The DispatchThe Dispatch

The Arab League’s misguided faith in Bashar al-Assad

By Hussain Abdul-Hussain and Matthew Zweig

18 May 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

The Dispatch analyzes the Arab League's controversial decision to reinstate Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, dissecting the implications for the region's politics and the narcotic trade.

The Arab League has unfrozen the membership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, 12 years after his suspension for brutally crushing a peaceful uprising against his rule. Arab League Secretary General Ahmad Abul-Gheit said Assad could attend the Arab Summit, to be held in Riyadh on Friday, “if he wished to.” Syria had reportedly agreed to help end the narcotic trade that has been ravaging the region. According to Saudi state media, Assad’s rehabilitation is also premised on “the return of Syria to its Arab environment,” code for Damascus distancing itself from Iran and its militias.

If Assad shut down his narco-trafficking enterprise and pulled away from the Islamic Republic’s embrace, his return to the Arab League could have been a net positive. Yet a closer look shows that expecting Assad to change is wishful thinking.

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