In 2006, and during the Israeli war on Lebanon, Bashar Al-Assad, claiming leadership of the Arab resistance camp, and using the popularity of Hizbullah’s struggle against Israel to burnish his own image, called Arab leaders “half-men”. Whether that was on the minds of the 18 foreign ministers who voted yes for the suspension of the participation of the Syrian delegation in all of the league’s activities and meetings remain to be found by those who write books of political intrigue and personalities. For now, it is clear that the Syrian regime thought that its policy makers are smarter than the “Bedouins” and has underestimated their resolve and intelligence.
The Chair of the meeting today, Qatar’s foreign minister outlined the decision in 7 points. Here they are in Arabic, then in English:
أولا :نظرا لعدم التزام سوريا بالتنفيذ الكامل والفوري للمبادرة العربية قررنا تعليق مشاركة الوفود السورية في انشطة الجامعة العربية لحين تنفيذ دمشق المبادرة العربية.
ثانيا: توفير الحماية للمدنيين السوريين بالاتصال الفوري
بالمنظمات المعنية بما فيها الأمم المتحدة ، في حين عدم توقف اعمال العنف والقتل.
ثالثا: دعوة الجيش العربي السوري للامتناع عن التورط في اعمال القتل والعنف ضد المدنيين.
رابعا: توقيع عقوبات اجتماعية واقتصادية على الحكومة السورية
في حال عدم الالتزام.
خامسا: دعوة دول الجامعة العربية لسحب سفرائها من دمشق ، مع الاخذ في الاعتبار ان هذا القرار سيادي.
سادسا: دعوة جميع اطراف المعارضة للاجتماع في مقر الجامعة خلال 3 أيام للاتفاق على رؤية موحدة لمرحلة انتقالية في سوريا ، ويقرر ما يراه مناسب للاعتراف بالمعارضة السورية.
سابعا: بقاء المجلس الوزاري العربي في حالة انعقاد دائم لحين متابعة الموقف.
Text of the Statement from the Arab League Ministerial Committee
- First: Due to lack of commitment from Syria to the full and immediate implementation of the initiative, we have decided to suspend the participation of Syrian Arab delegations in the activities of the Arab League until Damascus implements the Arab initiative
- Second: Provide protection to Syrian civilians through the prompt contact with relevant organization including the United Nations as long as there is no halt to violence and murder
- Third: Call on the Syrian Arab Army to abstain from being involved in the killing and violence against civilians
- Fourth: Initiate social and economic punitive measures against the Syrian government in case of lack of commitment
- Fifth: Calls on all Member States of the Arab League to withdraw their Ambassadors from Damascus, while remaining cognizant that this is a sovereign decision.
- Sixth: Call on all sides of the opposition to meet in the League’s headquarters within three days to agree on a unified vision for a transition phase in Syria and for the council to decide on what it sees as appropriate in the matter of recognition of the Syrian opposition .
- Seventh: Maintain the Ministerial Council in permanent session to follow up on the situation.
Some of my own thinking about the 7 items:
First: Due to lack of compliance from Syria to the full and immediate implementation of the initiative, we have decided to suspend the participation of Arab delegations in the activities of the Arab League until the Damascus implements the Arab initiative
While this is not a suspension of Syria’s membership in the League, it is still significant step. In addition, the Arab league here puts the blame squarely in the regime’s court. It is Assad’s regime who failed, willingly to comply with the league’s initiative, even after it was modified to address the regime’s request. The league also indicates that its members consider the statement delivered earlier by the Assad’s ambassador to the league as disingenuous attempt at gaining more time and they said no.
Second: Provide protection to Syrian civilians through the prompt contact with relevant organization including the United Nations as long as there is no halt to violence and murder
This is a very important item. It is the mechanism through which the architects of the AL initiative hope to regain momentum in the UN for the Syrian issue after the Russian and Chinese block. They now have mandate from the AL to bring Syria’s non-compliance with an initiative it signed on to UN Security Council. The Russian and Chinese Ambassadors to the UNSC will now be in a bind, especially after their own governments have called on Syria to start implementing real reform and to put an end to the bloodshed nearly two months ago after the first attempt at UNSC. What will be the outcome at the UNSC is still undetermined and it will depend a lot on the outcome of other steps in this recent decision by the Arab League.
Third: Call on the Syrian Arab Army to reject being involved in the killing and violence against civilians
I did not expect this one. It came as a surprise and an incredible moral boost. It is a direct call by the Arab league to the Syrian Army to revolt against the thugs who are forcing its members to become involved in the killing of their own country people. It is also a warning that soldiers and officers engaged in such murders will be liable in the future. This is a call for disobedience that will resonate and should be used to the hilt by the opposition. However, I would caution against this call being considered a recognition by the AL of the FSA as a legitimate liberation force. Such will depend again on what the opposition does in the next 72 hours (by now 66 hours).
Fourth: Initiate social and economic punitive measures against the Syrian government in case of lack of commitment
No more invitation for Syrian Ambassadors to receptions held in Arab embassies worldwide. No more direct communication with Assad and his inner circle, and a halt to any investment or development project with increasingly tight economic sanctions. It is likely that an increased scrutiny of bank accounts will ensue and things will get uglier for the regime’s big fishes.
Fifth: Calls on all Member States of the Arab League to withdraw their Ambassadors from Damascus, while remaining cognizant that this is a sovereign decision.
Again, this is a clear call for complete isolation. It is unlikely to be followed by all countries and it may take time to implement, but it also gives impetuous for other countries who are not members of the AL to withdraw their ambassadors in recognition of the legitimacy of the AL. Given the hysteria on Syrian media, I expect that several embassies will soon be closed to protect the staff. Continuing insult of members of the league will accelerate the process. You can count on the Syrian regime, its trumpets, and media, to do the job.
Sixth: Call on all sides of the opposition to meet in the League’s headquarters within three days to agree on a unified vision for a transition phase in Syria and for the council to decide on what it sees as appropriate in the matter of recognition of the Syrian opposition
This is one huge nail in the regime’s coffin. It is also the most serious challenge to the opposition. Some elements in the internal opposition will now face a new reality. If they want to claim legitimacy as part of the opposition, they will have to work within the framework now adopted by the league including the possibility of UNSC decision, and the clear admonition of Assad’s army. No longer can some play both sides since the AL has defined the parameters. The dialog is now defined as being a dialog within the opposition to identify a unified vision for the inevitable transition phase, which does not include the regime in the discussion. The league’s ministers probably intentionally put in a very short time to force the opposition into the table without allowing for maneuvering and to force them to identify commonality rather than bicker and get into backstabbing deals. This will filter the opposition and force fake opposition into the open where they have to declare their loyalty to the maintenance of this dead man walking regime. Recognition of the opposition by the AL opens doors to recognition by many more countries in waiting.
Seventh: Maintain the Ministerial Council in permanent session to follow up on the situation.
They’ll be watching
Syrian Regime Ambassador Reacts to the Decision
Syrian regime is again orchestrating series of “spontaneous” demonstrations objecting to the AL decision — developing
All of a sudden, the fierce pan Arab nationalist regime sycophants are striking the word Arab from the republic name. Expecting a reactionary official decree sometime soon…
So What is Next
Here is a flow-chart of the upcoming process. It can use more details (e.g., including Russia, China and other variables). But for now it relates to the AL.