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In a December 29, 2009 speech to the Syrian parliament, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem summed up the achievements of his country's political policy in 2009 by saying, "For Syria, 2009 was a year of political success in every sense of the term, and on all fronts..." Indeed, the past year has seen a significant improvement in
The following is a review of
Until 2008, President Bashar Al-Assad's
The aggressive anti-Syria line was led by the Bush administration, which saw
The assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri was a watershed in Syria's relationship with many countries in the West and in the Arab world, particularly France and Saudi Arabia, who had until then been its close allies. This change was evidently due to the close relationship that Al-Hariri had maintained with then-French president Jacques Chirac, and with the Saudi royal family. Evidence of the severing of relations and of the anger that the assassination evoked in Chirac was clear in an interview he gave in 2007 to the French daily Le Monde. He said: "There were times I used to speak with Bashar Al-Assad. I used to talk with his father [Hafez Al-Assad]. But to be honest, [Bashar and I] do not talk any more. It is he who caused [this halt to the dialogue]. I realized that there was no point [in dialogue]. It is hard to reconcile Bashar Al-Assad's regime with security and peace."
In the Arab world, it was
Since Bashar Al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumed leadership, there has been increased closeness between the two countries, as expressed by the signing of a joint defense agreement in December 2009, and by the agreement to drop the visa requirement between them. The two presidents have similar views on many issues, such as resistance to what they call "the forces of hegemony," that is, the U.S. and Britain; viewing the current situation a victory for the resistance and a defeat for the "forces of hegemony"; and a vision of a new regional and world order and of their own prominent roles in them.
Evidence of this can be found in the words of Bashar Al-Assad on the eve of his January 13, 2010 visit to Saudi Arabia, when he called Syria-Iran relations "strategic and ideological" and said that Syria and Iran saw eye to eye on all issues. The two leaders even use the same terminology, as reflected in their statements during Ahmadinejad's May 2009 visit to
Syria-Venezuela relations became closer after Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1998. As part of his anti-American policy, Chavez tightened relations with countries such as
Nasser Qandil, a former Lebanese MP who is close to the Syrian regime, explained in his column in the Syrian government daily Teshreen the essence of the alliance between Assad, Ahmadinejad, and Chavez. He said it was like "a declaration of a new world [alliance] awaited and needed by all humanity, [one] that declares that the peoples are again managing their own affairs and that resistance is not just a romantic slogan but also a living fact..."
The Armed Resistance in
In the recent years,
This strategy won Syria much support in the Arab street, but brought it into an almost unprecedented conflict – to the brink of a cold war – with many Arab regimes, especially
the approach of clashing with
The major change started with Sarkozy's presidency. Sarkozy abandoned his predecessor's policy and sought to embrace
It should be noted that as of now, it appears that
As for the change in
This trend grew stronger when U.S. President Barack Obama took office, and it became part of a comprehensive policy vis-à-vis the region that Obama laid out in his
The American openness was expressed by the start of a dialogue with Syria; by the appointment of an American ambassador to Damascus, after the Bush administration recalled the Ambassador in 2005 in protest over the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri; by visits by senior American politicians, such as Senate Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Sen. John Kerry; and by visits by U.S. military delegations. At the same time, it should be noted that the Obama administration set conditions for improving America's relations with Syria, and even renewed the sanctions on Syria; moreover, as of this writing, the U.S. ambassador to Syria has not returned to Damascus.
to a country courted by several of its main rivals though it is apparently giving nothing in return.
Saudi Reactions to the West's Change of Policy
This new approach on the part of the West was perceived at first by some of the Arab media as rewarding extremist elements and abandoning moderate allies. 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, director-general of the Saudi Al-Arabiya TV and former editor-in-chief of the London Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, called Syria's policy "genius" for successfully misleading the West: "...Damascus has created crises [and then] proposed solutions... Syria's partner Hizbullah occupied western Beirut so that Damascus would intervene and stop it; Syria's friends in the Lebanese opposition refused to elect Michel Suleiman [as president] even though he was the agreed-upon candidate, so that Damascus would intervene, [and then] it would be agreed [that Suleiman would be president]...
Saudi Arabia, a backbone of the "moderate Arab axis" which has vehemently opposed Syria's policy in recent years, and which was at first displeased with the French openness towards Syria, has adapted to the shift in the international climate vis-à-vis Syria, and changed its position accordingly. The first sign of this change was Saudi King 'Abdallah's reconciliation with
Several days after King 'Abdallah's visit, the editor of the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh, Turki Al-Sudairi wrote an op-ed stating that the solution to
moon on the matter. Both
It should be noted that none of the Arab countries stood with
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