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Syria Crisis Lags On, Differences Deepen – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

Syria has rejected the Arab League’s new and complementary initiative, describing it as a conspiracy.

Following the extension of the Arab League observer delegation’s mission in Syria, the bloc approved a plan recreates a scenario similar to what happened in Yemen. According to the initiative, a national unity government would be formed within two weeks of political negotiations and the Syrian president would hand over all his power to his deputy and the new government would prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections.

The plan, which is a decent plan for the Syrian government from Qatar’s perspective, should be confirmed by the United Nations Security Council.

After a meeting between the Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Sunday, a considerable disagreement between the Arab League members about the Syrian crisis became clear. When Saudi Arabia and Qatar withdrew their members from Syria, it showed that these anti-Assad governments are not satisfied with the Arab League mission in Syria. They expected the Arab League to withdraw their members from Syria as well in order to bring the case to the Security Council. The extension of the Arab League mission, however, showed that the governments of Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq are not seeking to exert more pressure on the Syrian government.

Syria accepted the extension, but anti-Bashar al-Assad groups protested it from the beginning. Although Syria did not accept handing over Assad’s power to his deputy, it believed the formation of the national unity government and starting internal talks would encourage the opposition to enter talks. This is while the opposition was against any negotiations with Damascus, considering the collapse of Assad as the only solution to the crisis.

It was predicted that the acceptance of the Arab League team in the country by Damascus would pave the way for further measures to be taken by the bloc.

The new or supplementary Arab League plan for Syria, which is rejected by Damascus and the opposition, is intended to exert greater pressure on both parties to reach an agreement. This comes while the rejection could lead to stricter Arab and Western sanctions on Syria, an event which would affect the opposition as well.

Qatar had previously proposed the substitution of the observers for a military force in Syria. The proposition was immediately rejected before even being negotiated as it was all too clear that it had no hope of practicality and would only pave the way for a non-Arab military intervention in Syria.

The new Arab League plan for Syria is an approximate repeat of the Yemen narrative. A certain failure of this plan would denote that this league is incapable of solving the Syrian crisis and there remains no other choice but resorting to foreign powers.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has announced that a referendum on the constitution and subsequently the first multiparty elections will be held in the coming months. The presence of foreign reporters is also more palpably felt in Syria than before. Some of the foreign reports refer to the control of the governmental forces on cities like Daraa, where the fatal mistake of the security forces in responding to the public protests has fuelled the flames of protests in Syria. Thus, it’s unclear whether Syria would enjoy the necessary security condition for holding a referendum on the constitution and a parliamentary poll in the next few months.

Informed sources in the Arab League foreign minister’s summit have said that in his comprehensive report the Sudanese head of the Arab League observers has pointed to the role of the armed opposition in the escalation of tensions in Syria. They add that this has been protested by Qatar, the summit’s chairman. The Sudanese general responded that he and his team are not responsible for the events that had occurred in Syria prior to their arrival there, adding that what the opposition had done was much worse than the Syrian Army. The quarrel between Lieutenant General Mohammad Mostafa Addabi and the Qatari foreign minister heat up to the point where the former asked the latter to stop the provocations of the Aljazeera and Al-Arabiya News Networks to return peace to Syria.

The same sources noted that the report prepared by the Arab League observers has acquitted the Syrian government up to 70 percent so that referring the country’s case to the UN Security Council would not be a serious option anymore.

Summing up the one-month work of AL observers, Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi said progress has been made, but the Syrian government has not been completely loyal to the AL’s initiative. The Syrian army has been withdrawn from certain areas, but has been replaced by the opposition, including armed groups. He said this issue will “further complicate the situation and make the observers’ mission more difficult.”

Some believe extending the AL observers’ mission is the reason behind the failure of the League which has no other alternative and has reached a deadlock. It is also clear that the doves in the Arab League have been stalled in their efforts by hawkish members. Bashar Assad’s opposition also left the session empty-handed because no serious decision was made on referring the case to the Security Council.

Some opposition groups have accepted the Arab League’s new initiative and have declared their readiness to engage in negotiations with the central government, but have faced strong opposition from “the National Council.” Rifts are also deepening among Assad’s opposition figures, who have only come together to discuss common issues through efforts made by certain Arab states in addition to Turkey, the US, France and Britain.

As the crisis in Syria drags on, the conflicts between the opposition members raise concerns among their foreign supporters. For instance, some opposition figures have opposed proposals for naming one of the past Fridays as “free army supports me.” They argued that it would lead to the “militarization of the protests.” Similar differences exist over calling one Friday as “Jihad Friday.”

Some slogans shouted in Syria have an air of Salafism around them and have been opposed by liberal and secular figures who have called for one Friday to be called the day of “democratic civil government.” Some Western embassies in Damascus have even contacted the opposition figures to warn them against using “jihad” to call any Friday as it will reduce foreign support for their actions.

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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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