Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘Arab League

Syria: On your mark, get set…

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I outlined in my last post the reasons to believe that Bashar al-Assad is on the way out. First, the Saudis are now overtly arming the opposition; and second, the U.S. and Turkey are overtly providing “nonlethal” assistance, a vacuous claim in the face of the undoubtedly coordinated effort with Saudi Arabia.

The real significance is in the first event, however, which establishes an ethnic Arab mandate for NATO to latch on to. This anti-Assad mandate has only been strengthened today by Syria’s “rejection” of “any Arab League initiative” to end the crisis. Bashar al-Assad, already ostracized by the Arab community, will now be perceived as completely beyond reason. He is, effectively, no longer an Arab.

The second event, “nonlethal” assistance, is just a first step toward a now-plausible Plan B—NATO troops on the ground (they’re getting ready). But Plan A is still in effect, and the training, assisting, and arming of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) will continue in Turkey. But even more important will be the training of the Syrian National Council (SNC), which has been officially chosen as the sole representative of the Syrian opposition. Though some assure us that the Syrians are well-equipped for a government restructuring, actions have thus far spoken louder than words. The SNC will have all it can do to convince the world it isn’t just another Libyan NTC.

At the moment, though, there is one missing piece. The Turks, the dogs that barked but wouldn’t bite, suddenly seem ready to bite—after a timely meeting from President Obama. But it would be an oversight to say that the Saudis’ lethal assistance in Syria was the Turks’ breaking point. Although the Turks are not ethnic Arabs, and (given their Ottoman past, especially) need the Arab mandate just as much as the rest of NATO, they have also been undoubtedly fearing one particular result of regime collapse in Syria.


And here’s more reason for the Turks to be afraid:

Most of the opposition factions present signed the statement [to recognize the SNC as the formal representative of the Syrian people] except for a few representatives of Kurdish factions upset over the absence of a reference to a settlement for Kurdish Syrians.

So why, suddenly, is Turkey sending its generals to the Syrian border, hosting the SNC conference, and smiling in the face of Syrian anarchy—and unhappy Kurds?

I imagine it has something to do with what Obama said during that “one-hour and 45 minute meeting” with Erdoğan.

Bashar al-Assad knew that his regime’s collapse would change things in the Middle East. We are about to find out what he meant.

Written by M. James

March 28, 2012 at 11:24 pm

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):

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

February 3, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Syria: Set up for failure

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“Syria” has “accepted” the Arab League request to send observers into the country. Whether this means the regime has accepted the whole Arab League package (ceasefire, allowing media into the country, dialogue with opposition, etc.) remains to be seen.

Here’s the type of thing that seems likely to happen:

Arab leaders had given Syria a new deadline of Sunday to respond to the League’s plan, which calls for the admission of observers to ensure compliance with a government cease-fire. They also held out the threat of pushing for U.N. involvement if Damascus balks.

Call me a skeptic, but it seems to me that if Syria doesn’t do exactly what the Arab League wants, it’s another “balk” (like this one), and it’s one more reason to condemn the Alawite regime.

Written by M. James

December 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Posted in News, Politics

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Arab Spring, Syrian fall

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I recently posted about a “deal” that the Arab League had supposedly struck with President al-Assad’s Syrian government (here). It would, in effect, end the violence in Syria and encourage a dialogue between the regime and the resistance. I didn’t post a follow-up because, quite frankly, I was confused. Nobody was quite clear about who the complicit “Syrian authorities” were, what “Damascus” meant, or how anyone would go about ending a vicious cycle of violent protest and military intervention.

And as the deadline for the “agreement” passes without an invitation being extended to any Arab League overseers, it seems that “Damascus” and “Syrian authorities” were not synonymous with “President al-Assad” after all. The real Ba’athist Syrian regime, as it has made eminently clear in the past, is not interested in negotiating with what it sees as a foreign-funded militant Islamist movement—and never was. But it doesn’t really matter who did, didn’t, or may have agreed with what or whom and when (although I’m curious who the Arab League thought it was talking to), because the result is the same:

Arab League officials said Thursday that if the government of President Bashar al-Assad failed to agree by Friday to sign a protocol detailing the mission of the observers, Arab finance ministers would meet Saturday in Cairo to discuss imposing sanctions that could include halting flights to Syria, curbing trade and stopping transactions with the country’s central bank.

The new sanctions would deal a severe blow to an economy already suffering under sanctions from the European Union and the United States. Syria’s two most vital sectors, oil and tourism, which account for more than a third of the government’s revenues, have all but come to a halt.

And the purpose of the sanctions (which Turkey agrees to mirror, by the way) is clear:

“We will not give up,” said Abu Kinan, a shop owner and protester from the Midan neighborhood in Damascus. “When the Arab League imposes its sanctions, the Syrian economy will collapse, and then the business class and the middle class will join the protests to change the regime.”

Familiar? With the merchant middle class between a rock and a hard place (read: lacking the necessities of life), al-Assad’s regime will take the fall. And the USS George H.W. Bush (the only deployed Atlantic Nimitz-class supercarrier) will be inconspicuously parked off the coast of Syria (as it is now), waiting to make the transition smooth for everyone. Including Bashar.

Written by M. James

November 26, 2011 at 2:01 am

In Syria: Arab League strikes “deal”

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From Reuters:

Algeria’s Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said on Tuesday an Arab League committee charged with seeking an end to the violence in Syria had reached agreement with Syrian authorities, Al Arabiya television reported.

Arab diplomats said the ministers proposed that Syria release immediately prisoners held since February, withdraw security forces from the streets, permit deployment of Arab League monitors and start a dialogue with the opposition.

Either the “deal” isn’t as stringent as it sounds or President al-Assad is feeling threatened all of a sudden. Official announcements to come.

Written by M. James

November 1, 2011 at 12:18 pm