2 American researchers talk to ANHA about Arab normalization with Damascus

​​​​​​​ The Arab moves towards normalization with the Damascus government, initiated by Jordan and the UAE, have raised a lot of media and political noise, amid a "concerned" US position, but it is not definitively rejecting these moves.  Where will the normalization train with Damascus reach?  What is the connection between this and Arab-Israeli normalization?  And what are its goals?

 A few days ago, the UAE Foreign Minister, Abdulla5h bin Zayed Al Nahyan, visited Damascus, after a rupture of years, and after a phone call between Bashar Al-Assad and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

 These moves began after the events in Daraa, where Jordan moved to resolve this tension. The Jordanian King visited Russia and the United States, and Assad made a phone call with King Abdullah II of Jordan. The Minister of Defense in the Damascus government also visited Amman and met his Jordanian counterpart.

 Observers believe that these developments, since the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, in January, were the culmination of the course of normalization with the Damascus government that the UAE started some time ago.

 The Arab efforts, mediated by Russia, may be linked to the moves that Moscow is taking with Israel, as these countries have normalized relations with Tel Aviv, and the US-Russian dialogue in Syria since June, and joint assessments against the Iranian and Hezbollah presence in Syria on the Tel Aviv line -  Moscow, may include opening dialogue channels with the Damascus government.

 An American test balloon for Damascus

 In turn, Washington confirmed that it does not support any Arab efforts with the Damascus government, unless the latter is involved in a real and irreversible political solution to the Syrian crisis, and despite not giving the green light to the Arab normalization train with Damascus, it did not give a red light about it.  .

 This American position, seen by the community of experts, is a test balloon of Damascus' intentions towards a political solution, and that the Jordanian King's visit to Washington and Moscow during the last period, as well as his phone call with Assad and the opening of the Syrian-Jordanian border a few months ago came within this context.

 economic interests

 US reports speculated that the rapprochement between the UAE and the Damascus government could "serve both sides." These reports also indicated that the UAE is a place of residence for thousands of Syrians, and many of them send money to their motherland, which comes in light of the catastrophic situation in the areas of the Damascus government.

 In addition, there is a Jordanian search for interests, as it suffers from a dilapidated economy, and the energy ministers in the government of Damascus, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt recently met in the Jordanian capital (Amman) to discuss ways to deliver Egyptian gas to Lebanon, via Jordan and Syria.

 These meetings came after the United States agreed to help Lebanon solve its electricity crisis, by delivering Egyptian gas through Syria.

 In light of what the region is witnessing at the political level, analysts believe that the main driver for reactivating the pipeline is Jordan, for economic reasons.

 Despite the prominent position of the Emirates, Egypt and Jordan, Saudi Arabia, which is considered the owner of the power in determining the position of the Gulf bloc, is still following a cautious policy.

 In this context, Nicholas Heras, a senior researcher at the American New Lines Institute, told our agency: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is following in the footsteps of the Emirates, but it does not seek a warm partnership with Damascus. While Jordan is interested in the country's resilience, and the Hashemite monarchy sees an opportunity to mitigate  From the economic crisis in Jordan through trade with Syria.

 Iranian influence.. Shy steps on the ground

 Arab normalization with Damascus takes place on multiple levels, and observers believe that the most important purpose of it is to limit the influence of Iran and Turkey in certain areas of Syria, and the Arab countries depend on the Russian role that they recognize. This came in the Jordanian paper on Syria, which recognized the necessity of withdrawal  Foreign powers, except Russia.

 These Arab endeavors collide with one obstacle, which is that Assad is an ally of Iran (the main enemy of Saudi Arabia and, of course, the UAE), and despite the UAE’s siding with the Saudis in many positions in the region, it showed an independent line in its foreign policy, and perhaps the openness towards Damascus is part of  This path, as most of the Gulf states seek closer relations with the Damascus government in the hope of stripping it of Iran.

 In conjunction with these developments, it was reported that the Damascus government had expelled the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria, Jawad al-Ghafari, and in response to this, Syrian official sources told Al-Monitor, “He (Al-Ghafari) has become a burden. Time has changed, and he still wants to act accordingly.  rules of war, at a time when the war is about to end."

 Multiple sources from both the Syrian and Iranian sides told Al-Monitor, "The decision to isolate al-Ghafari was taken by mid-October, three weeks before the visit of Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed to Damascus."

 Al-Monitor’s sources also indicated that the future of the Iranian presence in Syria seemed to divide the leadership of Damascus. There is a camp that is very cautious and insists on showing appreciation and respect to the Iranians for what they have done over the past decade. This camp is led by Bashar al-Assad, some of his advisers, and a number of military officials.

 The second camp wants the Iranians and their allies to accept that the war in Syria is over and there is no need for them to exist. Among the prominent members of this camp are Asma al-Assad and Major General Maher al-Assad. An official Syrian source who spoke to Al-Monitor confirmed that regional polarization made its way to the upper elite in Damascus.  Which is now preparing for the reconstruction process, which is a mandatory orientation towards what they see as reconciliation and sustainable peace.

 A different Iranian view

 However, the so-called Iranian-led axis that supports Damascus has a completely different point of view, as Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah indicated that Arab normalization with the Damascus government is a victory for Assad and his allies, as the Cihan newspaper, affiliated with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, explained.  UAE relations with Damascus as "a victory for the axis of resistance over dangerous projects."

 In this context, Michael Rubin, American writer and researcher at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) says: “It is unrealistic to think that Syria will separate from the Iranian axis as long as Assad is in power.  With a presence in Syria that it won't lose soon, Russia has little desire to see Syria change direction."

 Arab concern about the Turkish role

 The other motive for these Arab steps is the dangerous Turkish role in Syria and the fear of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in their countries. Those countries have long warned of the danger of the Brotherhood and its godfather Turkey, after the Brotherhood took control of power in Libya and Egypt, as well as through the Turkish penetration in Qatar bordering the Emirates.  and Saudi Arabia.

 In an effort to ward off this danger, the UAE has worked to establish relations with hostile countries bordering Turkey, such as Greece and Cyprus, as well as through its support for Libyan General Khalifa Haftar (anti-Turkish), but the building of the anti-Turkish arch will not be completed except by weaving the relationship with the Damascus government.

 In this context, Nicholas Heras says, "The UAE and Egypt see an opportunity to limit Turkish expansion in the Middle East in Syria. The UAE and Egypt have not stopped pragmatic, security-focused relations with the Assad regime throughout the war."

 Michael Rubin, in turn, says: "Turkey will not have much influence in the areas of Syria that it does not occupy. The Syrians, with the exception of the radicals, do not like Turkey, while Erdogan wants to revive the Ottoman Empire. The Syrians remember how they were when they were under Ottoman rule."

 From a search for a projection to a change in behavior... Has Damascus's thinking changed?

 After the great Russian and Iranian support that contributed to the failure of the Damascus government, the countries of the West and the East have recently turned to another method, and they have expressed it many times, which is changing Damascus’ behavior through normalization with it, and using the method of carrots instead of intimidation gradually through the policy of step for step.

 Many fear that these steps about normalization with the Damascus government without reaching a political agreement to resolve the Syrian crisis will push the Damascus government to think that it has won over everyone, and will work to return the country to before 2011, and this threatens to return the crisis to square one.

 On this, Michael Rubin says: "The Assad regime in Damascus can extricate itself from its current situation. Without Assad's mismanagement, there would be no civil war. However, it has largely won this war. It will be impossible to return to the way things were.  From before".

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