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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Will business be as usual for Syria’s butcher?

Twelve years after the outbreak of the popular uprising in Syria against the regime of Bashar Assad and decades of authoritarianism, the regimes of the Arab world are opening their arms to embrace the regime they have “distanced” themselves from for more than a decade.

The French newspaper Libération had on the cover of its February 3, 2023, issue a picture of Bashar Assad with the banner: “The return of the butcher!”

The Syrian-French journalist, Hala Kodmani, addressing the case of the return of dictator Assad to the international forefront, said: “After a dark decade, marked by the atrocities committed by Bashar Assad and his regime against the Syrian people, it seems that he has already begun to regain himself in some countries.”

the restoration of this regime to the forefront was simply a matter of time for Arab authoritarian regimes since 2020

Soon, Bashar Assad’s 2023 agenda “could be filled with diplomatic dates like never before in years. After more than a decade of repression, with systematic targeting of civilians with barrel bombs and other weapons, the use of chemical weapons, detention, and torture, it seems that the ‘butcher of Damascus’ will be able to stay in power,” Kodmani went on to say.

As it seemed to everyone, the restoration of this regime to the forefront was simply a matter of time for Arab authoritarian regimes since 2020, but the February 6 earthquake, which is considered a disaster that befell the region, was for Bashar Assad and his regime, a great push forward and a shortening of time for those regimes.

In Tunisia, President Kais Saied has evaded answering questions about the Syrian situation ever since the debate before the elections that brought him to power in the country, as he considers that “the issue of the Syrian regime is an internal affair that concerns Syrians alone.” On February 10, he decided to raise the level of diplomatic representation in Damascus after a break of more than 10 years. This is the clearest sign of the intention to fully restore relations with the Assad regime.

Less than two months later, on April 3, the Tunisian presidency announced on its official Facebook page that President Saied had given instructions to begin the procedures for appointing Tunisia’s ambassador in Damascus.

The neighboring Jordan, which has taken a position like its counterparts but has not been hostile, sent Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ayman Safadi to meet with Bashar Assad in Damascus on February 15, the first of its kind by a senior Jordanian official in nearly 12 years.

During his participation in the Munich Security Conference 2023 in Germany, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Faisal bin Farhan hinted for the first time as to his country’s stance, which has always been characterized by hostility to the regime, that Saudi Arabia no longer sees a problem in normalization with Assad.

Assad and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi may meet in late April


Before the end of Bashar Assad’s busy February, Egypt sent to Syria its Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, the most senior Egyptian official to visit Syria since 2011.

Assad’s Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad returned the visit to Cairo on April 1, also the first of its kind since 2011. The Wall Street Journal said that Assad and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi may meet in late April, and according to the newspaper, the date and place of the possible summit have not yet been determined.

In mid-March, Assad visited Russia for three days, followed by a visit to the UAE with his wife Asma Assad, to send protocol signals explaining that today he is being dealt with as a president and as a fait accompli that must be accepted.

Turkey, which is approaching presidential elections in May, has also always expressed hostility to the Assad regime but for a year now has been changing its priorities on the Syrian issue and rearranging its cards with the Assad regime.

Algeria is one of the Arab countries whose regime has always supported Assad and tried to invite him to the Arab summit held in Algiers. On April 3, 2023, Assad had a phone call with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune who assured Assad of his country’s continuity and keenness in supporting his regime.

As the Arab summit approaches, Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia plans to invite Assad to attend an Arab League summit hosted by Riyadh in May. According to the news agency, the Saudi foreign minister will travel to Damascus in the coming weeks to hand Assad an official invitation to attend the summit.

the Syrian people feel that they have been betrayed by the “free world”

At the same time, the UAE has played an important role in the attempts to bring back other Arab regimes which were not in fundamental disagreement with the regime in Syria but had only a difference of interests. Russia is playing an important role in the Syrian regime’s reconciliation with Turkey as a quadrilateral meeting on Syria was held in Moscow on April 3-4 of the deputy foreign ministers of Syria, Russia, Iran, and Turkey in the Russian capital.

In the heat of all these developments, the Syrian people feel that they have been betrayed by the “free world” which is supporting Ukraine with all its diplomatic, military, and economic capabilities against the Russian occupation while leaving them to stand alone.

Alessandro Manzoni
Alessandro Manzoni
Syrian activist/journalist


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