This is a follow-up video to the previous episode which was on the UAE’s rapprochement with Syria. If you haven’t watched it, you can find it here.
There is no dispute that the MENA is a very complicated region and it is witnessing wars and conflicts since decades, some of them are internal with international and regional dimensions and others in the form of direct foreign intervention.
That is mainly because the region is rich in natural resources and includes important marine straits and global trade routes.
One of the major conflicts of the 21 century is the struggle over Syria, which I’ve talked about in details on Syriana Analysis. However, there are certain details that I haven’t touched enough which is the strange relationships and alliances between some of the allies and foes in the region.
Iran is a strategic ally of Syria and an important partner and ally of Turkey. When the attempted coup d’état occurred in 2016 in Ankara, Iran sided with Erdogan and even helped him.
At the same time, Tehran supports Syria politically, financially and militarily against the Turkish backed terrorists in Syria, and the Iranian backed forces fight the Turkish forces and Erdogan’s mercenaries in Idlib. On the other hand, Turkey helps Iran in manoeuvring the sanctions imposed by the EU and the U.S.
Russia is also a strategic ally of Syria and an important partner and ally of Turkey. Similarly, when some elements in the Turkish military wanted to remove Erdogan, Moscow rushed to save Erdogan.
At the same time, the Russian army supplies Syria with air support and military advising on the ground against the Turkish backed terrorists. And when Erdogan went too far in his imperialistic ambitions in Syria, the Russian military support to Syria enabled the later to achieve major advances in Idlib.
During the last years, the Russian role was crucial in containing the Turkish dash in Syria and Moscow’s diplomatic efforts had a major role in drawing clear outlines for the war. This strange relationship didn’t stop Turkey from buying Russian S400 system and striking gas deals between both sides.
This is the most complicated one, but I will divide them into three categories.
First category: Syria and Iran are in strategic partnership against Turkish and previously Gulf states backed terrorists. But Iran and Turkey enjoy very good relations and they won’t sacrifice these relations for the sake of Syria.
Second category: Syria and Russia are in strategic partnership against Turkish, and previously Gulf and Israeli backed terrorists. But Russia enjoys very good relations with both Turkey and Israel and Moscow will sacrifice its relations with neither with Tel Aviv nor with Ankara and the Kremlin prefers to manage the differences instead of confrontation.
Third category: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf countries, Turkey, Israel and many more wanted to overthrow the Syrian government. However, their mission has become difficult, not only because Syria and its allies are strong, but also because the enemies of Syria were not united.
For example, at the beginning of the US regime-change war on Syria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were meeting regularly with the US military and diplomatic officials in Turkey and Jordan in order to coordinate their efforts against Syria’s Assad.
After a few years, a political rift occurred between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over Syria, Egypt and Libya and this led to further polarization in the region.
For example, Qatar and Turkey supported the Muslim Brotherhood governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, whereas Saudi Arabia and the UAE supported the opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite the enmity against Assad, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, in exception for Qatar, lost their enthusiasm to overthrow Assad, especially after 2018 and I believe although the Saudis still oppose Assad they don’t want to see Turkish expansion in the region, especially in Syria and Libya.
Therefore, there is a rare mutual ground between Damascus and Riyadh, which explains a few things:
- The visit of former President of Sudan Hasan Bashir in late 2018 to Syria, who was under Saudi influence.
- The brief talk between the Arab League secretary-general and the Syrian delegation to the UN during the UN general assembly meeting in September 2019.
- The intelligence and military coordination between Syria, Egypt and Libya.
- And finally, the reopening of the UAE’s embassy in Syria and the recent phone call of Mouhammad bin Zayed to President Assad.
So, what’s next? Is there going to be a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Syria? The comprehensive rapprochement is far from reaching but if I had to choose between restoring ties with Turkey and Qatar or with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, I would keep my strategic partnership with Iran and Russia and choose to open up for the later because Riyadh and Abu Dhabi no more supporting terrorism in Syria and they are determined to fight Muslim brotherhood terrorism.
Additionally, Syria would benefit from the financial cooperation with Saudi Arabia, which will open the markets of most Gulf countries and Jordan with Syria. However, some say the US will never allow these countries to deal with Syria again unless Assad makes big compromises. Days will tell but what do you think? Are we going to witness a major compromise in the region?
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Kevork Almassian is an award-winning political commentator from Syria. He is the founder of Syriana Analysis and is known for his contribution to the literature on the Syrian war.