The Arab League on course to reinstate Syria after eight years of expulsion

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with his Sudanese counterpart last month in Damascus. [Photo: France 24]

The Gulf states and Egypt are pushing to reinstate Syria back into the Arab League after it was expelled in 2011 for its brutal repression of peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

It seems very likely that at some point this year, Assad will be invited back to the Arab League, The Guardian reports.

Supported by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s military dictator, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the moment will be a major indicator of the end of what was known as the ‘Arab Spring’.

If Assad is reinstated into the Arab League, it can be argued that the aspirations of the Arab world’s popular revolutions would be crushed by the new despots of the Middle East.

Syria was expelled from the Arab League in 2011 over its brutal crackdown of political dissent and peaceful protests, a move that led the country into an eight-year civil war.

On Sunday 16 December 2018, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir became the first Arab League leader to visit Syria since its expulsion.

The state visit was seen by many as a sign of friendship on behalf of Saudi Arabia, which has strengthened its relations with Khartoum over the last few years.

Diplomatic sources told The Guardian that there is general agreement among the Arab League’s 22 member states that Syria should be invited back to the organisation, although the United States is urging Saudi Arabia and Egypt to wait before holding a vote from members.

For Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), rebuilding relations with Syria is a new strategy to steer Assad away from Iran’s tentacles of influence, by promising the normalisation of trade and lucrative investments into reconstruction projects.

It has been estimated that it will cost around $400bn (£315bn) to rebuild Syria, but the United Nations (UN) will refuse to contribute any sum until the Assad regime engages with its peace process.

However, any funds that come from the Gulf to rebuild Syria will be invested in towns, cities and regions that remained loyal to the Assad regime throughout the war as a reward.

Assad recently told a Kuwaiti newspaper last October that Syria has reached a “major understanding” with Arab countries after eight years of hostility.

Media outlets across Egypt and the Gulf have been calling for Syria’s reinstatement, which has also been supported by the Arab Parliament – a useless Arab League auxiliary – earlier this month.

Jordan has reopened its southern border crossing, Israel is liaising with Russia to decrease hostilities in occupied Golan Heights, and Turkey has even suggested that it is willing to work with Assad if he returns to office in “free and fair” elections.

What remains of the Syrian political opposition have stuck to their demand for the Assad regime to engage with the UN-led peace process.

One member of the opposition told The Guardian that they were frustrated with the Arab states who unequivocally supported the Syrian revolution back in 2011.

He said: “The regime should only be allowed to regain its seat at the table anywhere when [a 2015 UN ceasefire resolution] is implemented.

“We know this. It is not new. Our Arab brothers do not act like brothers.”

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