Latest update: November 28th, 2011
The League decided to send the “Arab Deterrent Forces” to Lebanon after the year 1975, when civil war broke out. As it happened, the “Arab Deterrent Forces” were mostly Syrian and their actions in Lebanon reflected the interests of the Syrian regime more than [a desire to] the benefit of Lebanese. The Syrian army was ignominiously thrown out of Lebanon in 2005 by a decision of the UN’s Security Council after the murder of Rafik Hariri. The Arab League did not support Syria in this matter, and the Arab rulers saw with great satisfaction how Bashar Assad was forced against his will to give up his direct control in Lebanon.
During the last year, since the beginning of the demonstrations in Tunisia in December 2010, the Arab League was forced to relate to the bloodletting in three countries: Yemen, Libya and Syria. They could not turn a blind eye to the great number of fatalities who fell as a result of the violent government crackdowns of citizens demonstrations which went on and on. The League and the Arab rulers couldn’t stand the criticism that was aimed toward them, mainly from the channel “al-Jazeera”.
A group of Gulf states was actively involved in Bahrain by sending armed force, and in Yemen as mediators. As a result of the cruel oppression of the demonstrations in Libya, the League decided to turn to the UN for defense of the citizenry, and this request gave to the NATO countries the cover for condemning Gaddafi and afterwards to attack his forces from the air, despite the fact that a decision was not taken to permit this in the General Assembly military activity. As a result of the increase in fatalities of Syrian citizens in the last months, the Arab League again took harsh public criticism. Arab spokesmen accused the Arab League for having considered the “black liquid” of the Libyans much more important than the “red liquid” of the Syrians. At first the League took the decision to support Assad, afterwards it tried to mediate between him and his opposition.
Starting on Friday, July 29, on which date the Syrian rebels named their protest “Your Silence is Killing Us”, the Arab League began intensive activity frequently discussing the events in Syria, sending fact-finding missions, and with declarations of increasing concern about the occurrences in Syria.
The motivating force for these actions was Saudi Arabia, for three reasons: a. The traditional rivalry between it and Iran, Assad’s patron; b. The fact that Assad is an Allawite, which is considered heretical in the eyes of the Wahhabis, and therefore has no right to rule and perhaps even not to live; c. The fact that Assad the heretic is slaughtering Muslims, as his father did in his day.
There is another powerful motivator for Saudi Arabia: International pressure on Iran is increasing as a result of the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which found that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, and this increasing pressure might lead to the outbreak of hostilities in the Gulf. Any outbreak of this sort might cause a disaster for the oil industry in the Gulf and on the source of the wealth – and therefore the stability – of Saudi Arabia. One of the things in which Saudi Arabia sees a possibility to harm Iran is by causing the regime in Syria to collapse, and that is one of the reasons, and perhaps the main one, for the escalation in the statements of the Arab League against the Syrian regime.
In the beginning of November the League Council accepted an initiative which was intended to put an end to the spilling of blood in Syria. The initiative stipulated that: a. The army must immediately stop shooting the citizens who are demonstrating non-violently; b. The security organizations must immediately free the thousands of demonstrators who were arrested; c. The army must immediately leave the cities and the populated areas; d. Syria must allow the international media and organizations belonging to the Arab League to move freely throughout Syria to assess the damages and losses. Within two weeks after all of this is implemented, a committee will be convened which will include the regime and organizations of the opposition to discuss the future of the country and the kind of regime it will be have.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.
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