Monday 26 March 2012

Baghdad's Arab summit and Syria as playing field

“No one has the right to tell (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad to stand aside or step down” at the Arab summit opening Thursday in Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zibari tells Iraq’s satellite TV Alsumaria in an interview airing tonight.
Lebanese political analyst Iyad Abu-Chacra, writing this morning for the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, lists these telling backgrounds for the impending summit:
  1. Iraq, the host country is in a mess. Its prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, wants leaders of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan to hand him over fugitive Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi to face terrorism charges. This is when sectarianism and chaotic security have totally undermined the independence of Iraq’s judiciary.
  2. State authority in Maliki’s Iraq today rests on a sectarian coalition founded and sponsored by Iran. Many people suspect some coalition members are accomplices in the Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown on the opposition.
  3. Arab heads of state, or their representatives, will be heading to the summit in the shadow of “two Samson-like choices.” One was made by the Assad regime in Damascus, the other by the “new tsarist leadership in Moscow.” Assad is in no position to wash his hands of the blood of tens of thousands of Syrians. Nor are the Russians able to regain the trust of the Islamic world after counseling Assad to go for the “Chechnya option” in populated Syrian areas and avowed their determination to protect the Orient’s Christians from Muslim rule.
  4. At the summit, the Arab League will flaunt its impotence after having been castrated already by the double veto of Russia and China at the UN Security Council and the equivocation of the Obama Administration in an election year.
  5. Moscow has already poured cold water on Kofi Annan’s Syria mission by continuing to link the freedom of the Syrian people to guarantees for their oppressors and jailers and to equate between the victim and the killer.
  6. The clock keeps ticking to the “Friends of the Syrian People” meeting in Turkey, where participants need to come clean on previous commitments to stifle Assad’s “scorched earth” policy.
In light of such summit landscape, can anyone still talk of Syria being a “regional player”? Is it not more accurate to speak of Syria being the “playing field”?