U.S. Concerns over UAE Foreign Minister’s Meeting with Assad

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has met with the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in Damascus on Tuesday, raising serious concerns in the United States. This meeting signals improving ties between Syria’s brutal dictator and the U.S.- allied state. Efforts by the UAE to rehabilitate Syria and its leader are strongly condemned by the U.S. The visit is additionally concerning as other Arab states may push for the end of Syria’s diplomatic isolation, signaling the rearrangement of the Arab world.

State Department spokesman Ned Price, said on Tuesday that “Washington ‘will not express any support for efforts to normalize or rehabilitate’ the Syrian leader after Emirati foreign minister travels to Damascus.” This emphasizes rising tensions in the U.S. as the situation in the Middle East is being monitored. According to SANA, the purpose of the meeting was for the leaders to “discuss bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries and ways to develop cooperation.” UAE’s state news agency, WAM, additionally stated that the UAE wants to “show support for all efforts made to end the Syrian crisis, consolidate stability in the country, and meet the aspirations of the brotherly Syrian people.” These statements reiterate why the meeting occurred and how the UAE’s goals may shape Syria in the future.

The United States’ close ties with the UAE may undermine the Western power’s reputation. According to AP News, Bashar al-Assad’s government is known for perpetrating atrocities against its citizens and denying humanitarian aid and security. This is not something the U.S. will, or should, ever stand for, and administrations have great reason to worry over the situation at hand. Tensions may arise between the U.S. and their current ally in the Middle East if the UAE continues relations with Syria. The situation is also problematic as it has the potential to generate additional conflicts in the region.

The visit by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the first by an Emirati foreign minister since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011. In this year, Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League and was boycotted by its neighbors. In recent years, however, Arab countries have been gradually working towards restoring ties with Syria after concluding that its President has effectively won the decade-long conflict. In October, Assad called King Abdullah II of Jordan for the first time since the start of Syria’s conflict, showing that other regional nations are taking interest in Syria’s reintegration as well. The nation currently experiences economic struggles caused by years of war and Western sanctions; this is a major reason that the nation is looking to oil-rich neighbors for help. In addition, Middle-Eastern nations want to pull Syria away from its partner Iran, which is at odds with most of the Gulf countries.

The situation must be monitored as these regional relationships continue to evolve. Syria’s potential rise in the Middle East could disturb other relations across the region and affect the United States’ position in the area.