Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Syrian Vision: Harnessing Regional Potential

In al Hayat newspaper interview on Oct. 27th, Syria's Bashar al Asad indentified the region as a strategic hub, connecting the five seas (Red, Mediterranian, Black, Caspian, Persian Gulf) through Oil, Gas and communication lines. This vision has passed the rhetoric stage and phased implemetation has been underway.

What is striking, yet not surprising, is that Syria is reinforcing its regional role over and beyond what might be described by "Syria as a key player" in any Arab-Israeli Peace deal.

The expansion of the geopolitical focus of Syrian foreign policy, is transcending its mediation role in the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, and mediation roles in Iraq, Sudan and Yemen, political management of Lebanon, to include a creative look at how power centers are allocated in the Middle East.

First, from the Syrian perspective there has been a strategic breakthrough in the region. Arab states are not encircled by the Shah of Iran, a hostile Turkey and Ethiopia in the south anymore. Thereby, the contemporary promoting of Turkey and Iran as power centers to the benefit of Arab revival and prosperity of the region is vital for Syria.

Second, from the Syrian perspective, Arab identity (as a cultural reference) needs to be reinforced in the face of ethnic and religous factionalism, like the prevailing political systems in Lebanon and Iraq.

Third, the traditional delineation of the Middle East: Arab states in addition to Israel, Turkey and Iran is too limiting and does not live up to the potential of the region. Recent Syrian talks in Bulgaria, Romania and Azerbaijan are necessary precursors to the natural definitional expansion of what a viabale Middle East could be.

Hariri's visits to Syria and current visit to Iran, is not news anymore. Fatah and Hamas holding talks in Damascus is not news anymore. Ordogan's warm welcome in any Arab state he visits, is not news anymore. Arab states not buying the argument of Iran being the altmimate threat to the region, is not news anymore.

The ME is ripe for a regionally produced plan, and Syria is making use of the podium.

** Warm wishes to King Abdullah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a quick recovery.

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