US reservations on Arab overtures to Syria - GulfToday

US reservations on Arab overtures to Syria


Bashar Al Assad

The United States is sticking to its anti-Bashar Al Assad stance in Syria, even as Syria’s top diplomat visited Riyadh. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have expressed the need to pull Syria back into the Arab comity of nations. And the Americans are saying that they do not agree with the rehabilitation of President Bashar Al Assad’s government until a political solution is found to the crisis that erupted in 2011 in Syria.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said that Saud Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan had invited Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad to discuss the war in Syria, the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, and getting humanitarian aid to regions and people in Syria affected by the recent earthquake.

The Saudi top diplomat also told the Special UN Envoy to Syria that Riyadh stood for Syria’s unity, security and “Arab affiliation”.

An American National Security Council spokesperson told Al Arabiya English, “Our position is clear: We will not normalise relations with the Assad regime, absent real progress towards a political solution to the underlying conflict.”

The American official also said, “We have also made clear that the core architecture of our sanctions remains firmly in place.” He also felt that the Arab governments engaging Syria should focus on humanitarian relief reaching the affected Syrians.  There seems to be sufficient indication that the United States is not too welcoming of the moves made in reaching out to Syria and to President Assad.

There is a growing sense that the US is losing its pole position in West Asia as an influencer and this is reflected in the fact that Arab governments have decided to take decisions which are necessary for maintaining stability in the region. Keeping out Syria and the Assad government is seen as counterproductive.

The Americans perhaps feel quite helpless that despite Washington’s reservations, Arab governments are charting their own course. This was seen in the Saudi Arabia-Iran rapprochement mediated by China, and the overtures to Syria in recent weeks.  

One of the reasons that Washington is losing its influence in West Asia is due to the fact that it has not been able to rein in Israel and its aggressive approach to Palestinians as well as Syria. Israel had been bombing parts of Syria, near the occupied Golan Heights, claiming that Syria’s military bases are targeting Israel.

Tel Aviv is strongly opposed to the Assad government even as it is opposed to the Iranian government run by the Shiite clerics. Arab political observers think that the move by the Arab governments to pull Syria back into the Arab orbit is fine.

The US’s role as the dominant influencer in West Asia is diminishing and the Americans seem to be painfully aware of the new development.

China, which is now seen as the key global rival to America, and to Europe in general, is moving slowly into the West Asia political theatre, as a possible influencer.

Beijing is strengthening its economic ties with the region. China has now emerged as the largest importer of oil from the region, especially from Saudi Arabia.

And unlike the US, China has no special obligation towards Israel in terms of military support. China’s diplomatic relations with Israel are neutral and there is no special bonding as there is between Washington and Tel Aviv. The Arab governments have recognised the changing global scenario, and they are taking decisions whose main purpose is to maintain regional stability and cooperation. It is for this reason that the reintegration of Syria into the Arab fold assumes huge significance.

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