Articles > > Surprise Visit

Articles - - Date: 2020-03-05
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

In late 2018, [subsequently] ousted Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir made a surprise visit to Damascus, the first from an Arab head of state since the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011.
At the time, speculation abounded about the visit's purpose, and whether it was driven by purely Sudanese motivations, or whether a number of Arab countries had sent Bashir on an investigative visit to the Syrian capital.
On Wednesday, the Libyan Embassy (representing Benghazi/Haftar) was declared open in Damascus, after high-level talks led to an agreement to resume mutual diplomatic relations and strengthen them in various fields, so as to fight the 'common Turkish enemy.' This latest Libyan step is being viewed as a precursor to similar steps that other countries have taken, all of which converge on the need to combat Turkish regional expansion, and in particular in Syria, Libya, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, Bahrain, and the Gulf.
Bashir arrived in Damascus on a Russian plane to avoid the International Criminal Court's long reach in an unmistakable sign of strong Russian support for this Sudanese move. Today, we can assume that Libya's latest move is certain to be welcomed by Russia, as it is no secret that Moscow is a major international ally of General Haftar, and are there reports that Russia's Wagner [military contractor] Group is fighting alongside his forces.
And we can also assume that many Arab capitals fear Turkey's expanding regional role, and along the Mediterranean's Eastern and Southern shores. However, see no real effort to resist this role, the least of which would be to restore diplomatic relations and exchange visits with Damascus at multiple levels publicly rather that covertly, not to mention supporting the Syrian regime and army against Turkey's repeated invasion of Northern Syria, and Ankara's attempts to turn it into an exact copy of Northern Cyprus.
The Arabs are uncertain as to Syria's restoration to the Arab League. True, such a step will make little difference when the balance of power between Ankara and Damascus is calculated on the ground, but it is a symbolic move loaded with political and metaphorical messages. The time has come to embark on it so as to confront Turkey's meddling in Syria's airspace and on its soil.
Various sources have spoken of security communications based in Cairo involving several Arab capitals meant to examine the issue, and specially in terms of how to react to the 'Turkish incursion' across different borders and seas. Given the importance of the security dimension, a major political-strategic decision is needed to save Syria, before Idlib, 'Afrin, Jarablus, and al-Bab join fate of the Sanjak of Alexandretta [annexed by Turkey from Syria in 1939], and the 'Sultan' [Erdogan] imposes his scheme to partition Syria and pursue his 'demographic engineering' [Turkification] further in Northern Syria, the site of the largest ongoing ethnic cleansing operation in the region, which Moscow has finally acknowledged after its fickle and opportunistic Turkish ally's positions had backed it into a corner.
There is an opportunity for the official Arab position to take a step forward thanks to Algeria's [Arab League] presidency, which has refused to host another Arab summit without Syria's participation. It is also rumored that the Arab League summit was not postponed from March to June due to the coronavirus, but rather to provide an opportunity to address this dossier.
Will the next three months witness such a development?.