The Arab League's anti-Syria measure

Nov 14, 2011 12:00 AM

by Seyyed Mohyeddin Sajedi

Demonstrations in Damascus and elsewhere supporting President Assad after Syria's suspension from the Arab League (AL) change equations in the crisis-hit country, leading to more crises.
People in Syria usually play an important part which is easily ignored by Western countries in political calculations. Pro-Assad demonstrators outnumber the total population of a country like Qatar whose government has proposed more pressure on Syria. Qatar is the rotational head of the Arab League these days. Some believe Qatar is just playing the role of a front for Saudi Arabia which is actually setting the stage.

The government of Syria had already announced its acceptance of the Arab League's four-article plan to end the country's crisis and had been given a deadline of November 16. The follow-up committee of the Arab League, however, convened its session in Cairo on November 11.
The committee was expected to introduce more strict measures on Syria in the next day's session on November 12, but suspending the country's membership was considered out of range. However, everything changed after the Saudi foreign minister, Saud Al Faisal, (who is not even a member of the follow-up committee) attended the session. The Syrian officials now openly say that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are imposing the will of the United States and the West on the Arab League.

The Syrian government was practically denied the moratorium until the predetermined deadline to implement the Arab League's plan. Therefore, the government and its supporters are now incriminating the Arab League that it has intentionally caused the plan (which had been accepted by Syria) to crash because it was originally believed that Syria will reject it.
In addition to popular demonstrations in the Syrian cities in support of Assad, the government has also requested an emergency session of the Arab League. The session, however, is unlikely since Saudi Arabia and Qatar are practically leading the Arab League, taking advantage of their financial leverage and current weakness of Egypt. The Syrian government has also asked the Arab League to dispatch a delegation to Damascus for close investigation of the country's situation.

Many analysts talk about a possible military action by NATO in Syria in a way similar to Libya. The fact that the Arab League had also suspended Libya's membership before seeking foreign military intervention in the country has further strengthened such speculations.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi said in his recent visit to Libya that some way should be found to “support the people” of Syria. The phrase “support the people” had been already used by the UN Security Council in its resolution which paved the way for US and NATO air and missile strikes against Libya. Therefore, Russia and China avoid of using it in any other resolution on any Middle Eastern country, even Yemen.

Arab League has also made an unprecedented move by asking the Syrian army to avoid firing at people. The move was not seen even when former Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, went to Israel and his country was expelled from the Arab League, nor when Iraq's membership was suspended after its invasion of Kuwait.
A repeat of the Libyan scenario in Syria would be much more devastating. The pro- and anti-Assad rallies in various Syrian cities can yield a picture of the future.

Foreign efforts are probably being made so that Bashar al-Assad would resign under political pressure and leave the country. If 20 % of the Syrians are against Assad's policies, a greater number support him and are concerned about their own and their country's future. The concern is more serious amongst the moderate Sunnis, Alawites and Daruzis.
After the US attack on Iraq, around a thousand Christians lost their lives in war and terrorist attacks which prompted half of Iraq's Christian community to flee their country. Only 500,000 have remained in Iraq, observing the future with caution.

The Bishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church voiced his support for Bashar al-Assad and said that only Assad was capable of implementing the reforms. Russia's Archbishop has also paid a visit to Damascus.
A while ago, the Archbishop of Christian Maronites in Lebanon shared his concerns in this regard with the French president, but was astonishingly asked “why do not the Lebanese Christians all migrate abroad?”

There's no unity among the ranks of the Assad opposition. The Arab League is only holding talks with a segment of the opposition. The "Syrian National Council" is accused of being under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey, and of advocating a foreign attack.
The "Local Coordination Committees" is fiercely against any foreign interference and is advancing Laic slogans. Former Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam and Rifaat al-Assad, the president's uncle, have formed their own groups for a share of power in Syria's future. This while both of them played a part in the Hama massacre in the 1980s.

This tumultuous condition serves no one's interests and further complicates matters in Syria and the entire Middle East. The US needs to downplay its retreat from Iraq.
Making conditions more turbulent in Syria, setting up the propaganda of a military attack on Iran and the dispute it has caused among its proponents and opponents can also be analyzed within the same framework.

Having said all that, the Syrian government has some responsibilities and is obliged to implement genuine reforms as soon as possible in such a manner that is palpable for the people and the opposition. Prolonging the reforms has so far prompted the Assad opposition to accuse him of being neglectful of fundamental changes in his country.
The UN -- citing various sources -- says the number of victims in the past seven months has hit 3,500 in Syria which won't relieve Damascus of any responsibility even if the figures are exaggerated.

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