Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Arab League monitors report—nobody listens

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“If what [the Arab League monitors] have to offer is instead whitewashed or ignored by cynical political agendas – inside and outside the Arab world – it will not be their fault.”

Today’s top story on CBS is “Report: Demi Moore visited by Willis, Kutcher.”

Which is why you have to feel sorry for Elizabeth Palmer, who, on January 24th, made an honest contribution to journalism (“Why Arab League monitors didn’t fail in Syria”) on CBS’s site. Unfortunately, that contribution will never be acknowledged, shadowed as it is by the usual, misleading story about Syria printed by the New York Times and its ilk:

New York Times (“On a Tour Cut Short, Monitors in Syria See Little”):

A visit to Douma — where the observers seemed to be most needed — was out of the question.

CBS (“Why Arab League monitors didn’t fail in Syria”):

It’s also worth mentioning that the Syrian military never stopped us from going through any of their checkpoints, even when we were headed into Damascus’ most violent suburb, Douma.

New York Times (“Chief of Arab League’s Mission in Syria Is Lightning Rod for Criticism”):

…the mission has been mired in controversy, much of it focused on its leader: a Sudanese general who, rights activists say, presided over the same kind of deadly and heavy-handed tactics in Sudan that the Arab League mission is seeking to curb in Syria.

CBS (“Why Arab League monitors didn’t fail in Syria”):

A word in defense of the Arab League observers in Syria. They were getting bad press before they even set foot on Syrian soil.

Instead of focusing on the cowards and the inexperienced, Ms. Palmer maintains that “the observers were a mixed bag. Some of them were incompetent, frightened, uninterested. Others were excellent.”

The much-slandered Sudanese general heading the mission, Muhammad Ahmed al-Dabi, apparently agrees (from his report—here):

VII. Obstacles encountered by the Mission

A. Monitors

Comments of the Head of the Mission concerning the observers

53. Some of the observers, unfortunately, believed that their journey to Syria was for amusement, and were therefore surprised by the reality of the situation. They did not expect to be assigned to teams or to have to remain at stations outside the capital or to face the difficulties that they encountered.

54. Some of the observers were not familiar with the region and its geography. The unavailability of armoured vehicles and protective vests had a negative effect on the spirits of some observers.

55. Some of the observers experienced hostility both from the Syrian opposition and loyalists. This hostility also had a negative effect on their spirits.

56. Despite the foregoing comments, the performance of many of the observers was outstanding and praiseworthy. Those who underperformed will improve with experience and guidance.

But the monitors’ report was made irrelevant before it even became available, and even those who have read the report have carefully chosen what to read (the worst example). For those uninterested in reading the whole report, here are a few more selections for your reading pleasure:

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

“We offered the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to carry it, and were afraid of it; and man carried it. Surely he is sinful, very foolish” [Qur’an 33:72]

In Latakia and Deir Al-Zor, the Mission faced difficulties from Government loyalists. In Latakia, thousands surrounded the Mission’s cars, chanting slogans in favour of the President and against the Mission. The situation became out of control and monitors were attacked. Two sustained light injuries and an armoured car was completely crushed.

A. Monitoring and observation of the cessation of all violence by all sides in cities and residential areas

25. On being assigned to their zones and starting work, the observers witnessed acts of violence perpetrated by Government forces and an exchange of gunfire with armed elements in Homs and Hama. As a result of the Mission’s insistence on a complete end to violence and the withdrawal of Army vehicles and equipment, this problem has receded. The most recent reports of the Mission point to a considerable calming of the situation and restraint on the part of those forces.

26. In Homs and Dera‘a, the Mission observed armed groups committing acts of violence against Government forces, resulting in death and injury among their ranks. In certain situations, Government forces responded to attacks against their personnel with force. The observers noted that some of the armed groups were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles.

27. In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.

28. The Mission noted that many parties falsely reported that explosions or violence had occurred in several locations. When the observers went to those locations, they found that those reports were unfounded.

29. The Mission also noted that, according to its teams in the field, the media exaggerated the nature of the incidents and the number of persons killed in incidents and protests in certain towns.

71. The Mission determined that there is an armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol. This development on the ground can undoubtedly be attributed to the excessive use of force by Syrian Government forces in response to protests that occurred before the deployment of the Mission demanding the fall of the regime. In some zones, this armed entity reacted by attacking Syrian security forces and citizens, causing the Government to respond with further violence. In the end, innocent citizens pay the price for those actions with life and limb.


Written by M. James

February 3, 2012 at 10:45 pm

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