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Assad Remains Silent at Manama Summit Amid Speculation

Assad's media attempted to justify his silence, claiming he was making a statement about the Arab system, Eyad Jaafari writes.
Assad Remains Silent at Manama Summit Amid Speculation

Bashar al-Assad attended the Arab summit held recently in the Bahraini capital, Manama, but he remained silent, merely listening, as no time was allotted for him to deliver a speech. This unexpected silence puzzled observers and many Syrians, who wondered why Assad, known for his excessive chatter, chose not to speak. Typically, he seizes such opportunities to expound on his views, often resulting in verbose and confusing rhetoric.

Key Developments at the 33rd Arab Summit in Manama with President al-Assad’s Participation

Assad’s media attempted to justify his silence, claiming he was making a statement about the Arab system. They asserted that Assad’s vision on regional developments, Arabism, the Palestinian issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and Arab League reform had been clearly outlined in previous summits, making repetition unnecessary. According to them, current events validate Assad’s long-held positions.

One reason for Assad’s silence could be the summit’s decision to limit speeches to three minutes, significantly shorter than in previous summits. This restriction did not allow Assad enough time to engage in his usual rhetoric. The reduced speech time aimed to allow more deliberation on key issues, particularly the Palestinian situation, on which Assad has remained notably neutral. He has refrained from showing solidarity with Gaza and maintained a neutral stance since the Israeli war on Gaza began, resisting Iranian demands to support Hamas and not permitting any provocations on the Golan Front.

Assad previously attended the extraordinary Riyadh summit on November 11, where he also refrained from offering tangible support to the Palestinians. Instead, he used the summit to lecture Arab leaders on the dynamics of war and peace with Israel, emphasizing his regime’s consistent positions and alliances, particularly with Iran.

There is speculation that the Bahraini regime, similar to Assad’s, may have advised him to remain silent to avoid provoking summit attendees and ensure the event’s success. Bahraini politicians might have promised to mediate with U.S. officials to adopt softer stances on Arab normalization with Assad’s regime.

Ultimately, Assad’s desire to benefit from Arab normalization may have compelled him to adopt the role of a reluctant listener. He likely hopes that Bahrain’s diplomacy will facilitate further normalization steps, potentially with Saudi Arabia. His meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the summit’s sidelines might indicate such a direction, but Assad knows that tangible steps are required and that each Arab country has its own interests that he cannot manipulate indefinitely.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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