x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Arab League decisions are historic

Arabic newspapers described the resolutions approved by majority of Arab states to end the continued bloodshed in Syria as historic.

Arab League provides a cover for foreign intervention in Iraq and Libya; now it's Syria's turn

The decision of the Arab foreign ministers on Saturday to suspend Syria's membership from the Arab League was "too hasty" and flings the doors wide open for a foreign military intervention in Syria in the name of protecting the Syrian people, commented Abdelbari Atwan, the editor of the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper, in a front-page column yesterday.

"Over the past 20 years, the role of the Arab League has come down to providing an Arab cover for such foreign interventions," the editor said. "It started with Iraq [in 1990], then Libya and now it is Syria's turn; only God and America know who is going to be next."

Except for Lebanon and Yemen, which voted against the suspension of Syria from the 22-member pan-Arab organisation, and the abstention of Iraq, everybody else voted in favour of Syria's suspension.

"Nabil Al Arabi, the secretary general of the Arab League, said the organisation is in the process of preparing a mechanism to protect the Syrian people, but he did not elaborate on the nature of that mechanism," the editor added.

Whatever the nature of that mechanism, it will involve foreign intervention. The Syrian regime has misread the facts on the ground, flouted all calls for stopping the use of excessive force against the protesters and rejected its people's legitimate demands for reforms.

"And now it is facing the internationalisation of the Syrian crisis," the editor said.

"It is hard to predict what sort of military action will be taken against Syria. But statements from opposition leaders abroad … point to the possibility of setting up, in a primary stage, insulated zones along the Syrian borders with Turkey and Jordan."

But the Arab League leaders must keep in mind that the US has learned its lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq. And one of those key lessons is this: "Let Arabs fight the Arabs, and Muslims fight the Muslims," the editor said.

"The US and western countries in general have learnt how to give support from the rear ranks - or from the sky."

This plan has been a thumping success in Libya, but Syria is different, he argued.

"The Syrian regime still enjoys some support domestically, with a portion of the population backing him for sectarian or economic reasons. Externally, he has the backing of Iran and Hizbollah [in Lebanon], and to a lesser degree, China and Russia."

Still, Mr Al Assad must have learned from the Libya that if international military action starts it will not end without toppling the regime.

This said, one still hopes that Mr Al Assad would implement the Arab blueprint without further delays, to spare the region unnecessary shock waves.


On Syria, rare Arab-West rapprochement

Up until a few weeks ago, who would have thought that the distance between the Arab League and the West would shrink away to the present point? This was the question posed by the columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari Al Watan daily.

"No one could have remotely anticipated that the positions of the Syrian opposition, the Western community and the Arab League would converge and indeed melt into one political pot that adopts the same values and principles?"

The decision to suspend Syria's membership at the League received overwhelming support. But it was an unexpected measure; Western figures were quick to praise the Arab body's assertiveness and called upon the international community to heed the League's message and assume its responsibilities towards Syria.

"This Arab-Western political convergence beckons notice. It is a new alliance that germinated during the Libyan crisis when an Arab majority gave its blessing for a Nato military interference to protect civilians," the columnist wrote.

That "surprising" alliance evolved to its full extent with the unfolding events in Syria, and now the Arab and Western positions are completely consistent in supporting the uprising and calling upon President Bashar Al Assad to step down.



Historic decision by the Arab League

The Arab League's decision to suspend Syria's membership was historic. It is the first collective position that aligns with the overall climate in the region and constitutes a quantum leap in the Arab political rhetoric, commented the columnist Daoud Al Sharyan in the pan-Arab Al Hayat newspaper.

"Some observers doubted the seriousness of the Arab states in following up on the decision. They saw the League's statement as retaliation for the Syrian regime's disregard for the Arab initiative. But closer inspection shows that the statement addressed the Syrian army directly, beseeching it to end the clampdown, which sets a precedent for the Arab body," said the writer.

The statement also called upon the Syrian opposition to agree on a unified vision for the transitional phase, and this in itself indicates intent to forsake the regime in case of non-responsiveness.

The Arab League's stance towards the violent events in Syria is certainly serious.

The Iraqi and Libyan experiences have taught Arab regimes a hard lesson about foreign intervention.

At this point, they are merely attempting to protect Syria from an international intervention where the Arabs wouldn't have any leverage.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk