Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Syria: Withdraw The Ambassadors And Freeze Its Membership

By Tariq Alhomayed
The Arabs should not be satisfied with the positions they took towards the brutality of the Bashar al Assad regime in Syria. In fact the Arab positions should intensify in accordance with the escalation and the crimes committed by the Assad regime against the defenceless Syrian people.
The brutality of the regime has gone far beyond anything reasonable or acceptable as Assad is continuing his military operation against the Syrians and all of their cities. On Sunday alone the regime killed at least 30 civilians (at the time of publishing) including 26 civilians from the coastal city of Lattakia, which transformed into a target for a large-scale military operation in which the regime used gun boats that shelled parts of the city. What more are the Arabs waiting for?
Today the Arabs, all Arabs, and the powerful states in particular, should move to take several steps including withdrawing their ambassadors from Damascus and suspending Syria's membership to the League of Arab States. Some might say that the Arabs might be divided over this but there is nothing wrong with that as it is important for Arab nations to know today who is standing with the brutality of the Assad regime and who is standing against it. The already exhausted Arab League should convene to make the Syrian situation its last exercise before dissolution, which would pave way for finding another formula that is able to reflect the Arab reality. The Arab League should convene and vote on withdrawing the Arab ambassadors from Damascus and suspending Syria's membership on the condition that voting is carried out openly in front of the Syrians and the Arab nations so that everybody can take responsibility for this instead of working behind closed doors only for some people to later try to look good in front of Arab public opinion or try to broadcast insults through the media.
We all saw how Saudi Arabia took a moral and responsible position when King Abdullah made his historical statement on Syria, which represented a turning point in dealing with the Syrian crisis as the West moved further towards blockading the Syrian regime. But there also needs to be more activity among the Arabs today and it might be more beneficial if Saudi Arabia itself acts to call on the Arabs to take a responsible position towards Syria or expose their positions, i.e. the positions of some Arabs, by calling on the foreign ministers of the Arab League to convene and to vote on withdrawing the Arab ambassadors from Damascus and suspending Syria's membership, especially as the Arabs froze Libya's membership in order to punish Gaddafi, so why wouldn't the Arabs do the same to Assad who has exceeded the brutality of Gaddafi? In fact why rule out the military option to save the defenceless Syrians?
The problem that the Arabs are failing to notice is that they have fallen into a moral dilemma; when the Lebanon 2006 summer war broke out the Arabs rushed to convince the international community of the necessity to stop the Israeli aggression and the war was stopped relatively quickly, whilst the Assad regime has continued to attack the Syrians and their cities by land, sea and air for five months or more without anybody putting a stop to it!
Therefore before the Arabs ask the West or the Turks to intervene to stop Assad's war on the Syrians or call on Assad to leave power, the Arabs themselves should withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus and freeze Syria's membership to the Arab League, and that is the weakest of faith.
-This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 15/08/2011
-Tariq Alhomayed is the editor-in-chief of Asharq al-Awsat

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