SYRIA: THE CENTER OF A NEW STRATEGIC ALLIANCE by Professor Anton Caragea
SYRIA: THE CENTER OF A NEW STRATEGIC ALLIANCE
President Bashar Al Assad, the architect of a new alliance
2009 was the year of a diplomatic change in the Middle East. Quiet but efficient, the Syrian diplomacy supported a new strategy of alliances destined to assure the equilibrium in a fragile area.
Turkey and Syria: a new relation.
Usually, in the strategic landscape of the region, Syria and Turkey could be easily played one against the other, from the memories of Ottoman Empire repression to conflict over Euphrates water quota and the never ending story of border disputes all seemed to put a distance between Damascus and Ankara.
2009 change all this, with a resolution over the Euphrates water dam , with joint military exercises and cooperation agreement signed on cultural, tourism and economic field and with a well publicized border crossing opened , that made the former severely fortified border between Syria and Turkey, one of the most relaxed in the region.
As a result of this diplomatic overture Syria will benefit massively economic from the vitality of Turkey market and form tourism investment, where Turkey easily observed that Syrian market, practically untapped by European visitors will be the next El Dorado of tourism in the years to come. Syria also has become the bridge used by Ankara to rebuild the relations with Arab world. In the last 50 years Turkey was interested in building a laic state, oriented towards Western Military Alliance (NATO) and in the last 20 years had also unsuccessfully tried to join European Union.
Now Turkey is rediscovering the Islamic roots and the Arab market potential and economic power and is rebuilding a zone of cultural and political influence in the Middle East. In the new discovered Syrian – Turkey alliance , Turkey obtained a model of reconnecting with Arab world, an economic success story and , the most important, the Damascus support in forging a new alliance also with Iran. The results of Turkey- Syria friendship quickly lead to a new Iran- Turkey friendship, where President Abdullah Gul offered support for nuclear program of Teheran and to embattled Iranian president. The new Turkey- Syria –Iran alliance could offer and economic viable space and a political alliance that supports equilibrium in the Middle East.
Syria- Saudi Arabia connection.
2009 also was the witness of a rare image in Middle East policy, in a two day visit King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia embraced his Syrian counterpart putting an end to a long rift between Damascus and Riyadh over Lebanon. If with Turkey Damascus emphasized the necessity of an Islamic alliance to control Middle East and to put in defense an aggressive Israel, in Riyadh the accent was in Sunni reconciliation and cooperation to make a stable Lebanon and a stable Iraq. President Bashar al Assad of Syria has obtained his aim: a stable Lebanon, an inclusive government and maintaining Hezbollah armed to defend Lebanon and in governmental position. The success was un hoped for, after the defeat of Hezbollah in Lebanon elections many feared Lebanon will decay in civil disorder or even civil war. What will be to true extent of the October 2009 understanding between King Abdullah and President Bashar Al Assad will become visible in the next month and years, but already this new connection is shaping the Middle East.
With a solid financial background offered by Saudi-Syria Company for Industrial and Agricultural Investment and a bilateral Businessmen Forum the new friendship promise to be also a trade and economic opportunity for the two countries.
But the most spectacular is the political understanding. In just a month after the King Abdullah visit to Damascus, in Lebanon a new unity government was in place and the country begin regaining strength on economic field and on national reconciliation and Hezbollah obtained the agreement for a maintaining his military apparatus . Also remarkable is the evolution of Iraq situation where the Sunni alliance is approaching a 35% percent voting support in the polls, becoming the maker or broker of any future Iraq government that will results from March 2010 elections.
The Al Maliki government witnesses this situation with apprehension and when he tried to block some of the Sunni candidate to appear on the ballot he faced even a United States high level intervention by Joe Biden against any person being blocked in participating in elections. A Syrian- Saudi joint proposal backed by United States, this is showing how much Syrian diplomacy changed the rule of games in Middle East in the last year.
Syria: the center of a new Middle East strategy.
The recognition of the new Syrian role in the Middle East come quickly , George Mitchell , the US envoy for the region visited Damascus in 2009 as never in the past . President Sarkozy of France becomes a frequent host and roll up red carpet treatment of President Bashar Al Assad.
What is make the new Syrian political opening remarkable is the astonishing diplomatic capacity of President Basher Al Assad in maintaining in the same time the strong connection with Teheran while negotiating with Paris, Riyadh and Washington. Creating a Sunni alliance with Riyadh will make a stable Iraq and will defuse tensions at eastern border of Syria and will ease the refugee tension on Damascus that had accepted on his territory more than 1.5 millions Iraqi refugees in the last 7 years. Also in Lebanon, Syria has made an important comeback, economic and politic a Lebanon- Syrian- Saudi alliance is the best situation for the entire region. Finally Syria has obtained also a general backing on total retrocession of Golan Heights from Israel as a precondition for any dialogue, in according to United Nations resolution
Damascus in the heart of diplomatic action.
All this comes as a result of a young and talented crew gather around President Bashar al Assad and decided to make Damascus the heart of the diplomatic game of the region. Among this are, the able and always smiling, educated and charming Minister of Information Dr. Mohsen Bilal, that succeed transforming international media views on Syria, Walid Al Moallem as minister of foreign affairs traveled from Ankara to Teheran and Beirut and in all the major capitals of the world promoting the new Syrian diplomacy. Saadala Agaa as minister of tourism played the culture and history card making Syria a stopover for all important tourism events that opened the country to the world. (I have also the opportunity of seeing this powerful new diplomacy in actions with energetic and convincing Ambassador Walid Othman promoting Syria as a cradle of civilization on diplomatic arena).
Now with a powerful and skilled diplomatic team, a strong economy, a stable society and in the middle of strong alliance how will Damascus exploit his success further is everyone question?
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