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What does Syria's return to the "Arab League" mean for the Middle East-USA-EU

As is already known, Syrian President Assad has gone to Saudi Arabia following his official invitation for the summit of the "Arab League" which begins today in Jeddah, sealing his country's return to the Arab "world".

This is his first visit to the oil-rich kingdom since his country's civil war began in 2011.

The suspension of membership of the Arab League for Syria in 2011

It is recalled that, the Arab League (AL) voted in November 2011 to suspend Syria's membership citing the "violent repression" of "pro-democracy demonstrators".

While the Arab organization claimed, in the words of Qatar's former foreign minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Muhammad Al-Thani that the decision was aimed at pressuring Damascus to "stop the violence and start a real dialogue for real reform ,” the suspension was intended to isolate Damascus regionally and to legitimize future escalating steps by the United States in the process of regime change in Syria.

During Syria's civil war, Saudi Arabia was a key backer of armed opposition groups trying to topple Assad.

The climate change for Syria began in 2019

In 2019, while the US was changing its strategy in Syria and moving forward with the adoption of the "Caesar" Syrian Civil Protection Act which was aimed at crushing the Syrian economy and preventing its reconstruction, some Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Jordan, Algeria and Iraq began sending opposite messages to Damascus and expressed willingness to restore ties with the war-torn country.

Although Saudi Arabia entered the normalization process at a later stage, both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are believed to have driven the diplomatic efforts that led to the Arab League's decision to readmit Syria to the regional body, while last week they agreed S. Arabia and Syria to reopen their embassies.

Saudi Arabia's moves

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been pushing for peace in the region, and in recent months, Riyadh has improved relations with Iran, restored ties with Syria and is ending the kingdom's years-long war in Yemen.

Iran, a key supporter of the Syrian government in the country's conflict, signed an agreement in China in March to resume relations with Saudi Arabia.

Renewed Saudi-Iranian relations are expected to have positive effects in Middle Eastern countries where the two support rival groups.

The challenge of US hegemony and the rise of China-Russia in the Middle East

With the outbreak of war in Ukraine and the rise of economic powers like China, a growing number of countries are challenging US hegemony, including Arab countries that are unwilling to blindly follow American dictates.

The balance of power has clearly shifted in the region, especially after China brokered a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic ties between the two warring states that have been engaged in multiple proxy wars with each other.

Analysts believe that the agreement mediated by China between Riyadh and Tehran and the agreement mediated by Russia between Damascus and Riyadh will have very serious consequences for the future of the Middle East

The US-EU stance

But investment in war-torn Syria is unlikely as Western sanctions against the Assad government remain in place and could prevent oil-rich Arab countries from rushing to release funds to rebuild the country.

Washington is strongly opposed to normalizing relations with Assad, saying a solution to the Syrian conflict should first be based on UN Security Council decisions.

In fact, the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the US Congress unanimously approved on May 17 the Anti-Assad Regime Normalization Act of 2023.

The law specifically prohibits the United States Federal Government from recognizing or re-establishing ties with any government in Syria led by Bashar al-Assad, which is already the target of US sanctions. The law also expands the application of the Caesar Act.

According to Reuters, which cited a senior member of Congress involved in drafting the bill, the law serves as a strong warning to Turkey and other Arab nations against dire consequences if they engage with the Assad government.

Similarly, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned during her visit to Saudi Arabia against what she called an "unconditional normalization" of relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Baerbock said: "Any step towards Assad should be conditional on certain concessions."

The importance of the results of the Arab League Summit

In closing, we point out that the results of the Arab League Summit will be extremely important for the future relations between the US-EU and Arab countries.

An indicative but not clear role will be played by the decision-making or non-decisions at this Summit, for the allocation of funds from Arab countries for the reconstruction of Syria, going with the flow or against the will of the US-EU.


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