Monday, February 13, 2012

The Arab League has misjudged its actions on Syria

In isolating the Assad regime, the Arab League risks polarising allegiances – with the potential for escalation

Read at Your Own Risk: A So-So Comment, But I am Posting it Anyway.

Abdel Bari Atwan, Monday 13 February 2012

"The Arab League has called for a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force to end the bloodshed in Syria. It is a historical irony that the precedent for this – the 1976 deployment of an Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) between Israel and southern Lebanon – was a Syrian initiative and that the ADF was predominantly composed of Syrian troops.

However, there are crucial differences between the situation in Syria now and that in Lebanon in 1976. None of the preconditions for a peacekeeping force exist: there is no ceasefire in place, neither party has given permission for foreign troops to enter the country. Finally, it is not clear who would speak for the disparate opposition forces; no peace negotiations are ongoing and there is no UN mandate. In effect, this means that the latest proposals are unworkable.....

This is not to downplay the urgency of finding a way to stop Assad from murdering his own people. The international community, through the mechanisms of the UN, need to agree a common stance and identify, through diplomacy, a mutually acceptable plan of action. This might include a face-saving departure package for Assad of the type drawn up for Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh [Are you serious Mr. Atwan??]. However unpalatable such measures might appear, they are preferable to most conceivable alternatives.

The problem is that in isolating the Assad regime, the Arab League risks a polarisation of allegiances with the potential for escalation: the sectarian conflict in Syria could extend beyond its borders and into the rest of the region; in the worst-case scenario, we might see a return to a cold-war alignment positioning the Shia crescent, backed by Russia and China, against the Sunni countries, backed by the west....."

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