D.C. Think Tanks Seething With Anger As Saudis Welcome Syrian Foreign Minister

In what’s being widely seen as a precursor to a future Assad visit and normalization of ties, Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad has arrived in Saudi Arabia for the first time a Syrian FM has visited the kingdom since 2011.

The more than decade-long war in Syria, which was heavily funded by the US, NATO, and Gulf states as part of regime change efforts to oust Bashar al-Assad, saw not only the Saudis but the majority of Gulf countries formally sever ties and shutter their embassies

Saudi Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Waleed El Khereiji receives Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in Jeddah on Wednesday. Image: Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Twitter

The Syrian top diplomat, representing a country under far-reaching Washington sanctions, was invited by the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan. It’s another act of defiance on the part of the kingdom, or to put it another way a bit of a slap in Washington’s face, particularly the hawkish national security state and its pundits.

The two officials held “a session of talks on efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis that preserves the unity, security and stability of Syria,” according to a Saudi foreign ministry statement.

They additionally discussed “facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, and securing humanitarian access to the affected areas in Syria,” the statement said further.

This comes amid reports that Syria is soon expected to be invited back into the Arab League, after more than a decade ago it was expelled over allegations of widespread human rights abuses due to the crackdown on the US-funded uprising and proxy war. The expulsion also came due to pressure by the US and Western allies.

Additionally, the normalizing of relations is without doubt an extension of the China-brokered peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Syria is Iran’s closest ally in the Levant, and is also a hub of support to Lebanese Hezbollah.

Washington D.C.-based think tanks, such as the Middle East Institute (MEI) – which receives significant funding from Gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar – are not happy at these developments.

The think tanks have long fueled the US rhetoric of regime change in Damascus, and played a key role in whitewashing groups like Syrian al-Qaeda and other jihadists, presenting them as merely “moderate rebels” – even while they committed horrific war crimes against the population.

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