Navigating the Geopolitical Landscape: Arab states’ reconciliation with president Assad and beyond


By: Dr M A Mufazzal

The recent convening of the annual summit of Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia represents a momentous milestone in the realm of regional politics, bearing profound implications. Notably, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s presence amongst his Arab counterparts, after an extended absence of more than ten years, signals a transformative shift in the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East. This summit, primarily focused on deliberations pertaining to Sudan and other ongoing conflicts, served as a platform to showcase the unwavering commitment of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman towards regional diplomacy and the pursuit of reconciliation.

Under the astute guidance of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has embarked upon an energetic and determined pursuit of regional diplomacy.

Previously recognized for its acrimonious engagements with its arch-nemesis Iran and their respective regional proxies, the kingdom has undertaken significant measures to reinstate diplomatic relations with Iran and bring an end to its protracted military campaign against Yemeni rebels supported by Iran. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has assumed a prominent leadership role in advocating for the reinstatement of Syria’s membership in the Arab League, an organization from which it was suspended twelve years ago in the wake of President Assad’s merciless suppression of the Arab Spring protests.

The trajectory towards normalization undertaken by various stakeholders intersects with the overarching objective of fostering stability within the volatile landscape of the Middle East. While persistent challenges and divergences continue to exist, the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are demonstrating a pragmatic approach characterized by the deliberate de-escalation of tensions and concerted efforts to alleviate internal frictions.

The enduring resilience of the Assad regime amidst the ravages of war in Syria stands as an undeniable reality. Despite its suspension from the Arab League in 2011, the regime’s military triumphs, bolstered by the support of formidable allies such as Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, have facilitated its substantial territorial reclamation. Nevertheless, the regime confronts a glaring deficit in terms of legitimacy and grapples with monumental obstacles in the arduous process of post-war reconstruction. By extending an olive branch to President Assad, Arab Gulf monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates aspire to exert influence over his actions, foster a climate of stability, and safeguard their own enduring strategic interests.

The recent reinstatement of Syria’s membership in the Arab League reflects a fragmented reality among Arab states. While Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia, once a staunch supporter of regime change in Syria has made a remarkable U-turn and now finds itself in a position of reconciling with the Assad regime. However, other Gulf nations continue to harbor reservations and exhibit hesitancy in normalizing their ties with President Assad’s government. Qatar, for instance, emphasizes the necessity of tangible advancements from Assad, demanding concrete measures to address the concerns of opposition factions and undertake meaningful political reforms. Kuwait, known for its cautious and deliberative approach, is likely to proceed with prudence, carefully evaluating the evolving situation before embarking on any significant strides. In contrast, Oman consistently adheres to a neutral stance and openly lends support to Syria’s reintroduction into the Arab League, thereby underscoring its unwavering stance on the matter.

The endeavors aimed at reconciling with President Assad epitomize a notable paradigm shift within the realm of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) politics. The resolution of the protracted three-year-long dispute within the GCC, as witnessed during the al-Ula summit in 2021, has ushered in a new era characterized by a greater latitude for member states to pursue independent foreign policies. This departure from the previous norm emphasizes the rejection of any endeavors to enforce hegemonic perspectives, granting each country the liberty to chart its own course in alignment with its respective interests. While lingering internal conflicts within the GCC persist, a mounting determination emerges to exercise caution and pragmatism in handling dissenting viewpoints on the Syrian issue, thereby safeguarding the essential threshold of consensus required to preserve mutual interests.

The Arab Gulf monarchies’ reconciliation with President Assad serves as a testament to their quest for regional stability and their willingness to participate in constructive dialogue. Nonetheless, the reintegration of Bashar Assad into the Arab community has attracted censure from Western nations, deeming him a pariah figure due to the actions undertaken by his forces throughout the protracted 12-year civil war. While Western countries have not actively dissuaded Arab states from normalizing relations with Assad, they continue to enforce sanctions on Syria until tangible strides are made towards a political resolution of the civil conflict, in accordance with the parameters delineated in UN Security Council Resolution 2254. These nations contend that the recognition or establishment of normalized relations with the Syrian government should hinge upon the achievement of political solutions and the pursuit of accountability for past atrocities. Arab Gulf states engaging with Assad must delicately navigate the intricate equilibrium between symbolic gestures and cautious interaction, meticulously weighing the potential ramifications associated with Western-imposed sanctions.

The recent dynamics unfolding in the Middle East, characterized by the Arab Gulf monarchies’ reconciliation with President Assad, signify a significant juncture in the geopolitical fabric of the region. Notwithstanding the existence of persistent challenges and divergent viewpoints within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a steadfast commitment to fostering stability and cultivating amicable relations among member states endures. The ongoing endeavors towards reconciliation necessitate astute navigation, encompassing a delicate equilibrium between engaging with the Assad regime and addressing the apprehensions and interests of the international community. As the Middle East perpetually undergoes transformations, the outcomes of these diplomatic initiatives will exert a profound influence on shaping the region’s future trajectory and engender a redefinition of the interplay between key stakeholders.



  1. Truly wonderful and realistic assessment. Now, if they can unite and accept the reality of Israel in their midst, that would be real progress. The desert CAN bloom.

  2. This article is a highly informative and appreciative piece that effectively captures the transformative shift in the Middle East resulting from the Arab Gulf monarchies’ reconciliation with President Assad. The author’s insightful analysis, attention to detail, and objective presentation of diverse viewpoints contribute to its overall strength. I highly recommend the editor to continue bringing such articles that maintain the standard and provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the topic.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here