An article published in the conservative business daily Vzglyad, titled "The Arab World Brings Victory to the Russian world," hailed the May 7, 2023 decision by the Arab League to lift the suspension of Syria's membership in the League. According to the publication, this outcome was a thorough vindication of Russia's policy of backing Bashar Al-Assad when he was on the ropes and almost completely isolated. The decision of the Arab League represented a blow to the Americans and a served as a reminder that the Arab world is no longer supine and will assert its sovereignty in defense of its interests. Additionally, the article predicts that the League's decision will help end the Syrian civil war, alleviate Russia's military burden, and possibly deliver economic benefits for Russia, provided it takes part in rebuilding Syria after the war.
The text of the commentary follows below:
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad meets with parliamentary delegations from various Arab states. (Source: Anna-news.info)
"The civil war in Syria has been going on for nearly 12 years, and for the entire 12 years the slogan 'Assad must leave' resounded from all Arab capitals. Leaders of Middle Eastern states (most notably of the main one, Saudi Arabia) have declared that the Syrian president is responsible for numerous war crimes and is inhumane. They imposed sanctions on him, suspending in November 2011 Syria's membership in several international institutions including the main one, the League of Arab States (a sort of Arab UN [hereafter – LAS, League]).
"However, that slogan is now changing to 'Assad must return,' at least within the League. On May 7, at an emergency meeting of the foreign ministers from League member-states in Cairo, it was agreed to 'resume the participation of delegations from the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic in meetings of the Council of the League of Arab States.'
"And on May 19, at the coming League summit to be held in Saudi Arabia, Assad will return. 'When the host country, in this case Saudi Arabia, sends an invitation, he can come if he wishes to do so,' said LAS Secretary General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
"It's clear that the transition from 'leave' to 'return' did not happen overnight. It took several years for the parties to reach this point.
"'The United Arab Emirates already reopened its embassy in Damascus five years ago. Last year, Assad paid his first official visit to the UAE since the start of the war. Then Bahrain and Oman followed the Emirati example. Then came Tunisia. Finally, Iran and Saudi Arabia are ironing out their relations, which has definitively defused the situation in the region against the background of the weakened U.S. influence and the catastrophe that had recently befallen Syria. The earthquake and sympathy for the long-suffering Syrian people also played a role,' explained Middle Eastern political scientist, Abbas Juma.
"But only 'a role,' in fact, the normalization process, behind which Saudi Arabia's interests are foremost, had primarily pragmatic reasons. 'The Arabs realized that if they continued to boycott Syria, it would only lead to an increase in the influence of regional countries such as Iran and Turkey on Damascus. That is why now, on the eve of the LAS summit, the decision has been approved to return Syria to full membership in the organization,' argued international political scientist and RIAC expert, Elena Suponina."
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Elena Suponina (Source: Sheynin.ru)
"Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, and would-be leader of the entire Middle East) did not want to observe how an isolated Syria, located at the heart of the region, was falling deeper and deeper under the influence of Tehran and Ankara. The latter two are Riyadh's rivals in the struggle for leadership.
Security And Diplomacy
"These inter-Arab Middle Eastern squabbles are seemingly quite remote from Russia's [interests], and especially now, when the lion's share of Russian attention is confined to the ongoing Special Military Operation in Ukraine and the Russo-Western confrontation. However, Syrian developments are actually helping Moscow to win both the former and the latter conflict.
"First, Russia's security is strengthened [all emphases in the original]. The process of restoring relations between Damascus and other Arab states is another step (along with the Syrian-Turkish normalization) towards ending the civil war in Syria. Where, let's recall, the Russian air force is still deployed.
"A number of experts have predicted that the West, unable to attack Russian troops on Russian territories (including the Donbass and the Black Sea coast), might create a military conflict outside these territories, for instance: in Transnistria (where Russian peacekeepers are deployed), or in the very same Syria, where Russian soldiers would find themselves between the 'millstones' of Iranian-American clashes.
"This could force the General Staff and the Ministry of Defense to divert resources from the Ukrainian to other fronts, and, consequently, weaken the assault within the scope of the Special Military Operation.
"Second, our country's diplomatic capabilities are being strengthened. It's not merely a matter that everyone recognizes Russia to be vindicated for having supported Assad from the start and consequently taking the right side. 'Arab leaders have become convinced that plans for regime change in Syria cannot go ahead. The Americans and their allies, who developed such plans, were mistaken in their calculations,' argued Yelena Suponina. The point is also that Russia is reinforcing its specific multi-vector strategy.
"Over all these years, Moscow adhered in its diplomacy to the following motto 'we cooperate with those who are willing to cooperate with us, and we do not cooperate with some of our partners against others.' Thanks to this line, Russia has been able to build partnerships simultaneously with a number of Middle Eastern countries that are in conflict with each other, i.e., with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Moreover, it was able to build partnerships so well that each of these states is helping Moscow in one way or another within the framework of the SVO.
"However, the Syrian issue has always been a weak spot of this strategy.
"Russia's opponents played on the fact that by helping Assad, Russia is helping Iran in its confrontation with Saudi Arabia and partly with Turkey. Now, with the normalization of Saudi-Syrian relations and the beginning of normalization in Turkish-Syrian relations, this weak spot is disappearing.
"Third, there are new economic opportunities for Moscow. After the normalization of relations between Damascus and other Arab countries, after the Syrian civil war is over, the question of rebuilding Syria will arise. Arab partners may provide money, but who will engage in construction, will rebuild industry and infrastructure? True, the Iranians and the Chinese will be there, but Russian companies, which are now denied access to international contracts due to sanctions, are capable of taking their share of the pie.
"Fourth, the developments surrounding Syria came as a serious blow to the U.S., which criticized the LAS decision. 'We do not believe that Syria is now worthy of returning to the LAS,' announced the State Department.
"The American media concedes that the Arab decision 'constitutes proof that U.S. influence in the Middle East is weakening. 'Americans are very dissatisfied with what has happened. A large group of 40 retired diplomats and currently active Middle East specialists sent a letter to the Biden administration criticizing his policies and warning that the U.S. is losing Syria,' stated Elena Suponina.
"It is not even that U.S. troops occupying parts of Syrian territory are being isolated. The point is that the Arabs have once again demonstrated something they have displayed for a long time, sovereignty. This is the same sovereignty that allows the same Saudi Arabia to resist American pressure and (in [keeping with] its own interests, of course) help Moscow in the oil market.
"'The Arabs now act increasingly independently, despite American pressure,' argued Elena Suponina. And the more there will be of this sovereignty, the more helpful it will be [to Russia].
"Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, the situation in Syria constitutes a precedent for the situation around Ukraine as well. It shatters the myth that Western sanctions, pressure, and isolation attempts can be permanent.
"'Assad never left, as many hoped and called for. Well, if that is the case, then we have to negotiate. The Arabs respect force,' argued Abbas Juma. And this is roughly how the Europeans and even the Americans will reason after they realize that Russia will not lose [the war] in Ukraine.
Abbas Juma (Source: Riafan.ru)
"A majority of the European and American elites also respect force and (at least the Americans) deploy a considerable amount of pragmatism in moving from 'must leave' to 'must negotiate' policy, this time not in Syria, but in Ukraine. And it will surely happen sooner than in 12 years' time."
 Vz.ru, May 8, 2023.