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    HomeWorldWhat Comes Next for Syria Following Assad's Reintegration into Arab Community?

    What Comes Next for Syria Following Assad’s Reintegration into Arab Community?

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    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made a comeback in the Arab world after over a decade of isolation. Assad is looking to rebuild and receive aid from former foes as the civil war in Syria continues. The war has killed over 500,000 people, displaced millions, and damaged much of the country’s infrastructure and industry. This article examines Assad’s regional rehabilitation and what it means for Syria’s rebels, refugees, reconstruction, and the illegal trade in the stimulant drug captagon.

    Arab nations cut ties with Assad after his regime’s repression of anti-government protests in 2011 sparked a war. Some states supported the opposition instead. However, Arab nations that once wanted Assad gone have warmed up to him as he has clung to power and regained territory with support from Russia and Iran. Assad saw his return to the Arab League as recognition that he has won the war and as formal acceptance of his legitimacy as president.

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    Large parts of Syria’s north remain outside of government control after 12 years of war that pulled in foreign powers and global jihadists. Although the frontlines have mostly quietened in recent years, Russian, Iranian, Turkish, and US forces are still present in Syria. Several rounds of UN-brokered talks between the government and opposition groups aimed at forging a new constitution have failed, with no political solution in sight. The opposition and rebels’ role in determining the country’s political future has vastly shrunk.

    Neighboring countries host around 5.5 million Syrian refugees. Arab states should provide aid and assistance, particularly on the issue of the return of the displaced. Assad is hoping wealthier Gulf states could help fund reconstruction, but Western sanctions are likely to deter investment, and broader international funding remains elusive without a UN-backed political settlement. There is skepticism about refugee returns, as the regime is neither willing nor able to deliver meaningfully on issues like housing, employment, and safety.

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    Several Arab countries seek increased security cooperation with Syria, which has effectively turned into a narco-state with a $10 billion captagon industry. Saudi Arabia has become the largest market for the amphetamine, which attracts both wealthy party-goers and poor laborers in an Islamic country where alcohol is taboo. States called for strengthening joint Arab cooperation on issues including drug smuggling. Damascus is unlikely to halt the lucrative trade but will likely make a show of reducing some of the flow of captagon to the Gulf in return for financial compensation through other channels. Arab states are treating a whole range of issues, including the reconstruction of Assad-controlled areas, political prisoners, and narcotics flows out of Assad’s territory, as if everything is resolved in Syria. Assad can now horse-trade on all these issues with the Arab states.

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