The New York Times reported over the weekend that the Arab League was temporarily suspending its one-month-old monitoring mission in Syria pending a final decision this week. The League, apparently, is scared that its observers might get caught in the crackdown that the Assad regime is unleashing against its citizens. Notes the Times:
The head of the Arab League, Nabil al-Araby, said in a statement Saturday that after discussions with Arab foreign ministers, the 22-member body had come to its decision because of “a severe deterioration of the situation and the continued use of violence.” And he blamed the Syrian government for the bloodshed, saying that it had decided “to escalate the military option…
Their [the League’s] hesitation outside Rankous on Saturday, a town emptied of people after five days of clashes and government shelling, seemed to encapsulate the shortcomings of a mission accused by government opponents of providing cover to President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown. Warned by army officers that insurgents could use explosives against them, a driver working with the observers refused to drive their heavily armored Mercedes into town.
Opposition activists in Rankous said they would have welcomed the visit. Despite the criticisms, the observers, with offices in several cities, were often the only outside witnesses to fighting that the United Nations said has killed more than 5,400.
But my question is: what exactly did the League expect? Rose garlands and olive tapenade? It’s entering a war zone for allah’s sake! Of course, its observers are going to be endangered.
The whole point of sending the mission was to force the regime to restraint its brutal tactics. Calling it off now when Assad is escalating his crackdown means that the League is turning tail just when it is most needed. This will do more damage than if the League had desisted from sticking its nose in Assad’s business in the first place. It has showcased its utter impotence to the world, signaling to all aspiring Mideast tyrants that they have absolutely nothing to fear from it, not even the prospect of being held to account later for crimes against humanity.