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Start Of Foreign Interference In Syria – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

Syria finally accepted an Arab League protocol, allowing foreign observers into the country to monitor the ongoing unrest. The 10-month crisis has now reached a new level which denotes the onset of foreign interference in Syria.

This decision was very difficult for Damascus, but it has also created trouble for some of the Syrian opposition groups as well as some member states of the Arab League. The main opposition group (The Syrian National Council) described the decision a trick by the government to buy time, and accused the Arab League of giving President Bashar Assad enough time to go on with the measures which it called internal suppression.

The Arab League Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Syria scheduled to be held on Wednesday was postponed indefinitely. It seems that the Saudi and Qatari governments expected to receive a negative response from Syria and materialize their threat of referring Syria’s case to the United Nations Security Council, the same job they did about Libya which paved the ground for foreign military interference in the country.

Damascus signed the protocol in an effort to prevent economic sanctions imposed on Syria by the Arab League. Damascus’ plan, however, doesn’t seem to be lead to their favorable conclusion very soon since for lifting the sanctions and ending Syria’s suspension of membership in the Arab League, the majority of the the members of the bloc should vote in favor of the bid. It is clear that an important faction of the Arab League would not agree on lifting the sanctions unless Syria implements the protocol and withdraws the military from towns and residential districts, releases political prisoners, and allows foreign reporters to enter and move freely in the country.

Damascus accepted the protocol under foreign pressure. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem noted that the final modification of the protocol has included 70 percent of the changes sought by Damascus. Five hundred of the Arab League observers will be deployed around the country in groups of 10. Syria says it cannot guarantee the safety of the observers in the areas which are scenes of military confrontation.

Some believe that Damascus was forced to sign the protocol to prevent the Arab League to present the case to the UN Security Council and stop Qatar and Saudi Arabia which work in accordance with the US Department of State.

Even if Syria’s case had been sent to the Security Council, it would have been countered by Russia’s draft resolution on Syria. In its resolution, Russia has condemned all forms of violence, both from the government and the opposition armed groups. Adoption of the resolution would amount to international admission of two-way violence in Syria and non-peaceful nature of the opposition to Bashar Assad.

Some influential Western states have already indicated their opposition to Russia’s resolution and hopes for its adoption, at least in its current form, are dim. Moscow and Beijing, however, have shown that they will not budge from their position. That is, they serve as a powerful barrier in the Security Council against any resolution which may be formulated by the Western states. If Syria’s case is going to be discussed at the Security Council, it would be better for Damascus that this is done by Russia and China, rather than the Arab League, some of whose members are clearly implementing the West’s plans.

Will signing the protocol for entry of foreign observers into Syria, along with the draft resolution prepared by Russia and China, lead to a face-saving deal for all sides and satisfy Western countries, the Arab League, Moscow, Beijing and Damascus alike? Under present circumstances, such an agreement seems to be well-nigh impossible unless all parties reach the conclusion that the situation in Syria is not explosive. They should be convinced that they have to accept a model similar to what was implemented in Yemen. In this model, transfer of power will take place through an agreement among Syria’s opposition groups, the government, as well as regional and international players.

What kind of people will be sent into Syria as observers by the Arab League? Will a government like Syria agree to monthly extension of their mission? Is it possible that presence of observers may catalyze more demonstrations and protests? These questions will be answered in the future, but it is clear from now that the Arab League lacks necessary experience to carry out such an extensive plan. On the opposite, Syrian officials have a lot of experience in political affairs.

Differences among Assad’s opponents have been profound enough to bar them from forming an alliance after 10 months. This division has even prevented the Western states (despite serious efforts by Washington, Paris, London) from recognizing the Syrian opposition in the way that they did for Libya’s National Transitional Council.

Some opposition figures have announced that if the Syrian government continues suppression of protests while Arab League’s observers are in Syria, they will request deployment of an Arab deterrence force in the country. Such illusionary idea clearly shows how ignorant the Syrian opposition and their supporters are of the real situation in the Arab world.

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