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The Arab League’s Welcome of Assad’s Regime

May 30, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Watching the Summit of the Arab League’s meeting at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in May 2023 was like watching a show on the theater of the absurd.

Soon after Syrian Air Force plane touched down at Jeddah Airport, a triumphant Bashar al-Assad emerged and came down the steps to be greeted by Prince Badr bin-Sultan, deputy governor of the Mecca region.

The decision to readmit Bashar al-Assad to membership in the Arab league was met with strong criticism by Arab commentators on the social media.

These are excerpts:

“On what basis that action was taken, while many Syrians were looking for their imprisoned, or disappeared sons, or daughters, or husbands, or wives?”

“As long as the Assad Regime exists, there can be neither justice, nor solution for the problems of the Syrian people.”

“The return of Al-Assad to the Arab League in lieu of his trial, sends a message to the world that war criminals can escape punishment.”

Commenting on the readmission of Bashar al-Assad to the Arab League, the New York Times wrote:

“Most Arab governments cut ties with Syria early in the war, as Mr. al-Assad’s government laid siege to entire towns and sent millions of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries. The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in 2011; and Saudi Arabia, one of the leading regional powers, supported some of the rebel groups fighting Mr. al-Assad’s rule with funding and weapons supplied in covert coordination with the United States. But as the years passed and Mr. al-Assad clung to power, regaining control over large parts of Syria, regional leaders shifted their approach.

“Now, many deal openly with his government, arguing that shunning him accomplished little. This way, officials say, they can at least try to influence developments in Syria that affect the entire region, such as the flow of drugs across its borders, and the fate of the millions of refugees who remain in neighboring countries, where officials say they have strained their resources and stirred resentment from citizens.”

In the United States, The American Coalition for Syria lobbied Congress for the US to sanction the Assad regime. This resulted in. US lawmakers introducing a bill opposing the normalization with Syria's Assad as reported by Reuters on 11 May 2023.

“A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill… that would prohibit the government from recognizing or normalizing relations with any Syrian government led by Assad, who is under U.S. sanctions, and expands on the Caesar Act, which imposed a tough round of sanctions on Syria in 2020. The proposed legislation comes after Arab states turned the page on years of confrontation with Assad on Sunday by allowing Syria back into the Arab League, a milestone in his regional rehabilitation even as the West continues shunning him after years of civil war.”

Here are excerpts from the London Times regarding this topic on 19 May 2023

“President Assad of Syria is taking his seat at the Arab League today, officially ending more than a decade of isolation on the world stage in a development that has been vehemently opposed by western powers and Syrian activists. Assad arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday before the summit, keenly waiting to retake the seat that he lost 12 years ago. Saudi Arabia, which previously backed the armed opposition trying to take down Assad’s government, has engineered the Syrian dictator’s re-entry into the regional fold.

“The end of his isolation was cemented, and he had made no concessions to get there. For many of the people who have suffered at the hands of the regime, Assad’s reintegration into the international community is seen as a slap in the face that will only embolden his brutality.

“The Assad Family has been in power for more than 50 years! It was in 1970, that Hafez al-Assad became an absolute ruler of Syria. He was grooming his son Bassel to be his successor; but that would not take place as Bassel died in a car crash near Damascus. His son Basher studied medicine at the University of Damascus, graduating as an ophthalmologist in 1988. After serving as an army doctor at a Damascus military hospital, he moved to London, England, in 1992 to continue his studies.” The Times view on the Arab League: Assad’s Return

The information about the Syrian tragedy covered several aspects of the civil war. However, no mention was made about the enormous cultural damage inflicted on the refugee Syrian school age generation that missed formal education.

Syria, like the rest of the Arab world, has a unique linguistic tradition, the coexistence of Modern Standard Arabic (Classical) with various regional dialects. The MSA is the same from Morocco to Iraq, and is the only form for written Arabic, from school textbooks, newspapers, magazines, the Qur’an, th Bible, all the way to the codices of the vast Arab cultural heritage. While conversations at home and in society, take place in colloquial Arabic.i

The delegates to the special Summit of the Arab League took no steps to repair this cultural damage! They flew back home with an air of triumph having ‘solved’ the Syrian catastrophe, by welcoming back the Assad Regime into the fold.

i “What we refer to as "dialectal Arabic" is in truth a bevy of languages differing markedly from one country to the other, with vast differences often within the same country, if not within the same city and neighborhood.” by Franck Salameh Middle East Quarterly Fall 2011

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