Briefly: Today (Friday), foreign ministers from Arab League countries are meeting in Saudi Arabia to discuss Syria’s return to the regional organisation, more than a decade after its membership was suspended.
Some context: Syrian president Bashar al-Assad became an international pariah after his crackdown on a popular uprising turned civil war that broke out in 2011. Several countries in the region even sent cash and arms to support Assad’s opponents.
But February’s devastating earthquake opened the door to re-engagement:
- Syria’s neighbours sent planeloads of aid, and the foreign ministers of the UAE, Jordan, and Egypt quickly visited in person
- Assad then made rare visits to the UAE, Oman and Egypt
- And Tunisia and Saudi Arabia formally restored ties with Syria this week
Intrigue’s take: After years of getting fewer invites than a jazz bassoonist, Assad’s calendar is now filling up. But given his track record, not everyone’s on board. Qatar has said dealing with him would be a “betrayal” of his regime’s victims, a view echoed by others like Yemen, Kuwait and Morocco.
Still, ten years on, it’s now pretty clear Assad isn’t going anywhere. And that leaves his neighbours with a choice: deal with the world as it is, or as it ought to be. It seems most of Syria’s neighbours are now going with option A.
Also worth noting:
- A decade of civil war has left over 300,000 Syrians dead, with the Assad regime accused of carrying out several war crimes.
- Aides to US President Biden say the US doesn’t support the region’s normalising of ties with Syria, but isn’t opposing it either.