Saturday, 7 January 2012

Arab League chief and observers lose their way

Arab League observers in Syria and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby seem to have lost their way.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, the Qatari prime minister who heads the Arab League’s Syria task force, tells Aljazeera TV the Arab League observer mission is off-track.

So, the League’s Syria task force will meet Sunday to discuss the mission’s task and decide what to do next. Sheikh Hamad admitted the observer mission lacked experience on the ground, being the first to be mandated to monitor implementation of Arab League resolutions by a member-state. For instance, he said, observers busied themselves with delivering food aid and searching for missing people instead of focusing on their core assignment, which is to monitor implementation by Syrian authorities of the protocol they signed. The protocol calls on Syria to withdraw all tanks and armored vehicles from the streets, stop violence against protesters, release all political prisoners, allow Arab and foreign media and rights groups into the country and begin a dialogue with the opposition.

If the killings do not stop, Sheikh Hamad said, turning to the UN for technical and staffing help for the observer mission would be “a waste of time and engage the League in a fruitless venture.”

The Arab League secretary-general meanwhile dismays Tariq Alhomayed, chief editor of the Saudi newspaper of record Asharq Alawsat. Alhomayed wonders in his editorial today: How can Elaraby ask Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based leader of Hamas -- “who was until last year a pawn in Assad’s hand” and “whose movement is funded by Iran” -- to plead with Syria’s Assad to halt violence?

“If this is the standard of the Arab League and the way it is run, we won’t be surprised if it solicited the help of Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah next to dissuade Iran from closing the Strait of Hormuz.”