According to an article published by Washington Post, the Trump administration deterred its Arab allies from renewing relations with Assad and engaging in any participation in the rebuilding of Syria following the UAE’s decision to reopen its embassy in Damascus.
Washington Post underlined the recent alliance between Syria and Iran that became visible with Assad’s visit in Tehran. Thus, it argued that the US had reservations about the contribution of Arab states to the rebuilding of Syria in the face of the role of Iranian forces in Syria.
Washington Post also argued that Russia sought to persuade Arab governments to reengage with Assad in order to curtail Iran’s influence.
While the Arab states, which fostered the civil war in Syria, accepted that Assad would remain in power, Washington Post argued that Syria hoped that Arab states would contribute $400 billion to the rebuilding of the country. Indeed, Washington Post claimed that Salem Zahran, a political consultant with close ties to Damascus, resembled Assad as having been in “a beauty contest” considering the lining up of the Arab states in the reconstruction process.
Washington Post further argued that the Arab states considered Turkey and Iran as rivals. It also quoted the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash’s statement.
“There’s zero Arab influence in Damascus. Zero. […] Because we burned all our bridges in 2011, that has allowed regional players such as Turkey and Iran to be the main determinant. And suddenly the Arabs have zero say,” Gargash said.
The issue of Syria’s possible re-joining to the Arab League is expected to be raised at the summit in Tunisia this month. Tunisia and Iraq already supported the readmission of Syria to the League.
However, Washington Post claimed that Arab officials could not agree on what to do and Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit already underlined the need for a consensus.
Syria already declined the League’s invitation to the summit in January with references to the League’s insistence on the wrongful position regarding the Syrian crisis.
While underlining that Saudi Arabia and Egypt were against any attempt to revive Syria’s membership, Washington Post claimed that diplomats considered the moves of other Arab Gulf states insignificant as long as Saudi Arabia and Egypt remained firm.
Washington Post also underlined that the UAE would not contribute to the rebuilding of Syria unless there was a political progress. As quoted in the newspaper Gargash stated:
“We’re not naive to think that, in the first week or the first month or the first year we open our embassy, there will be an alternative to Iran. But we think it is necessary that Damascus has some Arab bridges that it can build on. […] We don’t think the UAE will make a difference, but we think this will be part and parcel of a more collective Arab decision on Syria, and we are sure this will happen.”
The source also quoted Hassan Hassan of the Tahrir Institute in Washington regarding Assad’s visit to Tehran last week:
“There was already hesitation, with the drive to reconcile with Assad slowed by the U.S. Now Assad’s embrace in Tehran will put the brakes on it,” he said.