The outcome of that meeting, and the expected follow-up meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, may form the basis for the recovery of Syria, circumventing the UN resolution 2254, which has failed to produce results.
The US has lost the war, but has used armed militias to remain occupying parts of Syria, and to impose a stalemate which prevents a peaceful solution and recovery for Syria. America is no longer the only superpower, and decisions made in the new Middle East no longer depend on orders from the US State Department.
Erdogan is up for re-election in June and faces heavy opposition. The economy is dismal, and people blame the Syrian refugees for lost jobs and social ills. Erdogan and the opposition promise to send the refugees packing.
The Turkish export market to Syria in 2011 represented half of the entire global export market for Turkey. That was lost when Damascus banned all Turkish imports because of their participation in the war on Syria. Erdogan could get the Syrian market restored by repairing the relationship.
In order to win re-election, Erdogan proposes a rapprochement with Assad. The US has voiced its displeasure at any attempt of any country to repair relations with Syria. However, Erdogan will not be swayed by US opinion or threats, in light of the fact that the US supports, trains and supplies weapons to the Kurdish militia (SDF and YPG) linked to an internationally banned terrorist organization (PKK), which have killed thousands in Turkey over three decades of terrorism. The Kurds know that Turkey is a much more important ally to the US, and the US will never fight Turkey to save the Kurds. Former US envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, told the Kurds they should repair their relationship with Damascus for protection. The US never supported a “homeland” for the Kurds.
Syria and Turkey are united in their goal to demilitarize the Kurdish northeast of Syria. Syria and Turkey share a common enemy (the Kurds), and a common ally (Russia). This may be the basis of forming a new foreign policy between the two neighbors.
Syrian officials have met with Turkish officials and Arab Gulf officials. Some Arab embassies in Damascus were re-opened, and Assad made a visit to the UAE.
“Yankee Go Home!” Russia, Iran, Turkey Agreement: US Troops Must Leave Syria
The Assad administration in Damascus controls the vast majority of the Syrian territory. The exceptions are: Idlib province in the northwest is under the occupation of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a Radical Islamic terrorist group which was the former Al Qaeda branch in Syria, and the Kurdish administration region in the northeast under the occupation of about 600 US troops and two local Kurdish militias (SDF and YPG) which follow a communist political ideology first promoted by the jailed PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan.
Syria and Russia have been prevented from attacking and liberating Idlib from terrorist control. The US uses the three million civilians living under occupation as human shields to prevent attack. The US and its allies in the UN demand that the UN food and medical supplies be delivered to Idlib. The civilians are being fed and clothed, but the terrorists and their families are as well. The international community is supporting the welfare of the terrorists, who are there at the behest of the US, to prevent peace and recovery in Syria. Despite the UN protocol which demands all UN members to fight Al Qaeda, or their affiliates, anywhere on earth, the US and Turkey have circumvented the protocol and use the terrorists as guards of the political stalemate which the US imposed on Syria.
America has maintained an iron grip on Syria through the use of US sanctions and a brutal military occupation which has prevented the Syrian citizens from fuel for transportation and home heating, and to generate electricity. Syrian houses, hospitals, schools and businesses have between 15 minutes to 1 hour of electricity in four intervals per day because of the US imposed sanctions, which have not affected the Syrian government, but have brought the Syrian people to desperation. Kidney dialysis machines require electricity constantly. A gasoline powered generator can suffice when there are blackouts, but the US sanctions also prevent the importation of gasoline. How can Syrians survive?
Despite Richard Haass writing in 1998 that US sanctions are ineffective and immoral against civilians, the US State Department hangs on to sanctions as a tool for regime change.
Iran and Syria have been united in their resistance to the occupation of Palestine Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms. Iran stood firmly with Syria during the US-NATO attack on Syria because it is a key in the land route from Iran to Lebanon. Recently, there are some cracks appearing in the relationship between Damascus and Tehran. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s meeting in Damascus was postponed recently. Some experts feel Iran has been asking too much of Syria, and with new opportunities for improved relations with the Arab Gulf and Turkey, Syria may be taking time to evaluate its options.
Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries want to see Iran out of Syria. As long as Iran is in Syria the Israeli airstrikes will continue, which have been deadly and destructive.
There were 32 Israeli raids in 2022 that destroyed and struck 91 targets, including civilian infrastructure, buildings, weapons caches and vehicles. Eighty-eight military personnel were killed and 121 wounded in the attacks.
Saudi Arabia is the United States’ largest foreign military sales customer, with more than $100 billion in active cases. In the US there is a saying, “The customer is always right.”
Perhaps this may explain why the US takes no action against Saudi Arabia even when there have been deadly issues, or when Biden asked the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to pump more oil, and he refused.
MBS is making huge reforms, which includes loosening restrictions on women, and creating new tourism and international sports opportunities.
MBS and Netanyahu are united in a common issue: to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, despite Iran insisting on wanting nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes, such as energy production and medical research. Netanyahu has stated one of his main priorities in office will be to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia.
The Arab League
The upcoming Arab League Summit will take place in Saudi Arabia, traditionally scheduled yearly in March. Depending on the outcome of meetings between now and spring, Syria could possibly be reinstated and occupy their seat at the table. Big changes have been taking place in the region involving the relations between Arab countries and the US, China and Russia. Saudi Arabia is in the driver’s seat and will use their hosting of the summit to project their ranking as the Middle East’s power broker.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has announced that the next Abraham Accords summit will be held in Morocco in March 2023.
The US had brokered in 2020 the Abraham Accords for the normalization of relations between Israel, Morocco, the UAE and Bahrain. Later, Sudan joined the accords. Areas of shared interests are: defense, investment, agriculture, tourism, and energy.
The meetings and realignments between Syria and Turkey, mediated by Russia, may produce lasting changes in the Middle East, and bring enemies together as new friends. The Israeli occupation of Palestine will continue to be the primary cause of instability and violence in the region. It fuels religious extremism and terrorism. If Israel values the establishment of relations with their Arab neighbors, they must first look at their closest neighbors in Gaza and the West Bank. The Middle East and the world wait for a peace summit to begin the process of peace for Israel and Palestine, and the host country will not likely be the US.
<em>Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist.</em>