reason to extend the duration of the Syrian civil war.

The latest unanimous Arab decision to restore the Syrian membership in the Arab League, a membership that has been revoked since November 2011, is considered to be an important move after twelve years of civil war that witnessed Syria as a home and its people as the biggest loser. However, the most important thing, for now, is to know the Syrian regime’s plan for the upcoming period, as the ball is in President Bashar al-Assad’s court now.

Early on, the United Arab Emirates felt the urgency for Syria’s return to the Arab League and acted upon this matter in 2018 when it decided to reopen its embassy in Damascus. In March, UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said while receiving his Syrian counterpart al-Assad in Abu Dhabi, “It is time for the Syrian return to its Arab region.” This was not the first Emirati action taken for the sake of Syria’s return to the Arab League, as the UAE continued its strategic vision for the Syrian crisis, in which it sees that this crisis should be put to an end immediately instead of waiting for a miraculous solution. Therefore, President Mohammed bin Zayed was keen to receive al-Assad in Abu Dhabi in March, which was the first visit to an Arab country by al-Assad since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, to send a crucial message for the region and the world.

The American and Western rejection was expected as the Arabs got closer to Syria. The US administration chose the role of a spectator and was preoccupied with other regional files when it came to the ongoing incidents in Syria ever since President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House, which witnessed the dawn of the Syrian crisis. The United States does not mind much anymore the Syrian return to the Arab League, as it is clear that the US acts only according to its interests, without any regard to Syria or the region’s interests, although the US repeats the talk about “the Syrian people’s interests”, and the European states repeat the talk about the “human rights” in Syria.

While fully understanding the American and European position, the states in the region began to face challenges that cannot be ignored as a result of the Syrian situation. Syria has become a semi-destroyed state, and most of its people suffer from poverty, and they suffered a lot during the past twelve years. The wounds of the war’s victims among the Syrian people have not healed; a lot of them blame the Syrian regime, and they cannot forgive the current regime. Therefore, they are the most furious that the Arabs have decided for Syria’s return to the Arab League and the Syrian regime’s participation in the current Arab League summit in Jeddah. They believe that the Syrian regime should be tried instead of normalizing ties with it and acting as if nothing happened! They feel shocked and let down by the Arabs after such a move. On the other hand, there are Syrians who live inside and outside Syria who want the war to end as soon as possible and to rebuild what was destroyed by it on the political, economic, and social levels. Without the end of the war, the situation remains as it is and everyone will be running around in circles.

On the Arab level, the reactions varied regarding Syria’s return until the last moments of the Arab foreign ministers meeting at the Arab League, where some states voiced clear reservations about such a return. On the regional level, what was invested by states such as Turkey and Iran in the Syrian crisis makes it difficult for them to accept the end of the war and the Arabs’ simple containment of the situation in Syria, as both states demand the price, claiming that they both must “take” after they “gave.”

The important question after Syria’s return to its Arab surroundings should not be “Has al-Assad won, or hasn’t he?” Rather, it should be “How will the return be?” Al-Assad cannot be taken as a winner while 80 percent of his country’s people are below the poverty line, without service or infrastructure, along with thousands of prisoners and millions of displaced. How can the Syrian regime assure its people that things will be alright after years of suffering from fear, war, terrorism and death?

Everyone expected President al-Assad’s speech during the current Arab summit held in Jeddah, but at the forefront are the Syrian people. “How will al-Assad assure his people and restore their confidence?” This is the question of the ordinary citizen who seeks to return to his home and live in security, peace and dignity. The Syrian regime should deal with these challenges transparently and swiftly. Regarding the external challenges, they are without doubt difficult and require a lot of time and effort; however, solving the internal issues is a priority for now.

The Arabs' move came after the failure of the international society and the great powers to solve the crisis, and the opposition’s failure to find a solution. The Arabs chose this action after years of waiting for the aforementioned parties to end this war with no success.

Regarding the Arabs' popular position on the return, it comes from an honest desire to end the suffering of the Syrian people. However, the Arab people respect the final decision of the Syrian people, as they are the owners of the cause.

The political significance of the Arabs’ acceptance of the Syrian regime can be seen in the Arabs becoming a part of the solution in the Syrian crisis, after it was left for more than a decade in the hands of regional and foreign powers such as Turkey, Iran, Russia and the West.