Along the past four months, a lot of people lost hope in the Arab League, the regional organization representing all Arab countries. In the Syrian crisis, the League has been playing a bad role, whether it was aware or unaware of it; thus it hindered the individual international initiatives. It deliberately kept Turkey away and extended the crisis unmanaged for months. Finally, its observers gave a report blaming the innocent victims.
The contradictory stand of the Arab League is really confusing. It revealed the presence of two opposite camps over the Syrian issue. At the beginning, the League was quite interactive and showed readiness to apply the utmost punishment against the Syrian regime, eight months after the break-up of the Syrian crisis, for the continual killings that targeted civilians with the aim of quelling the protests.
Expelling is the utmost punishment that the Arab League could do to punish any member. The Arab foreign ministers decided on Nov. 12 to suspend Syria's membership in the league, if the Syrian regime did not stop the violent crackdown against the protesters within four weeks. Eighteen countries supported the decision, while only two countries opposed it. The regime replied satirically by alleging that the League has turned into a game in the hands of the West.
Only few ambassadors at the Arab League were backing Assad; namely those of Yemen, Algeria and Sudan, in a rare scene against an Arab powerful regime. The Syrian crackdown soon moved to the League publicly. Assad’s ambassador talked to the media in an unprecedented bad manner against the league and the opposing countries. It was rumored then that Damascus was asked to replace its ambassador due to his insults, but Assad challenged them and kept his man in his post.
We wondered: the League was unable to even expel an ambassador, then how can it deal with an atrocious regime? Neither the ambassador was expelled nor Syria’s membership was suspended. It was later revealed that the two Assads were able to penetrate the League, which was quite soft in its stands, language and thoughts.
One of these days, a senior staff member at the Arab League phoned Al Arabiya and expressed his resentment and condemnation: “Do you want to turn Syria into another Libya?!” His statements were not aired. That’s how the League staff members think. Some of them are supporters of Damascus!
What is even worse is that the new Secretary General is somehow biased to the side of Damascus! Is it really the stand of Nabil al-Arabi, or is it the stand of the Egyptian authority, which has always affected the stands of the Secretary General? Why does revolutionary Egypt stand on the side of the bloodiest and most atrocious Arab regimes? Actually there is no evidence to prove that.
The Secretary General’s stand resembles the stand of prominent intellectualist Mohammed Hassanein Haikal in alleging that what has happened in Libya, and is happening in Syria, is part of a western conspiracy. This view actually underestimates the struggle of the people who have lived under the oppression and injustice of two unprecedented regimes in the Arab world. Nevertheless, we cannot be sure of the Secretary General’s personal way of thinking, especially that he has commitments to his job. I believe that it is illogic -- even if he believes in the silly conspiracy ideology -- that he follows a certain stand that the history might document against him for the sake of a falling regime. We don't care about his opinion; his speech and action have filled the Arab public with sadness and anger.
All of a sudden, a very weird thought comes up; namely sending Arab observers to check what is happening there. What is worse is commissioning an intelligence general who belongs to the regime of Sudan's Bashir, an ally of Assad, to lead the team of observers. However, Qatar, which heads the League's ministerial council that is responsible for dealing with the Syrian crisis, is a bit biased to the side of the Syrian people.
The Syrian regime, meanwhile, disregarded the League and escalated its violent crackdown and atrocity; thus leaving more people dead. Accordingly, instead of saving the Syrian people, the Arab League turned into Troy's Horse for Assad, who used it to delay the European initiatives and causing divisions in the world powers similar to the divisions among the Arabs.
The comedy was completed by the report written by the Sudanese intelligence officer, in which he alleged that the crimes were committed by both sides: the victims and the regime! This was the report that the Russians used as a base for their veto at the Security Council. That veto brought the smile back to Assad and, in the meantime, shocked millions of Arabs everywhere. Anyways, that result was expected ever since the issue of Arab observers was brought up.
Had the league done anything else, it would have been better, because the international community often adopts individual stands. The presence of a regional organization -- the Arab League in this case -- has forced everyone to follow it. The Arab League was used to prevent the European movement. It was used to conspire against Turkey during the Rabat meeting under the title of the “Arab solution” that aimed at keeping the Turks away. The Turks got angry and said frankly “we will leave you to resolve it”, although they were aware that no country is capable of confronting the Syrian regime except Turkey.
The writer is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 11, 2012 and was translated by Abeer Tayel.