Arab nations rethink Syria's Assad Syrian leader closer to acceptance as Gulf countries look to reopen embassies
May: Nixing Brexit plan would be `catastrophic'
LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May warned Sunday that lawmakers risk undermining the public's faith in democracy if they reject her divorce deal with the European Union in a vote set for Tuesday.
May said some members of Parliament were playing political games with the Brexit debate. Lawmakers, she said, should respect the results of the 2016 referendum in which 52 percent of voters backed leaving the EU.
Failing to do so “would be a catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust in our democracy,” she wrote in a commentary published by the Sunday Express. “So my message to Parliament this weekend is simple: it is time to forget the games and do what is right for our country.”
Canada air controllers buy pizza for U.S. agents
MONTREAL — Canadian air traffic controllers have bought hundreds of pizzas for their American counterparts over the past few days in what has become an industry-wide show of support during the U.S. government's partial shutdown.
Peter Duffey, the head of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, said Sunday the initiative began Thursday when employees at Edmonton's control center took up a collection to buy pies for controllers in Anchorage, Alaska.
Other facilities across Canada decided to join in, and the idea snowballed.
“The next thing we knew, our members were buying pizzas left, right and center for the colleagues in the U.S,” Duffey said. “As it stands right now, I believe we're up to 36 facilities that have received pizza from Canada, and that number is growing by the hour.”
GOP leader vows action over King racist remarks
WASHINGTON — The House Republican leader said Sunday he will meet with Rep. Steve King this week to discuss King's future and role in the party and promised action following the Iowa congressman's recent comments in defense of white supremacy.
“That language has no place in America. That is not the America I know and it's most definitely not the party of Lincoln,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “Action will be taken. I'm having a serious conversation with congressman Steve King.”
King was quoted in The New York Times last week as saying, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King has insisted he is an advocate for “Western civilization,” not white supremacy or white nationalism.
He said it was a “mistake” to use phrasing that “created an unnecessary controversy” and denied being racist.
BEIRUT — He has survived eight years of war and billions of dollars in money and weapons aimed at toppling him. Now Syrian President Bashar Assad is poised to be readmitted to the fold of Arab nations, a feat once deemed unthinkable as he forcefully crushed the uprising against his family's rule.
Gulf Arab nations, once the main backers of rebels trying to oust Assad, are lining up to reopen their embassies in Syria, worried about leaving the country at the heart of the Arab world to regional rivals Iran and Turkey and missing out on lucrative post-war reconstructive projects. Key border crossings with neighbors, shuttered for years by the war, have reopened, and Arab commercial airlines are reportedly considering resuming flights to Damascus.
And as President Donald Trump plans to pull out America's 2,000 soldiers from northeastern Syria, government troops are primed to retake the area they abandoned in 2012 at the height of the war. This would be a significant step toward restoring Assad's control over all of Syria, leaving only the northwest in the hands of rebels, most of them jihadis.
It can seem like a mindboggling reversal for a leader whose military once seemed dangerously close to collapse. But Russia's military intervention, which began in 2015, steadily reversed Assad's losses, allowing his troops, aided by Iranian-backed fighters, to recapture cities like Homs and Aleppo, key to his rule.
Assad rules over a country in ruins, with close to half a million people killed and half the population displaced. Major fighting may still lie ahead. But many see the war nearing its end, and the 53-yearold leader is sitting more comfortably than he has in the past eight years.
“Rehabilitation by Arab states is inevitable,” said Faysal Itani, a resident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
A key motive for Sunni Muslim Gulf countries is to blunt the involvement of their Shiite-led foe, Iran, which saw its influence expand rapidly in the chaos of Syria's war.
“Saudi Arabia tried briefly to help overthrow him when he seemed most vulnerable using proxy militants,” Itani said. “With his regime likely to survive, however, Saudi Arabia would prefer to try and exercise influence over Assad to balance against Iran while avoiding escalation with Iran itself.”
A Saudi attempt to patch up relations with Assad would be a public acknowledgement of the kingdom's failure to oust him. At the same time, the involvement of Gulf Arab governments and private companies is crucial for any serious reconstruction effort in Syria.
Syrian President Bashar Assad (right) meets with Sudan's President Omar Bashir in Damascus, Syria, in December. After nearly eight years of conflict, Assad is poised to be readmitted to the fold of Arab nations, a feat once deemed unthinkable.