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Syria: the countdown has begun - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The most important term out of eight issued yesterday by the ministerial council of the Arab League regarding the situation in Syria, was without doubt clause number six, which states “the invitation of all Syrian opposition parties to meet at the Arab League headquarters within three days, to agree upon a unified vision for the transitional period in Syria”.

This means that the Arabs have actually begun considering a post al-Assad phase in Syria, or in simpler terms, the Arabs have now thrown the proverbial brick at the regime. The Arab League’s statement yesterday, and especially the sixth paragraph, also means that the countdown for the al-Assad regime has begun. This will have many implications, whether internationally or regionally, especially between the Arabs and the Turks, and this is another story which is more important now than at any time in the past. Likewise, it will have many implications for the decision making process inside Syria itself. Hence Arab officials noted how the al-Assad regime reacted to the news aggressively, through its Arab League representative, who directed insults towards both the Arab League’s Secretary General and the Qatari Prime Minister, who in turn reacted like a gentlemen when he said: “I will rise above responding to such profanities, I was brought up not to respond to anyone in this manner, and I say to him [the Syrian representative], may God forgive him”. Of course, what the Syrian representative did was nothing new; this kind of action is typical of the Baath party. There is no difference between what the Syrian representative did and what was said either by Izzat ad-Douri or Taha Yassin Ramadan in the past, but it is important to be aware of what the Syrian representative meant. He threatened that a storm will begin shortly, and this is a threat similar to al-Assad’s threats in the past, and likewise the threats of Hassan Nasrallah, who merely repeats what is reported by the Iranian “Fars” news agency, as if Nasrallah is the one breaking the news!

Therefore, the importance of the Arab sanctions against the al-Assad regime lays in the fact that the Arabs have arrived, although they are late in doing so, at the well-known conclusion that the al-Assad regime cannot be trusted. It was notable that the Arab League, in the preamble prior to releasing its statement, issued the following words: “Due to the lack of commitment from the Syrian government to fully and immediately implement the Arab League initiative”. This means that the Arabs, with the ridiculous exceptions of Lebanon and Yemen, have become convinced that the al-Assad regime has lost its credibility. Therefore, the Arabs have deliberately sought to de-legitimize the regime, and have suspended the regime’s membership, but they have not targeted Syria itself. This could spread optimism that recognition of the Syrian National Council may be imminent, especially as the Arab League’s statement had called upon Arab states to withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus, which is an important and imperative step.

Of course, another noteworthy aspect of the Arab League’s statement was the third clause, which “calls upon the Syrian Arab Army not to engage in acts of violence and murder against civilians”. The question here of course is: Is this a call for the Syrian army to stage a coup? Is it conceivably that the Syrian army is now in an important position? This is something that I will discuss tomorrow God willing.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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