Posted by Alex on Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
For Syria Comment, by Yoav Stern
posted by Alex
Turkish attitude towards the region was very clear last week. Syria in, Israel out.
At the last minute, when Israeli, American and Italian air forces were already on the move towards Turkey, it announced the cancellation of the international part of the exercise.
Israel, and also the US, were of course very unhappy about it. American spokepersons even went public on this.
Syrian officials and analysts were quite satisfied. FM Walid Al-Mouallem said Syria supports the Turkish step. He was very happy in the festive meeting of 20 Turkish and Syrian ministers on the border between the countries (here).
Dr. Imad Fawzi Shoueibi (here on BBC Arabic together with myself and others), elaborated and said it is not only Turkey, but hinted that current honeymoon with Turkey is just a part of a wider new regional order, built on Bashar Al-Assad’s vision of “the Four Seas”.
This, he said, would put Israel in its natural position as a small state in the region. (Small it is, but full of energy… J)
Dr. Shoueibi, head of the Data and Strategic Studies Center in Syria, a well known Syrian analyst, named the states that might take part in this new regional alliance: Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria of course.
Those are the states that lie at the shores of the four seas: the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Red Sea and the (Persian) Arab Gulf (The Arabian Sea).
So I looked back and checked what was written about this (with my thanks to Alex). I discovered that at least since last June, if not well before, Syrian key figures have been promoting this idea as a main pillar of Syria’s Foreign Policy. And it is not only these states, but Assad also went in the summer further north to Aremenia (here), and Azerbaijan (here).
The image of Syria in the world probably bothers Assad. After all, nobody likes to be friends only with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. And yes, also with the friend of everybody, Emir of Qatar.
If you look West and South from Palace of the people in Damascus you see only trouble: Lebanon, Israel, Jordan (which is supposed to be taking part in this new order and signs new agreements with its big sister, here), then Saudi Arabia and Egypt. So why not heading north?
Where did the Arab unity go? Muallem denies (here) any connection:
ورفض الوزير أن يكون تفسير التعاون والاتفاقات الإستراتيجية بين بلاده وتركيا على أنه “يأس” من العلاقات العربية مع دمشق، مشيرا إلى أن بلاده استقبلت ملك السعودية عبد الله بن عبد العزيز قبل أيام “وكانت زيارة ناجحة”.
What about advocating for re-engagment with the US under Obama? This is done quietly. Peace agreement with Israel? Unfortunately, the Syrian analysis according to which not a single word is heard from Jerusalem on this, is true.
One may argue that the theory of “the Four Seas” is not a substitute for anything. This might be correct, but still, one should put his efforts somewhere.
What does Syria hope of getting out of this?
The Geo-strategic link between all those countries is of course, Syria. Being the link, Syria hopes for more infrastructure projects (here), more investments (here) and telecommunications opportunities (here), but more importantly, it means that even though the US has not engaged with Syria (yet), the times of isolation are over. So even if Ankara or Yerevan are not Exactly London, and Baku is definitely not DC, it’s good enough for the time being. Is it?
Yoav Stern is Director, Business and economics department, Peres Center for Peace