ISSN 2330-717X

Arab League Division Roots In Syrian Jeopardy – OpEd


By Mohyeddin Sajedi

Arab League (AL) Plans and efforts to intervene in and quell the Syrian crisis have themselves revealed a crisis in the league, despite efforts to conceal these internal divisions.

The differences surfaced after the Arab observers published their first official report on the extent of the Syrian cooperation and the degree to which this country is committed to the implementation of the Arab League initiative, which Damascus had previously accepted.

According to the plan, the Syrian army would have to withdraw from the conflict-hit cities and regions where demonstrations are held, put an end to the violence against the people, free political prisoners, and allow foreign media to provide appropriate and true news coverage of the developments in this country.

In its latest meeting held in Cairo on Sunday to assess the first report by the observers, the Arab League follow-up committee concluded that the Syrian administration has carried out some of its commitments, but still has to take further measures and renounce violence.

In the final statement of this meeting, both the Syrian government and the armed opposition were called upon to end the violence. But in the version of this statement that was published on the official website of the AL, the responsibility for the violence was solely blamed on the Syrian government. This discrepancy in the statement showed that the heretofore concealed cracks among the Arab League members are gradually revealing themselves.

Prior to the recent summit of the AL follow-up committee, the Qatari prime minister announced that dispatching the Arab observers to Syria had been futile and they should be recalled from Syria. He then softened his tone and accused the Arab observers of inability to grasp the Syrian developments and not having a correct understanding of their mission. He said these observers need technical guidance from the United Nations, adding neither the observers nor the Arab League have any experience in this regard and the United Nations should move in.

The comments by the Qatari official, which was seen as a bid to pave the ground for further meddling of international parties and the United Nations in the Syrian crisis, met with the opposition of the Arab observers and the Secretary General of the Arab League, who insisted on their abilities to monitor the acts of the Syrian government and its opposition.

Though, in the end, it was agreed the UN offer help to the Arab observers, AL Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi announced with even greater clarity that no government in the world is prepared to militarily intervene in Syria.

These contradictory remarks show that unlike Qatar and Saudi Arabia, other members of the Arab League such as Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, and Lebanon are not willing for the AL’s initiative to be used as a means to internationalize the crisis in Syria. This was evident in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s statement which accused the AL of covering up the Syrian regime’s crimes in order to give it more time to kill more people.

From the very beginning, the AL initiative seemed to be a prelude to referring Syria’s case to the UN Security Council and paving the way for a foreign military intervention, as was the case in Libya.

Perhaps, Arab states supporting the plan expected Syria to oppose the entry of Arab observers. After Damascus gave the green light, some analysts expected the presence of observers would increase anti-Assad demonstrations, or that the subsequent report of the observers would lead to further condemnation of the Syrian president and his government.

At the very least, the first report published by the AL observers has failed to change the situation and has even indirectly admitted to the presence of armed opposition groups in the country which have been frequently mentioned by Damascus as the main reason behind Syria’s unrest. This state of affairs has taken Qatar and some other governments by surprise. From a political angle, Qatar is not a heavy weight in the Arab world and, in fact, it represents a current, supported by the United States, France, UK, and Turkey.

The Syrian government has gradually started allowing foreign media to enter the country and report the situation there. The government has also released over 3,000 prisoners who were arrested in the recent unrest. The report published by AL observers says that more prisoners are still held in prisons and military forces are still present in some cities.

As the crisis in Syria drags on, the way is further cleared for foreign intervention and mediation. The AL says the Palestinian Hamas movement has played an effective part in convincing the Syrian government to accept AL observers. The movement’s leader, Khaled Mashal, has clearly announced that a political solution should be sought for the crisis in Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood opposes such solution as it would amount to the survival of the existing regime and negotiations with it.

Meanwhile, Russia has officially announced that its warships’ arrival at the Syrian port city of Tartus has nothing to do with the ongoing situation in the country. However, the port call seems to be an effort by Moscow to prevent the internationalization of the Syrian crisis and a possible foreign intervention.

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Press TV is a 24-hour English language global news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran. Press TV carries news analysis, documentary talk shows and sports news worldwide with special focus on West Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

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