Sunday 12 February 2012

Exit Dabi, enter multinational observers for Syria?

Gen. al-Dhabi (photo from

Sudan’s controversial spymaster Mohammed al-Dabi has resigned as head of the Arab League observer mission to Syria.

The Arab League suspended observer work in Syria on January 28, citing mounting violence by President Bashar Assad's forces in key protest cities. The six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) withdrew their observers from the mission completely.

The observers were tasked with determining whether Syria was complying with the Arab League peace plan from November that called on the Assad regime to return military forces to barracks, release political prisoners and begin a dialogue with the opposition.

The Arab League Council of Foreign Ministers, meeting later today in Cairo, will reportedly elect to restructure the mission altogether, raising the number of monitors to about 3,000 from under 200.

The inclination is to include an international component in the restructured mission by way of enrolling monitors from Arab, Islamic and foreign countries. The new mission would reportedly remain under Arab League command but be better equipped with body armor, reinforced vehicles and state-of-the-art communications gear.

It is doubtful if Damascus and Moscow would agree to a non-Arab observer component in Syria.

Tariq Alhomayed, editor of Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, says the Arab foreign ministers should focus on three steps at their Cairo meting today: the Syrian regime’s expulsion from the Arab League, recognition of the opposition’s Syrian National Council and jump-starting the “Friends of Syria” coalition.