Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was the first Arab League leader to visit Damascus and meet with President Assad late last year, after which the UAE and then Bahrain decided to reopen their embassies in the country. These seemingly coordinated actions appeared to confirm the earlier reports that the Arab League was getting ready to reconcile with Syria, which received a lot more credibility after follow-up reports hit the media at the beginning of this year about how many of its members are in support of this initiative.
The readmission of Syria to the Arab League would be a welcome move that would tacitly recognize that the country's democratically elected and legitimate government won its eight-year-long war against tens of thousands of foreign-supported terrorist and "rebel" forces, but it naturally raises the question of what some of those same countries who at one time backed those anti-government fighters are after by making peace with Damascus and why the state would go along with this. It's unrealistic to imagine that war-torn Syria can give the wealthy Gulf Monarchies anything of tangible value whereas it's much more plausible that it's Syria itself which is seeking something from them and might have cut a deal to obtain it.
One of the theories floating around is that the Arab League — and especially its uber-rich GCC members of the UAE and Saudi Arabia — will agree to contribute billions of dollars of much-needed reconstruction aid to Syria in exchange for Damascus requesting the dignified but "phased withdrawal" of their Iranian rivals from the Arab Republic. Another possible explanation posits that those countries are just afraid of losing out on the post-war reconstruction bonanza there and that no quid-pro-quo exists between them and Syria in exchange for Damascus' readmission to the Arab League, with this being motivated by purely economic interests that don't have any political strings attached. Both schools of thought are indeed plausible and neither can be discounted at this time.
Nevertheless, because of the suddenness with which the Arab League is getting ready to bury the hatchet with Syria, it's worth discussing whether everything is really as apolitical as it seems.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Khaled Al-Kassimi, IR Doctoral candidate/ Near East political commentator.
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