UAE re-opens Damascus embassy in another win for Assad's Syria

Damascus has a long way to go, but it appears to be winning one round after another.

A GIRL holds an image of Syrian President Bashar Assad. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A GIRL holds an image of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United Arab Emirates re-opened its embassy in Damascus on Thursday, another sign that the Syrian regime is being brought back into the fold in the region. It comes on the heels of a recent visit by Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and a trip by Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk to Cairo this week.
The National in the UAE noted that the embassy opening was “the latest sign President Bashar al-Assad has emerged unscathed from a war in which more than 500,000 Syrians are estimated to have died.” The move is interpreted in the region as a sign that Assad’s regime is once again on the road to acceptance after years of isolation.
In November 2011, the Arab League suspended Syria’s membership due to the crackdown on Arab spring protests. Since then, things have changed in the region. Many countries that saw the Arab spring unleash chaos have decided to crack down on dissent. In addition, the religious extremist voices that exploited the chaos to gain influence and power are now opposed in many states.
Syria, whose seven-year war against the rebels was seen as brutal, is now seen as a more “normal” state once again. Its approach to fighting the opposition is met with more keen understanding, even in places that once opposed the Alawite regime.
Damascus has a ways to go, but it appears to be winning one round after another. It was able to defeat the Syrian rebels in southern Syria easily over the summer. It expelled ISIS from areas near Damascus. It also retook other areas from the rebels, isolating the opposition in Idlib and northern Syria where Turkey has stepped in to protect the remaining rebels.
Those rebels are now mostly under a Turkish umbrella, and Ankara has signed a deal with Russia for a ceasefire. Turkey, Russia and Iran are also discussing a Syrian constitutional committee.
Most important for the Syrian government, the US is withdrawing from the eastern desert. The one third of the country that was controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces now appears up for grabs. Turkey wants to launch an offensive there. The Syrian regime has some forces in at least two cities in eastern Syria, Qamishli and Hasaka, and may now seek to move into those areas and sign a deal with the SDF, with Russian brokering, to return to parts of eastern Syria.
It hopes to get this whole swath of territory handed to it on a silver platter because the SDF fears a new round of fighting with Turkey and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.
The UAE decision to reopen its embassy is part of this process. Saudi Arabia may follow next. Saudi Arabia has said it would like to invest in eastern Syria. Initially that was going to happen with the US presence. Now, as the US withdraws, there may be reconstruction money for Syria coming from the Gulf through the Syrian government in Damascus. This would be the ultimate symbol that the Syrian civil war is largely over.