In international relations, there is no forever enemy or friend. Countries just care and act more according to what’s in their own core strategic interests. President Assad’s visit to UAE proves it as they two countries become enemies in 2011 when protests started in Syria resulting in a civil war which has destroyed much of the country.
President Assad’s visit to UAE is the first trip to any Arab country since 2011 when Syria war began. He met with UAE ruler Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Abu Dhabi crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Dubai.
Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid expressed hope that Assad’s visit to UAE will be the beginning of peace and stability in Syria and the whole region.
According to WAM, a UAE new Agency, the two leaders discussed issues of common concerns such as Syria’s territorial integrity and the withdraw of foreign forces from Syria. There are many foreign forces in Syria including Iranian revolutionary guards corps (IRGC) forces, Hezbollah forces, Russian forces, Turkish forces and other small terror groups.
Its not clear whether UAE was referring to military forces of countries like Iran and its backed fighters or Turkish forces or all of them togather. UAE is fighting Iran-backed Houthis militias in Yemen who have of recent launched ballistic missiles to UAE capital city. UAE and Saudi Arabia have also been critical of the presence of Hezbollah forces in Syria since the war began and who have played an important role in defending the government of Assad but they are perceived as a threat to Saudi Arabia led gulf countries due to their support of Iran.
Assad’s visit sends a clear message that some Arab countries are willing to re-engage with Syria. Several other countries in middle East including Jordan and Lebanon are reviving ties with Assad and they are asked US to remove sanctions on Syria in order to boost trade.
Syria was expelled from Arab league which is 22 member club of Muslims countries and all its neighbors cut ties when the conflict which has so far killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions more and destroyed much of the country began 11 years ago.
Most Arab countries and the west blamed president Assad for the crack down on protests in 2011 that evolved into a civil war where they teamed up to support opposition by supplying weapons and offering training against Syria military.
The west led by US has accused Syria government of commiting war crimes and crimes against humanity, a claim supported by international human rights organizations but denied by Assad’s government.
US state department spokesperson Ned Price said that US was profoundly disappointed and troubled by this apparent attempt to legitimise president Assad who remains responsible and accountable for the death and suffering of countless syrians, the displacement of more than a half of pre-war Syrian population and arbitrary detention and disappearance of over 150000 Syrian men, women and children.
President Assad rarely travel out side Syria and he has only visited Syria’s allies like Iran and Russia. Iran has provided Syria with billions of dollars worth of aids and provided well trained fighters who have helped Assad to remain in power since 2011.
Although US blames president Assad for displacment of more than a half of Syria’s pre-war population and death of countless syrians, US and its allies equally take the blame for providing weapons and training to opposition groups in Syria who have also been accused of the acts.
With hopes of opposition removing president Assad from power rapidly vanishing and as president Assad takes control of more and more territories in Syria with the help of Iran and Russia, most Arab countries have shown willingness to restore ties with president Assad of Syria.
In 2018, UAE surprised many people after re-openning its embassy in Damascus which was followed by the visit of UAE foreign minister to meet president Assad, the first visit from top UAE official and this visit was heavily criticised by the US.
Russia and Iran saved president Assad’s government and he is now bouncing back to International stage. This visit to UAE by president Assad shows high level of confidence that he will not be arrested by US or its allies and also continue to confirm that UAE is trying to make independent foreign policy away from that of US.