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Elaraby’s weakness | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I wrote this article but was then compelled to postpone and amend it, awaiting the promised Arab League resolution against Syria. However, even after the resolution suspending Syria’s membership was issued, I still maintain that the problem is Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby, and not the Arab League’s stance towards Syria. The Arab League has been very late in issuing this resolution; why is that? Is the new Secretary General weak, restrained, or something else?

In my opinion, Elaraby is more fortunate than any other Secretary General that has assumed this post. However, I fear that his good luck will end up in a tragic demise if he continues to manage the Arab crises in the way he is doing today. There is growing anger towards the Arab League everywhere, because of its confrontation with the views on the street.

If the Arab League resolution to freeze Syria’s membership is cemented, Elaraby and the Arab league can be saved. However, if the resolution were to fail, then Elaraby and his League will lose the trust of 200 million Arab citizens forever.

I am not exaggerating when I say that former Secretary General Amr Musa’s decision to freeze the membership of Gaddafi’s regime, and refer the file to the UN Security Council, was the most important decision in his history. It was no less important than the Arab League’s resolution to legitimize the liberation of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1990.

Overthrowing the regime in Syria is the most important issue, and the greatest battle. It is a matter of 25 million people living under the most horrific regime. The significance of the Syrian uprising is unparalleled in importance, except by Algeria’s revolution against French colonialism, and the Libyans’ revolution against Gaddafi’s regime.

Therefore, Nabil Elaraby has no alternative but to go along with the wishes of the Syrian people, because it is inevitable that Bashar al-Assad’s regime will fall, however great the losses and however long this takes. The clock can never be turned back in Syria. Former Secretary General Chedli Klibi can take pride in the fact that Kuwait was liberated during his chairmanship of the Arab League, and that the League played a significant role in facilitating international intervention. Amr Musa, another former Secretary General, can say that he ended his reign by playing an important role in overthrowing the evil regime of Colonel Gaddafi; despite the fact that Musa himself was exposed to death threats, and is alleged to have been the target of an intentional car crash staged by the Libyan regime.

Over 65 years, the Arab League has been chaired by six Secretary Generals. Despite the extensive criticism levelled at them in the past, the majority had limited powers, because the Arab governments held immense influence and control, and prevented Arab League Secretary Generals from adopting decisive resolutions, participating in major positive changes, or preventing political and military catastrophes. Their hands were tied, and they played their roles as much as their circumstances allowed. In reality, former president Hosni Mubarak was the one who directed the Arab League Secretary General.

Now, it is Nabil Elaraby who is heading the Arab League, not Field Marshal Tantawi or Essam Sharaf, and we expect Elaraby to act accordingly. Today, the Arab League is in a different era, in which major governments have fallen, decision making centres have changed, and the Arab people have acquired a say that they have not had in half a century. The Arabs are clearly saying we want the Arab League to come before the United Nations and the UN Security Council. Thus, why does Elaraby allow the League to be a tool in the hands of an evil power such as the Syrian regime, whose crimes have horrified the entire world, not only the Syrians and the Arabs?

History and the Arab people will never forgive Elaraby if he keeps silent about the Syrian regime and its crimes. It is not enough to freeze Syria’s membership; he has to be the voice of millions of people. I fear that Nabil Elaraby might suffer the same fate as the region’s out-dated regimes, and might become the target of the angry protestors who are begging for assistance. This is of course unless he comes to the fore, lends his name to damning statements, actively transfers Syria’s file to the UN Security Council, and demands the protection of the Syrian people. This is if Elaraby wants to become an Arab hero; however if he wants merely to play the role of the Arab League Secretary General, he will satisfy a handful of groups who do not deserve respect and who are worthless today. These include the Algerian military, President al-Bashir in Sudan, Mauritanian coup leader General Abdel Aziz, and the hostage-like regime in Lebanon.

Elaraby has sufficient moral authority and political power to be able to change the situation, which was not the case with his six predecessors. Furthermore, he is not a beginner in his profession, as he has a rich history as a law graduate, a former ambassador, a former judge at the International Court of Justice, and a member of UN committees.

The Arab League’s resolution to suspend the membership of al-Assad’s regime is the first positive step taken by Elaraby since he assumed the post five months ago. With this action, Elaraby will prevent the Arab League from collapsing. With regards to Syria we are not witnessing a civil war, a sectarian conflict, or a one-day confrontation; rather we are witnessing a massacre that has been on-going for three quarters of a year, committed by a regime against its people, targeting women, children, and unarmed civilians.

The new Secretary General must understand that in the era of the Arab Spring he can either acquiesce to the wishes of the people and represent them, because this is their League, or he can step down. However, this is something we do not want, especially after the historic Arab League resolution to suspend Syria’s membership.