Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Syria: isolated and losing friends

Damascus is loyal to Bashar al-Assad, but the president must realise the prospect of keeping hold of his country has gone

guardian.co.uk, Monday 14 November 2011

"Syria's expulsion from the Arab League on Wednesday marks a change for an organisation whose more traditional posture is astride a fence. The move is largely symbolic. It is not clear what sanctions Arab League members could impose, and any plea for the United Nations to act will be blocked by Russia and China in the security council (Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Monday accused the US and France of inciting violence and blocking dialogue). But symbolism matters. Syria was not just one of a 22-member group, but a founding member and central player. Suspension is a blow to Syria's claim to be the beating heart of pan-Arabism. And isolation could be a precursor to recognising the Syrian National Council, the umbrella group of the opposition.....

But members of the league could also have less altruistic motives. The leading role in the decision to suspend Syria was played by the current chairman, Qatar. The rich but tiny kingdom provided planes, at least 18 shipments of weapons and special forces for the intervention in Libya. Under the increasing influence of Saudi Arabia, Qatar has become a major player in a wider power battle with Iran. Saudi Arabia blames Iran for instigating rebellion among the Shia majority in Bahrain, whereas the truth is they had reason enough to protest....."

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