Dubai: Some regional states are interested in reclaiming an Arab role in Syria, which has traditionally been central to regional and Arab politics. And analysts believe this is the main reason behind Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir’s visit to Damascus on Sunday.
“The visit comes amid early signs of a thaw between the Syrian government and some Arab states that have spent seven years opposed to President Bashar Al Assad and, in their view, gotten little to show for it,” Sam Heller, a Senior Analyst at the International Crisis Group, told Gulf News in an email. “The central forum for Syria negotiations has lately been the Astana talks, in which three non-Arab guarantors are seemingly making deals over Arabs’ heads. This was the apparent context for Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa’s warm [exchange of] greetings with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Mua’alem at the UN General Assembly in September, which Shaikh Khalid later justified publicly in terms of reasserting an Arab role in Syria. It makes sense, then, that discussions with Al Bashir in Damascus revolved around pan-Arabism and Arab causes.”
Andrew Freeman, a Syria analyst at the London-based consultancy Control Risks, said Al Assad is trying to legitimise himself. “The opposition cannot defeat him politically or militarily. Al Assad will be courting regional players. Developments like the opening of the border crossing with Jordan [also help in this regard].”
Despite its Arabism narrative, the regime has chosen to ally itself with Iran. But, with Al Assad increasingly secure in power, regional Arab states unfriendly to Iran “have to decide whether their interests will be better served by continuing to boycott Damascus or by re-engaging and potentially diversifying Damascus’s foreign relations,” said Heller.