Syria’s return to the Arab League is not of itself sufficient

Without a political solution among Syrians in which the Arabs participate, the sad story will not end, nor will it end with a decision for the return the Syrian regime to the Arab League.
Thursday 22/04/2021
The empty seat of the Syrian delegation during an Arab League meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis in Cairo. (REUTERS)
The empty seat of the Syrian delegation during an Arab League meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis in Cairo. (REUTERS)

Syria’s return to the Arab fold, including official reintegration in the Arab League, faces several obstacles after a decade of war, which has transformed the country into an open arena, deserted by the Arabs but dominated by Iran, Turkey, Russia and the United States.

With the growing chorus of Arab voices calling for an Arab role that would save Syria from being lost, Syria’s basic realities remain the same.

The Syrian regime and its actions, which were at the root of Syria’s membership suspension, are unchanged.

So is the mindset that welcomed the regime’s rescue by Iran with its arrogance and refusal of any concessions to Syrians or Arabs.

What has changed in Syria is the destruction that caused the fragmentation of Syrian society, shattered its infrastructure and made it a theatre for Turkish and Iranian militias while remaining isolated from the Arab world.

There is no doubt that the Arabs have not steered away from Syria and do not intend to abandon it, while the Syrian regime has refused any cooperation with the Arab League on finding a solution, even if that were symbolic.

The Arabs have always shown their desire for the return of Syria to the Arab League and have acted towards that end, but has the Syrian regime submitted a request to return, as required by official procedures?

Did the regime reciprocate the Arabs’ desire and good will towards Syria, or did it just respond by saying that the Arabs should return to Syria and not Syria return to them?

There must be an Arab role that saves Syria from itself and from the mindset that has deepened its crisis, whether from the regime or the opposition. There must be a serious Arab role to save it from its predicament and protect it from the large number of players engaged in war and destruction in Syria and from Iranian and Turkish agendas driven by sectarian, ethnic and terrorist ambitions.

There must be, in the final analysis, an Arab solution that rescues Syria culminating in its return to the Arab League. Without a solution that precedes its return, the Syrian regime will not allow any serious Arab role.

The regime’s mentality today is not at all different from what it was during the war, especially since Syria today is without an independent will. Its return to the Arab League requires taking into account regional and international balances, what the Arabs can offer and the prospects of a solution.

The Syrian regime is facing unlimited Iranian influence and strong US pressures exerted through several tracks, most notably the US Caesar Act, which makes Syria’s return to the Arab League more difficult than ever before.

Any Arab solution will face Iran’s intransigence and  its obstruction of any Arab attempts to weaken its influence in Syria. It will also face American pressure against the return of the Syrian regime before a political solution in which the Russians and Americans can participate.

Without a political solution among Syrians in which the Arabs participate, this sad story will not end, nor will it end with a decision for the return the Syrian regime to the Arab League.

Today, Western pressure on the regime’s allies is increasing more than ever, and Russia’s attempt to circumvent these pressures by calling on Arab countries to restore the Syrian regime to its Arab standing will not provide the ultimate solution.

Also, Russia’s promises that the return of the Arabs to Syria will weaken the Iranians and the Turks presence in the country,  are not supported  by facts on the ground.

Turkey could not directly intervene in Syria without Russian –and not US– cover. And Iran could not have held out and expanded in Syria had it not been for the Russians’ entry into the Syrian war.

The Arab solution for Syria should put the Russian and American sides in front of their obligations in accordance with the UN resolutions to remove all the militias in Syria. There will be no solution in Syria as long as there are militias that exercise their powers there as if they were an independent state within an exhausted state.

Syria’s return to the Arab League is a necessity that requires an Arab effort to participate in shaping the country’s future, not in form, but in practice.

If the objective is purely procedural and consists only in the lifting of the suspension on Syria’s membership in the Arab League, then the situation and the inherent balances of power will not change.

Turkish and Iranian militias will not rush out of Syria and European and American sanctions will not be lifted.

The Arabs must put Syria on the path of a solution in order to eventually reach the Arab League.