Saturday 11 February 2012

The League, Turkey and Syria’s Trojan Horse

Trojan Horse illustration from Wikipedia

By Abdul Rahman al-Rashed  *

Many people’s hopes the Arab League is the doorway to a Syria solution were shattered over the past four months. The League, knowingly or stupidly, aborted solitary international initiatives, purposefully shut out Turkey and dragged out management of the crisis for months. Lastly, it gave the Assad regime an exoneration report on the Arab observer mission blaming violence on the dead and their families. How and why?

Though puzzling, the League’s contradictory positions revealed two camps in its ranks on the Syria issue.

The League’s position was originally proactive. Eight months into the crackdown, it stood ready to adopt the strongest sanction against the Syrian regime. Expulsion is the most potent measure the League could take against any of its member-states.

On November 12, the Council of Arab League Foreign Ministers decided to suspend membership of the regime if it did not end its crackdown within a fortnight. Eighteen states voted in favor of the suspension and only two against. (Syria) answered: the League is the West’s pawn… Syria’s ambassador followed up with vulgar language against the League and most of its members, eliciting requests for his expulsion.

We wondered: if the League leadership is unable to even boot out an insolent ambassador, how can it handle a vicious regime?

We did not expel the ambassador and we did not suspend Syria’s membership. We then discovered Assadists had infiltrated the League when the latter’s attitudes, positions and language faltered…

The calamity is the new secretary-general’s leaning toward Damascus. Is it Nabil Elaraby’s inclination or that of official Egypt, which historically formulated the secretary-general’s standpoints? And why would post-revolution Egypt endorse the most hideous and brutal Arab regime? In truth, we found no proof confirming that.

Doubts then hovered around Elaraby’s affinities, since his positions parallel the views of Mohamed Hassanein Heikal who believes events in Libya, and now Syria, are part of a Western conspiracy… This does not make sense either for, even if Elaraby believed in the silly conspiracy theory, he wouldn’t stand behind a doomed regime. But notwithstanding his opinion, Elaraby’s words and his actions have aggrieved and infuriated the Arab street.

Then came the ridiculous idea of deploying Arab monitors to Syria under the command of an intelligence officer from the Sudanese regime of Omar al-Bashir, an ally of Assad. So instead of being the “favorite stallion” to save the Syrian people, the Arab League became Assad’s “Trojan Horse.”

The farce of monitors transpired when the Sudanese head of the observer mission wrote a progress report blaming the violence on the regime and its victims. The Russian used his report to veto the UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria.

Had the League done nothing, the outcome would have been more fitting.

The League has been used to block a European move (on Syria) and to plot against Turkey at the (November 15) League meeting in Rabat, when an “Arab solution” – read that excludes Turkey -- was the option chosen.  The Turks were incensed, saying bluntly, “We leave the matter to you then.” They are aware no nation-state can stand up to the Syrian regime except Turkey.

* The author is head of Alarabiya TV network. He wrote this think piece in Arabic for today’s edition of the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat