Articles > > As the New Year Begins

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2020-01-23
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

The saying bad news 'comes in twos' can sometimes apply to good news as well.
 
The new year of 2020 began bearing bad news for Iran (Soleimani's assassination, resumed protests in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, shifts in the European troika's positions, and more), but it started off well for its ally, Damascus: Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk and his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan held an unprecedented public meeting in Moscow, in what constitutes a clear Turkish admission that the scheme to topple Assad has failed, and [Syrian UN] representative Bashar al-Jaafari was extended a distinguished invitation to attend a reception hosted by the Saudi ambassador in New York Abdallah al-Mouallimi, with Saudi Minister of State Fahad bin Abdullah Almubarak in attendance. The event was full of warm, friendly gestures and talk of 'water under the bridge' soon to pass in reference to Damascus/Riyadh relations.
 
Meanwhile, press with close ties to the Syrian regime leaked celebratory news of the UAE embassy resuming operations in the Syrian capital, referring to serious discussion of resuming civilian flights between the two countries, and praising Assad's wisdom. As for Egypt, it did not break ties with Damascus to begin with, and while slow to change its approach, it has once again taken the lead in the initiative to restore Damascus to the Arab League and rehabilitate Syrian/Arab relations.
 
Today, the fast-moving regional landscape can no longer afford the luxury of procrastination or delay. Ankara is in the midst of a showdown with Cairo, backed by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and Libya (and not Syria) has become the new arena for battles between axes and proxy wars. Cairo views Turkish military intervention in Libya as a 'threat to its national security' and a reproduction of its campaign in Syria along its 1200 km border with Libya. The Gulf's (Saudi/UAE) thorny dispute with Turkey, which was not born of the moment, is currently deteriorating in light of the escalation in the Libyan crisis.
 
The signs of a subsiding storm on the Gulf crisis's horizon did not take the shape of significant settlements or breakthroughs, and this has, so far, seemingly not gone beyond the rival parties taking each other's pulse. The Libyan crisis may be one additional reason for the delay and obstruction on the reconciliation track, this time led by Egypt, which is observing what is happening on its Western borders with concern and on high alert.
 
In contrast, Syria's reasons can be found in its never-ending campaigns against both Doha and Ankara. It is bound to be watching Turkey's priorities' shift from Syria to Libya with great satisfaction, and it undoubtedly views the Moscow [Hakan/Mamlouk] meeting as the first official Turkish recognition that its scheme to topple the [Syrian] regime has failed. On the other hand, it still views Turkey's military presence in Syria an 'occupation' as it wages battle on Ankara's allied militias and fundamentalist factions on the ground in Idlib. Bashar al-Jaafari's recent campaign before the Security Council notable focused on the two [Turkey/Qatar] allies, without mentioning Saudi Arabia or the UAE as usual.
 
Libya has lifted part of the heavy burden off Damascus only to throw it over Cairo's shoulder this time."Libya may serve as a broad gateway for Damascus to normalize and advance relations with each of Cairo, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi, as well its return to the Arab League, perhaps with the same warmth with which Mouallimi and Mubarak received Jaafari in New York.