Damascus Ready to Normalize Relations with Cairo: Time is on Our Side

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US Secretary of State John Kerry Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attend the "Friends of Syria" meeting on 20 April 2013 in Istanbul. (Photo: AFP - Hakan Goktepe)

By: Elie Chalhoub

Published Thursday, May 9, 2013

Visitors to Damascus convey that Bashar al-Assad believes that Syria “could have easily appeased its people...by firing a few rockets into Israel in response to the Israeli attack on Damascus.”

The visitors added that Assad expressed “very high confidence and great satisfaction for Hezbollah’s rationality, loyalty, and steadfastness, so we decided to give them everything. For the first time, we are starting to feel that we are one and that they are not just allies and surrogate, whose resistance we help. Based on that, we decided that we had to make an advance in its direction and transform into a resistance state, in the figure of Hezbollah, for Syria and the coming generations.”

In the meantime, a high-ranking Syrian official maintained that the Turkish state “is a liar and a hypocrite. It cannot be trusted, even in the so-called agreement between Ankara and the Kurds; we don’t think it will be applied.” These words are echoed by the Jordanian King Abdullah who detects “the smell of the Ottomans wafting throughout the region.”

On the other hand, “there are no problems whatsoever with the Iraqi leadership. The Qataris and the Turks are the ones who decided to play in the Iraqi court, creating strife and trying to sabotage, much more so than Saudi. However, it seems the Iraqis are in control and can overcome these problems. There is no depth to the so-called Iraqi opposition. Turkey is incapable of being their lever. The whole story is just about money being spent and doing its thing, which does not last.”

The same goes for the Russians. “They are very sincere and easy-going and we have no problems with them. But relations with Moscow are the opposite of what some think. The more we become entrenched in our positions and our feet secure in the battlefield, the more they can be steady and wrench concessions from the other sides, and not the other way around. We do not wait for them. They await the progress we make on the ground.”

As for Egypt, the Syrian official maintains that Damascus welcomes Cairo’s return to its regional role, contrary to its position from Saudi and Qatar. It is ready to re-open communication channels with Egypt to ensure the return to normal relations. It gave the Iranians the green light to go in this direction since any step like this could result in controlling the Turkish role.

There is a common understanding in Tehran and Damascus that Cairo “is very disturbed by the Turks and Qataris and is ready to re-calculate its former positions from Iran and Syria. Even more, the Egyptian leadership is ready to reconsider its position toward the Egyptian interior, in its relationship with al-Azhar and the opposition and Tehran is ready to play a role in this regard, by providing them with expertise on state-building.”

Perhaps this convergence is aided by the Egyptian conviction that they are more entitled to lead the region than the Turks. They believe “Iran is nothing but a Shia minority in a sea of Sunnis. Thus, Egypt is ready to normalize relations with Iran since the latter will not treat Cairo with belligerence and will not steal this role.”

As for the Arab Gulf countries, the Syrian official said “they live in a tribal era. They do not understand the logic of the state. We advise their interlocutors not to treat them as states. Dialogue with them is useless. We tried them. You have to show them the evil eye. Be successful in your policies; they will submit to you.”

The official maintained that “lines are open with Jordan on the leadership level. King Abdullah does not want to see Syria being threatened, but he faces tremendous pressures and a serious US-Israeli penetration. Nonetheless, the enemies of Jordan are still Qatar, Saudi, and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

This brings the discussion to Qatar, which is also playing on the nerves of the king of Jordan and Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, according to information from Tehran and Damascus.

“Who is this principality that wants to use money to put all Arab countries and their leaders on their knees?” This discomfort is turning into a contagious epidemic, especially following the general discontent, which even touched some Gulf countries. Despite this, Damascus and Tehran speak of information about a general feeling of depression facing the Qatari leadership due to what it believes is a “US retreat, French disengagement, Saudi progress.”

This is what probably led Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jabr al-Thani to declare his wish to visit Tehran. True, there was an Iranian invitation, but it was neglected following Iran’s resentment of what happened at the Doha summit. The recent Egyptian openness to Iran might have accelerated the request. However, Hamad will hear clear words in Tehran: enough games and blood in Syria and the region.

But it seems Damascus has lost all hope for the Qatari leader: the man does not listen. He is full of resentment and is looking at any opportunity to stab. The Qatari money empire is finished. Time is on our side.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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