Why has Saudi Arabia invited Syria back into the Arab League? Why has Saudi Arabia drawn closer to Iran and China? Is this a real rapprochement or does Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have a different endgame in mind?
On this episode of “Our Middle East,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs president and host Dan Diker welcomes former Bahraini Journalists Association president Ahdeya Ahmed and former chief of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority Yoni Ben Menahem to discuss Syria’s rejoining the Arab League.
Syria is back
Bin Salman reportedly received assistance from Jordan to bring Syria back into the fold, while Qatar and Algeria protested the move. Syrian President Bashar Assad had been exiled from the Arab League for 12 years as a result of the Syrian Civil War, during which his regime has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and turned millions more into refugees.
The Saudi endgame
Bin Salman has been actively attempting to reunite a shattered and fractured Arab world, flexing his diplomatic muscles in an effort to calm the region and center his nation as a hub of political leadership.
Saudi Arabia is also sending a message that “it’s free to decide who it wants to build ties with, [and] how it wants to build its ties,” says Ahmed. “Coming very soon, we will see a different Middle East. I do not see the Middle East that isolates Israel, whether the Arab countries agree or disagree on certain things.”
While there have been reports that Bahrain is encouraging, via back channels, normalization talks between Jerusalem and Riyadh, the Saudis have nevertheless kept the Palestinian issue front and center in their Arab League rhetoric, and have made peace and normalization overtures to Iran via China.
However, according to Diker, despite their reaffirmation of the Palestinian cause, there has been Saudi criticism of the Palestinian Authority, and the Saudis have conceded to open their skies to Israeli passenger flights.
Ben-Menahem adds: “The tactic of Mohammed bin Salman concerning normalization with Israel is to do it gradually, because of the Palestinian obstacle.”
“Our Middle East: An Insider’s View” airs live on JNS TV YouTube Channel, Facebook and Twitter at 1:30 PM EST/8:30 PM IST. You can also listen to the audio version here. A Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs podcast produced by JNS.
Dan Diker is the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a foreign policy expert and the former Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress.