After over a decade of separation, the Syrian Arab Republic was readmitted to the Arab League this Sunday, in a move that has dealt a blow to Washington’s Middle East agenda, exciting some and causing outrage amongst others. The Syrian war that began in 2011 still hasn’t officially ended, so what impact will this normalization of the government in Damascus have?
For 12 years the Syrian State has been isolated, regarded as a pariah regionally, for its role in a devastating western-led proxy war that has left millions displaced and hundreds of thousands dead. Most Arab countries took the line that Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, was an evil dictator that massacred his own people and therefore could not continue to remain legitimized regionally. It also appeared early on, during the war, that Damascus would fall to either Daesh (ISIL-Islamic State) or any number of the armed militant groups that had taken up arms against the Syrian government, the most powerful amongst them being Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups.
In April, Saudi foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan visited Damascus, signalling the end to Riyadh’s 12-year diplomatic embargo on Syria. Prior to this, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and Algeria, all took similar steps to signal an end to their rejectionist policy towards legitimizing the government in Damascus. The decision of the Arab League, which announced Syria had been re-instated over the weekend, came after a closed door meeting between member state foreign ministers at the group’s headquarters in Cairo.
Why is this so significant?
To begin with, this move has consolidated a push to re-integrate Syria into the region diplomatically and economically, it has been on the agenda of Abu Dhabi for years and is aimed at achieving stability. The decision by the Arab League means that Damascus has now been normalized regionally, which parts way with the position held by the United States government, that continues to pursue a policy of isolation, proxy conflict, sanctions, and occupation of Syrian territory. The next natural step is for a long awaited normalization deal between Syria and neighboring Turkey, which will have seismic implications that we will get into further down in this article….