A milestone was just achieved in Syria’s rapprochement with its fellow Arab states after the Emirati Foreign Minister visited Damascus to meet with President Assad. The war-torn country has the right to pursue whatever foreign policy that it wants, including one which pragmatically aims to diversify its partners like many other countries are doing nowadays in order to improve their strategic position in the emerging Multipolar World Order. Nevertheless, it’s difficult not to be concerned about the future of Syrian-Iranian relations in light of improved Syrian-Emirati ones since Damascus’ new partners in Abu Dhabi aren’t on positive terms with Tehran. Not only that, but they recently recognized Syria’s hated “Israeli” enemy and share Tel Aviv’s firm belief that the Islamic Republic needs to be “contained”.
For background context, where’s what I’ve written about Syrian-Emirati relations over the years:
* 12 November 2018: “The Reopening Of The UAE Embassy Might Signal Syria’s Pivot To The GCC”
* 2 April 2020: “The Syrian-Emirati Rapprochement Is All About Realpolitik, Not Principles”
For the readers’ convenience, a concise summary of that earlier insight will now be shared.
Basically, the UAE’s outreaches to Syria are predicated on the dual purpose of simultaneously “containing” Iranian and Turkish influence there. Damascus’ disproportionate strategic dependence on Tehran is driven by its desire to “balance” Moscow’s influence, which some consider to have become “overbearing” lately. Nevertheless, the continued presence of Iranian forces in Syria is exploited as the pretext for “Israel” to continue striking the country. A possible “compromise” in order to retain the Arab Republic’s (admittedly imperfect) “balancing” act might be to replace Iranian influence with Emirati influence. Not only could this help Syria “balance” Russian influence, but it might stop “Israeli” strikes and also eventually lead to an influx of Emirati reconstruction funds.
Syria is under immense multi-sided pressure to request the dignified but “phased withdrawal” of Iranian forces as an externally imposed precondition for improving the situation in that country. The US’ unilateral and associated secondary sanctions likely won’t ever be lifted until that happens, nor will “Israel” ever stop bombing Syria on that pretext as “passively facilitated” by Russia through their September 2015 “deconfliction mechanism” for “managing” this (more information about the truth behind those two’s ties here, with hyperlinks leading to over a dozen related analyses that should also be read). Removing all “morals”, “ethics”, and “principles” from the equation concerning Syria’s proclaimed loyalty to the Iranian-led Resistance, there’s a certain logic in capitulating to this pressure.
The UAE’s intentions, while being portrayed as mutually beneficial without occurring at the expense of any third party, are actually zero-sum in relation to Iranian interests. Abu Dhabi is one of Tel Aviv’s top allies, and they both believe in “containing” Tehran. Russia’s also on excellent terms with “Israel” despite the latter being Syria’s enemy. Considering this, as well as Russia’s role in “passively facilitating” “Israel’s” hundreds of strikes against Iran in Syria that are aimed at “containing” the Islamic Republic’s influence there, it wouldn’t be surprising if Moscow is encouraging the improvement of Syrian-Emirati ties with a view towards having them replace Syrian-Iranian ones. Russia’s also on excellent terms with the UAE too, which leads to a convergence of interests with “Israel” vis-à-vis “containing” Iran in Syria.
It’ll remain to be seen how Syria manages its relations with the UAE and Iran in the coming future. The former might predictably seek to entice Damascus with promises of reconstruction funds and assurances that it’ll influence its “Israeli” ally to stop bombing the Arab Republic so long as Syria requests the dignified but “phased withdrawal” of Iranian forces. That might be too tempting of an offer for Syria to pass up, especially if the UAE promises to support the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) operations against Turkish-backed “rebels” in more effective ways than Iran has, such as by dispatching its air force to bomb them like it earlier bombed the Ansarullah (“Houthis”) in Yemen. If Syria concludes that it has more to gain from the UAE than from Iran, then it might finally request the latter’s withdrawal.
By Andrew Korybko Via http://oneworld.press/?module=articles&action=view&id=2310