Bashar al-Assad once said, when asked in a television interview about his return to the Arab fold, that the question should be about the return of the Arabs to him — not the other way around.
Welcoming all the visitors, Bashar wants to say that he is, as always, the only one in power in Syria, that only he is authorized to decide on the smallest details. He asserts that the return of the Arabs to him personally — specifically as it is — is unchanged. The message here preempts any dialogue or Arab demands for real “non-formal, temporary and false” measures for power-sharing if such demands still exist in some Arab countries.
It is not a tradition of Arab regimes to link their interrelations to the issue of democracy, and democracy is not even a tradition for most Arab parliaments. What makes normalization with Assad even more intense is that he received these visitors to show that they came to him as he really is, to place them alongside him in the picture after he killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions. The photo indicates that they are implicated in all of this without the slightest shame; rather, they offer smiles and friendliness as if breaking ties was a mistake that has finally been corrected.
Whatever the outcome of the talks between Assad and his Arab counterparts, Assad has won by breaking down the psychological barrier that should have kept them away from him. He knows as we all know, that the return of the Arab embrace to his regime is conditional on a more permanent American approach. The mere fact that Washington reinstated the sanctions imposed on the regime will deter Arab officials and others from forming economic relations, which is his whole point. Beyond that, to agree on the future of Syria, a different kind of earthquake is needed — one that is centred on Washington. And no one can yet say for sure that this really happened in the midst of the Turkish earthquake.
Omar Kaddour is a Syrian writer based in France. He writes for a number of Arabic newspapers and websites.
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.