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.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

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

How China Equips the Islamic Republic to Repress Its People

In its dedication to bringing totalitarianism into the 21st century, the Chinese Communist party has developed high-tech forms of surveillance using facial-recognition software, a vast system of “social credit,” and careful control over its subjects’ cellular phones. Even stricter and more invasive measures are applied to the Uyghurs of the northwestern part of the country. Beijing is also happy to export its innovations in tyranny to allies like Iran and Russia. Playing a key role in these advances is a nominally private company called Tiandy Technologies. Craig Singleton describes its activities:

Both Tiandy testimonials and Chinese-government press releases advertise the use of the company’s products by Chinese officials to track and interrogate Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. According to human-rights groups, Chinese authorities also employ Tiandy products, such as “tiger chairs,” to torture Uyghurs and other minorities.

Iran has long relied on China to augment its digital surveillance capabilities, and Tehran was an early adopter of Beijing’s “social-credit” system, which it wields to assess citizens’ behavior and trustworthiness. . . . Iranian government representatives have publicized plans to leverage smart technologies, including AI-powered face recognition, to maintain regime stability and neutralize dissent. Enhanced cooperation with China is central to those efforts.

At present, Tiandy is not subject to U.S. sanctions or export controls. In light of Tiandy’s operations in both Xinjiang and Iran, policymakers should consider removing the company, its owner, and stakeholders from the international financial system and global supply chains.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at FDD

More about: China, Human Rights, Iran, Totalitarianism, U.S. Foreign policy