The Arab League observer mission to Syria—sent under an agreement with the Syrian government to withdraw forces from the cities, release all political prisoners and allow monitors and journalists free movement throughout the country—has utterly failed and should not be extended.
After the initial one-month mandate for the mission expired, Arab foreign ministers met in Cairo Sunday to discuss next steps. Surprisingly, the league—known in the past for its knee-jerk defense of Arab unity at the cost of its people’s rights—proposed a plan under which President Bashar al-Assad would transfer power to a deputy and start negotiations with opponents within two weeks. The proposal was predictably rejected outright by the Assad regime as interference in its internal affairs. Unfortunately, the league also agreed, despite Saudi Arabia’s withdrawal from the mission in protest of ongoing regime violence in Syria, to extend the mandate for another month and beef up the number of monitors sent to the country. But in the first month of the mission, opposition figures reported that more than seven hundred people have been killed at the hands of the government in continuing clashes throughout the country. Given its failure so far to halt the government crackdown, the league should have rejected any extension of the observer mission and vowed to bring the Syrian crisis before the United Nations Security Council for further sanctions.
Assad recently gave a rambling two-hour speech at Damascus University in which he brazenly denied reality, mocking Syrian protestors as traitors and terrorists doing the bidding of foreign hands and vowing to defeat the “conspiracy” while claiming he had never ordered Syrian security forces to fire upon them. Assad also offered sharp criticism of the Arab League for “failing” the region. In November, the league suspended Syria, a founding member, for its continuing bloody assaults on largely peaceful demonstrators.
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