By Tom O’Connor | NewsWeek |
The United Arab Emirates has officially expressed its hope that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wins his country’s civil war, further cementing a gradual shift by Abu Dhabi and other regional powers back to Damascus after initially supporting efforts to oust the Syrian leader.
Speaking Monday at a ceremony marking the UAE’s National Day in the Syrian capital of Damascus, Riyadh’s charge d’affaires to the embattled nation Abdul-Hakim Naimi described ties between the two nations as “durable, special and powerful.” Though Syria remains suspended from the Arab League due to allegations of the government committing war crimes to suppress a 2011 rebel and jihadi uprising backed by the U.S. and a number of its regional partners—including the UAE, Abu Dhabi restored relations with Damascus last year as Assad emerged largely victorious.
“I hope that safety, security and stability in the Syrian Arab Republic will prevail under the shadow of the wise leadership of Dr. Bashar al-Assad,” Naimi told the crowd.
The UAE’s position has in some ways been more moderate than neighboring Saudi Arabia, with Abu Dhabi openly seeking to rebuild ties with Syria and avoid outright tensions with Iran, whose revolutionary Shiite Islamic Republic backed Assad and was engaged in a bout for regional influence with Sunni Muslim monarchies on the Arabian Peninsula. The UAE’s recent moves, however, came amid changing power dynamics across the Middle East