After Nearly a Decade of Ostracization, Arab States Are Making Their Peace with Bashar al-Assad

On Monday, the United Arab Emirates’ national-security adviser visited Tehran, in an apparent attempt to smooth over relations with a country it generally sees as a threat. But three years ago, the UAE took what might be considered a step in this direction by reestablishing diplomatic ties with Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, which is Iran’s closest ally. The Arab league had expelled Syria in 2011 after Assad launched a bloody war against his own people. And the Emiratis are not the only ones interested in reconciliation. Amotz Asa-El explains what has changed:

The role of the global superpowers in the Middle East has transformed dramatically since the [Syrian] civil war’s outbreak. Back then, Russia was on the region’s margins, where it had been since Egypt’s defection from Moscow’s orbit to Washington’s in the 1970s. This configuration ended in 2015, when Russia opened the Khmeimim airbase in western Syria and thrust its air force into the thick of the Syrian civil war—and soon determined that war’s outcome.

The Obama administration’s failure to oppose the Russian move, even verbally, alongside President Obama’s failure to follow through on his threat to punish Assad for launching chemical-weapons attacks on his own people, led Arab leaders to conclude that Washington’s strategic domination of the Middle East was being seriously challenged, and possibly eclipsed, by Moscow. Russia’s agenda therefore won new respect, and the first item on that agenda was the preservation of the Assad dynasty—which has been loyal to Moscow since its establishment in 1971, and provided Russia with a Mediterranean naval base at Tartus, a precious asset from the Russian point of view.

At the same time, Arab governments are also being pushed back toward Assad’s presidential palace by two regional players, Turkey and Iran.

In Asa-El’s view, reconciliation with Damascus doesn’t necessary signal reconciliation with Tehran:

The anti-Iranian dynamic [driving the Gulf Arab states] became glaring [last] month, when Emirati and Bahraini warships joined Israeli and U.S. vessels in a multilateral naval exercise in the Red Sea. This was an Arab-Israeli show of military harmony that until recently was unthinkable—as unthinkable as a renewed pan-Arab embrace of Bashar al-Assad and his regime.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Iran, Israel diplomacy, Middle East, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy, United Arab Emirates


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy