Assad’s “normalization” with both Arab and increasingly international countries who were a short time ago enemies is moving fast. First the embassy of the United Arab Emirates has formally reopened Thursday in Damascus, which is the first time a Gulf country has re-established official relations with the Assad government since all GCC states first shuttered their embassies there in 2012. Related to this and more significant, Gulf nations are now reportedly leading efforts to readmit Syria into the Arab League after the organization expelled Damascus eight years ago when the conflict first began.
At the time the Arab League cited “brutal repression” of protests against President Bashar al-Assad — deeply ironic and hypocritical at the time — given that Damascus pointed out both Bahrain and ally Saudi Arabia violently snuffed out protests that rocked Bahrain’s monarchy in 2011 as part of the “Arab Spring” movement. But the significance of likely rapprochement with Arab states is huge, coming after eight years of war driven by an official policy of Syrian regime change by these very GCC governments, foremost among them Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. Restoration of ties also means countries like the UAE could be major sources of financing reconstruction projects at a key moment when the United States has long blocked all western aid that could benefit the Syrian government.
During the final weeks of the UAE embassy’s rapid remodel in preparations for Thursday’s reopening, another first happened: Sudan’s President Omar Bashir became first Arab League leader to meet Bashar al-Assad since the