In the Arab-Islamic sSummit held in Riyadh on Nov. 11, Bashar Assad seized the opportunity to leap over the mass graves and corpses in Syria, carrying with him the lingering scent of death from those slain in his latest bombardment of Idlib. His participation in the summit marked his second appearance at a pan-Arab gathering after being banned for more than 12 years, the first being in Jeddah on May 19th. It was also the first time he met with world leaders from the countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011.
In his seven-minute speech, he criticized Arab attempts to make peace with Israel, branding them a total failure. He acted as a “president” among the leaders of numerous countries, conveniently turning a blind eye to Syria’s political quagmire and allowing for the exploitation of the Palestinian issue rather than any real discussion on how to provide aid to relieve their suffering.
“Even though Assad was given the opportunity to address the other world leaders in attendance, the majority of them got up and left without hearing what he had to say”
The summit occurred amidst Israel’s ongoing escalation against Gaza since October 7th, resulting in the tragic loss of over 14,000 Palestinians so far and serious damage to Gaza on all fronts. This summit also marked the first joint meeting with both Erdogan and Assad since the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011 after Saudi Arabia had announced the integration of the emergency Arab summit for Gaza, with the summit of the OIC.
Even though Assad was given the opportunity to address the other world leaders in attendance, the majority of them got up and left without hearing what he had to say. It is also noteworthy that many of them refused to greet him during the summit, and some just outright refused to even acknowledge his presence in their midst.
In his speech, Assad argued that discussing massacres in Gaza is not possible without addressing the Zionist massacres against Palestinians in the past, considering today’s emergency to be the “Zionist brutality surpassing itself.” He conveniently sidestepped talking about the repeated Israeli targeting of sensitive sites in regime-controlled areas, like Damascus International Airport and Aleppo Airport, which disrupts airport operations and renders them unusable.
Assad pointed out that Israeli escalation against the Palestinians has been ongoing for 75 years, and the Palestinian situation has worsened over 32 years of so-called “peace.” He stated, “No land has been reclaimed, and justice is nowhere to be found, not in Palestine, not in the Golan” without addressing the party who should be taking responsibility for reclaiming the land in Palestine and the Golan.
“Assad has killed more Arabs (including Palestinians) in Syria than Netanyahu has in all his years as Israel’s leader”
He kept going, saying, “This situation has brewed up a political reality where more Arab leniency equals more Zionist aggression towards us, and more extended hands from us, equals more massacres against us.”
In reality, the Assad regime has killed more Arabs (including Palestinians) in Syria and Lebanon than Netanyahu and all previous Israeli leaders have since the existence of Israel and international attempts to hold the Assad regime accountable and achieve justice for its victims are ongoing.
“Syria continues to be a failed country with no real leadership to stand in the way of its own ongoing decline”
Assad’s cameo appearance at the Arab-Islamic summit was just his attempt at “business as usual” after jumping back into the Arab League. It was a chance for him to step into the limelight and share his two cents, but don’t hold your breath for Syria to be the game-changer in any meaningful solution. While he is out pretending that this is just another day at the office, Syria continues to be a failed country with no real leadership to stand in the way of its own ongoing decline.