Omar Al-Bashir’s visit to Damascus reminded observers of the Syrian situation of the positions on the return of Damascus and its president to the Arab League’s meetings. Since the country was expelled from its seat in the Arab League due to its president and regime’s war on its people, there have been some countries calling for its return, such as Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon. This is due to Hezbollah’s dominance and influence over Lebanese politics. We also saw a surprise position from the Bahraini foreign minister when he met with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem, in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. He said that he supports the return of the Syrian regime to the Arab League. The Arab parliament speaker expressed a similar position.
There are countries like Egypt that adopt, albeit without announcing this, a similar position. There is also talk of Lebanon inviting Bashar Al-Assad to attend the Arab Economic Summit, but Lebanon cannot extend an invitation to Al-Assad if he does not coordinate with the Arab League. Therefore, preparations for this summit are being carried out by coordination between Lebanon and the Arab League, which has not yet made this decision unanimously. Perhaps this debate will take place at the next Arab summit in Tunisia in March.
It is worth asking the question: What is the reason for the return of a regime that destroyed its country, displaced millions of its people to other Arab countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, and adopted terrorism, barbaric killings, using explosive barrels and torture against any dissidents using words, their pens, or demanding freedom? His return to the Arab League could mean Russia and Iran interfering in the Arab League’s affairs, which does not need even more problems and divisions.
Omar Al-Bashir visited his brother Al-Assad aboard a Russian plane, which is how Al-Assad travels to and from Damascus. Will he return to attend an Arab summit on board a plane carrying the Russian flag and Russian and Iranian convoys protecting him and protecting his regime? The American administration said, through its envoy to Syria, Ambassador James Jeffrey, that it is not concerned with this. It expressed to the Arab League its opinion that the return of the regime to the Arab League at this time is not effective. The French Envoy to Syria, Francois Sinimo, visited the Arab League’s headquarters in Cairo recently, and expressed the same opinion that it is too early to return Syria to the League before the regime agrees to participate in the political solution.
Russian officials claim that they have no ability to change the regime’s position on the solution and on handing over the list of candidates for the constitutional committee. At the quadrilateral summit in Istanbul, Russia, Turkey, France and Germany agreed on the need to establish this committee, but Russia did not adhere to the summit’s decision, and changed its position later in Astana. However, the justification put forth by some Arab countries is that restoring diplomatic relations with the regime will restore the Arab role in the country after Iran and Russia dominated the scene. However, this logic is flawed because Syria is not Iraq. Al-Assad handed over his control, regime and country to Iran and the Russian army and its relationship with Iran will not be severed or change. It is an old relationship, dating back to Hafez Al-Assad. They are partners in terrorism everywhere in the Arab world. At the forefront of the partnership lies Lebanon, as Hezbollah has greatly contributed to rescuing the Syrian regime, sending Lebanese fighters to kill their Syrian brothers and be killed for the sake of Iran and the Supreme Leader.
Anyone who believes in restoring normalised relations with this regime because they defeated the Muslim Brotherhood is mistaken in their belief, because the Iranian infiltration of the Syrian territory is another threat and danger. It has become a reality in many Syrian cities, emptied by Al-Assad and filled with Iranian inhabitants. There are several stories from farm-owners near Damascus about their properties falling into the hands of Iranian civilians who took over the farms and are working on them. The Russian pressure on some influential countries in the international community to return to Syria and reconstruct it before a political solution is reached. They are also pushing for the return of the Syrian regime to the Arab League, with a sense of ecstasy due to its victory over its people and the destruction of its country. This must not happen under these circumstances, given the displacement of millions of Syrian people and their suffering harsh conditions. The Arab League countries must be careful with such a decision, as long as there is no political solution acceptable to all Syrian parities for a better future than what the regime is currently offering under Iranian and Russian influence.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Hayat newspaper on 19 December 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.