Syria’s Return to the Arab League Shows What a Post-American Middle East Would Look Like

On May 19, the Arab League held its annual summit in the Saudi city of Jeddah, attended by the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad for the first time since 2011—when his government was expelled because of its bloody attempts to suppress a popular uprising. Mohammed Alyahya takes this step as a sign of the emergence of a “new Middle East.”

Through brute force, and the unwavering support of his patrons—Russia and China—Bashar al-Assad has managed to prevail in his war against his own people, delivering a strategic victory to the Russia-Iran axis that will allow him to preside indefinitely over a tattered and fractured Syria. Giving Syria a place at the table is recognition of a reality that the Syrian dictator has forged out of steel and blood. It is also a victory for his patrons who facilitated his murderous behavior. It is reasonable to expect that future would-be Arab strongmen are paying close attention to these ugly lessons.

While initiatives led by U.S. allies focused in the past on maintaining the U.S. security order, this Arab League summit brings together a region that can no longer be easily divided into well-marked camps policed by superpower patrons. The most notable feature of this new landscape is a competition for influence, power, and resources that is open to all players.

While open competition is not in itself a bad thing, the prospect of a regional free-for-all carries considerable risks—both to American interests and to regional stability. Without clear alliances and rules, the threat of armed conflict can only increase. Meanwhile, the United States lacks a coherent strategy to manage its own remaining, quite large interests in the region. . . . Beijing has capitalized on the power vacuum left by the United States, most recently by brokering an agreement in Beijing between Riyadh and Tehran.

Read more at Al Arabiya

More about: Arab League, Middle East, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy


As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas