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The Separation Summit - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There is no room for sweet talk – in light of the incumbent Syrian regime’s attitude and its wagers. Syria is sailing against the current and in a different direction than the most prominent ships in the Arab fleet; namely, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the rhetoric in Damascus is vastly different from that of the aforementioned states.

For this reason, the impending Damascus summit will be the summit of tragic truth. Instead of being an event to unite all Arabs, it will be one in which they will become divided. And once again, we will sweep everything under the carpet as is customary – despite the fact that the putrid smell can longer be ignored.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has placed its bets on the Mullahs of Iran and its Revolutionary Guard regime and no longer speaks the same language as the Arabs or regards his interests and security matters the way in which Arabs do.

Bashar Assad, the scion of Baathist culture resorted to Khomeini’s Iran; the offspring of fundamentalist culture. One would have expected the Syrian president to be in the same situation as the great poet of Arabism al Muttanabi who described his visit to Khorasan saying:

But the Arab man there

Has a stranger’s face, hand and tongue

Heavenly playgrounds that if he had wandered through

Solomon would have sought a translator.

However far from it, Bashar has become an expert in understanding the language and the hearts and minds [in Iran]. In fact, he is closer to the description of an Arab prince who was satirized by a famous Arab vernacular poet. The poet said that the prince had shifted his loyalties and “abandoned his Arabism to become a Turk.”

But away from the romantic patriotic language, the language of major interests and greater wagers demonstrates that the Syrian regime’s present policy was doomed to clash with the two most prominent Arab countries in the region, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This is especially more so after the regime in Damascus strengthened its alliance with Iran to the point of subordination.

Since then, Iran has transformed into a Khamenei-Ahmadinejad state whilst abandoning Khatami-Rafsanjani. Moreover, the trend supporting independence from Syrian leadership has been growing in Lebanon. The UN Security Council backs this position and has issued the famous resolution in which it commanded Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.

In the aftermath of these events, the truth came to light and the reality could no longer be concealed, which is why Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri was slain and his death was followed by a string of assassinations of various media and intellectual symbols from the diverse Lebanese community – however, all of whom had been unanimously calling for Lebanese independence from the Syrian guardianship.

This was followed by the establishment of an international tribunal, which was [initially] underrated and a terror campaign was organized against it with the intention of intimidating the involved parties and disrupting its progression. However; this campaign has failed and the tribunal remains on track.

In the words of Charles Rizk [Lebanese Maronite politician]: “The International tribunal on the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and other crimes, is imminent,” and “The judges have been chosen and will soon head to the court headquarters in the Hague.”

The Syrian regime uses Israel as an excuse to blame everything on and has attempted to exploit the Palestinian cause for the sake of Syrian propaganda against the Arab regimes that are against its position. The Syrian regime will continue this exploitation, supported by the fact that interjecting the word ‘Israel’ into any Arab conflict is enough to make Arab listeners abandon all logic and reason and immediately align themselves with any party claiming to be fighting Israel – regardless of whether the claims are true or whether the party making them is opportunistic or has a hidden agenda.

The Arab mentality operates like such: All you need to do is mention the word ‘Israel’ and a whole world of media and political support becomes available to you. This game has been played before, stirring up public sentiments, and it will continue to be played time and again.

Following the Damascus summit, and especially after Saudi Arabia announced it will be sending a delegate (Saudi’s ambassador to the Arab League), we will undoubtedly witness a campaign to charge Egypt and Saudi Arabia with treachery and the alibi is ready: The Palestinian cause and Israel. Of course in southern Lebanon there is a front that is always ready to be exploited and a party that is permanently in a state of mobilization and prepared to cause a ruckus and shout about Israel.

In any case, Israel is ready for war and willing to commit dozens of massacres like the one in Qana, heedless of Arab and international opinion – which is a scenario we have long become accustomed to.

But who benefits from all this? There will be a systematic smear campaign against Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, particularly Saudi, and it will be organized by the Iranian and Syrian regimes – but it will be covert. Perhaps Syria may be less veiled about it. On the same bandwagon you will find Hamas and Hezbollah and some newspapers, satellite channels and few figures with loud voices.

The problem is that such manipulative games have become redundant – isn’t anyone fed up with this game?!

Perhaps the novelty this time will be some chitchat about Saudi’s implication in Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination. This has been circulating in whispers via Pro-Syrian supporters in Lebanon who are masters at delivering the Syrian regime’s insults across. And as one of them discloses: “We are grinding our teeth in anticipation of the results of the investigation into Mughniyeh’s death.”

Moreover, this campaign will also include mention of Saudi nationals who are detained in Syria under terrorist charges.

Up to this point, the matter remains conceivable since we know a lot about these extremist youth and the Saudi Al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq who crossed the border through Syria. The problem posed by extremism and the death-obsessed culture among Saudi Islamists has been discussed many times; it’s old news. What is new is the attempt to insinuate that there is an official political plan to use terrorism to deter al Assad’s regime in the same manner that the aforesaid regime employs terrorism in Lebanon – believing that the opponents of Assad’s regime think in the same way his security apparatus does.

In light of its present wagers, Syria is incapable of compelling Saudi Arabia and Egypt to accept Iran’s leadership over the region – it can’t do it though sweet talk or promises that are never fulfilled or even through terrorizing the Lebanese and usurping their right to decision-making, or through the curses of Waim Wahhab or Nasser Qandil and others like them. There is a profound and real conflict between Saudi-Egypt on one hand, and President Bashar al Assad regime on the other, and also on an Arab level against the Syrian regime.

The parties against the Syrian regime all pose the same question: Do you support Iranian interests or our interests?

This is the dilemma clearly stated and may God assist [Secretary-General of the Arab League] Amr Moussa who seeks to reconcile all the conflicting parties and resolve their issues.

After much thought, Saudi has declared its position, which is close to boycotting Damascus, by sending the Saudi ambassador to the Arab League to represent it at the summit while Egypt plans to send State Minister for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mufid Shehab. This simply indicates President’s Bashar’s failure to promote his policy among other Arab states. Today the situation has become explicitly clear and there is no room for pointless compliments.

Will Assad realize he is heading towards a dead end? No matter how much he places his bets on upheaval, assassinations and using the “resistance against Israel” as a card to make him immune to criticism (not that there’s any Syrian resistance over the occupied Golan Heights!) – only the reality will remain in the end. Then the question leveled at Assad would be: What do you want, and did you get what you wanted?

And finally, what is left of the Arab League – aside from its slogans, headquarters and Amr Moussa’s voice and smile? That is the question I would pose before the summit of Separation; the Damascus summit.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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