Just ten weeks ago I was in awe. “This is huge!” I wrote about the surprising news of the restoration of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran after mediation by China (and Russia).
With that it was obvious that the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen between Iran friendly and Saudi sponsored forces would be coming to an end. But no one predicted the speed with which that is now happening.
Today President Assad of Syria was welcomed back in Saudi Arabia to a summit of the Arab League.
Syria’s Assad shakes hands, kisses cheeks with onetime foes at Arab League summit
Every handshake would count, and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad had plenty of them at Friday’s Arab League Summit – along with hugs and kisses – from his onetime foes in the region.
As he strolled into the summit venue in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Friday afternoon, a beaming Assad extended his arms to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who grabbed them both and kissed Assad once on each cheek.
It was a symbolic moment, sealing Assad’s reintegration into the Arab fold after being suspended from the League and isolated by most of the region for over a decade over his crackdown on protests against him.
Attempts by the U.S. and the neoconned foreign minister of Germany Annalena Baerbock to prevent this have failed. Even countries still somewhat hostile to Syria – Qatar, the United Emirates and Marocco – refrained from vetoing the step. Arab unity is more important to them than some out-of-area interests.
As Juan Cole summarizes:
Washington is now the skunk at the diplomats’ party. The Iranians were never likely to trust the Americans as mediators. The Saudis must have feared telling them about their negotiations lest the equivalent of another Hellfire missile be unleashed.
Where two sides are tired of conflict, as was true with Saudi Arabia and Iran, Beijing is clearly now ready to play the role of the honest broker. Its remarkable diplomatic feat of restoring relations between those countries, however, reflects less its position as a rising Middle Eastern power than the startling decline of American regional credibility after three decades of false promises (Oslo), debacles (Iraq) and capricious policy-making that, in retrospect, appears to have relied on nothing more substantial than a set of cynical imperial divide-and-rule ploys that are now so been-there, done-that.
Withe Arabs united Israel is now an isolated outlier. Salman Rafi Sheikh analyses the new situation it finds itself in:…