The Guardian: Assad attends the Arab League summit amid Western opposition to his return


The Guardian newspaper published an article by its diplomatic editor, Patrick Wintour, discussing Syrian president attending the Arab League summit while the West opposes his return.

The presence of the Syrian President, Bashar al Assad, on Friday, his first summit in the Arab League in 13 years, amid a clash of visions between the West and the Gulf states regarding his rehabilitation after more than a decade of war against his people.

The step of his return, which was engineered by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has already led to objections in Washington and London, which say that Assad has shown no remorse for the millions who have been killed and displaced from the Syrian people at the hands of his forces since the start of the pro-democracy protests in 2011, nor has he shown any remorse.

The United Arab Emirates has deliberately defied the West by officially inviting Assad to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai in November, which will be his first global summit since the beginning of the war.

Assad’s invitation presents a dilemma for Western politicians, such as John Kerry and Rishi Sunak, who, if they attend, would find themselves in the same room as a man still under international sanctions for the use of chemical weapons, war crimes and extrajudicial killings.

There is no indication that the UAE consulted Western diplomats before issuing the invitation.

Saudi Arabia has supported Assad’s return to the 22-nation Arab League, although some member states, particularly Qatar and Kuwait, have concerns.

This is because Riyadh argues that the Arab world must pragmatically accept that Assad has survived the Syrian civil war, and that the best way to influence the consequences of his victory is through a policy of engagement with Damascus that will bear fruit over time, including by limiting the influence of Iran, Assad’s largest military supporter.

At the present time, the article explains, there are no indications that Assad is ready to make concessions in exchange for recognition, and insists that Syria won’t accept the return of refugees until after the Gulf states provide funds for the reconstruction of the country.

Opening of embassies and an invitation to the Arab summit, has the isolation of the Syrian regime ended in the Arab world?

Anger was evident in the West over this step, as the new British Special Envoy for Syria confirmed that Britain would not support normalization without a significant change in the Syrian regime behavior.

The bipartisan congressional alliance in the United States hastened to submit a bill to ensure that the Biden administration stands firmly against Assad, even if this requires a breach of relations and cooperation with the Gulf States.

In addition, if Congress passes this bill, it will press for the Assad regime to be held accountable for mass killings and other war crimes, including chemical weapons, support the return of refugees and displaced persons, and prevent a geostrategic victory for Assad, Putin, Iran and its proxies such as Hezbollah.

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