Is Arab League Mission in Syria Mistake? By Ambassador mo

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Extending the Arab League “Observer Mission to Syria” for another month may be perceived as the only option. However, it also relieves the UN Security Council of responsibility, at least for the moment. Unfortunately though it only reinforces the Syrian regimes notion of being in control for now and seeing this as an opportunity to inflict further crushing blows upon Syrian citizens and efforts at reform. Increasing the number of observers may help, but in my opinion, the Observer Mission has now become more about the deficiency in the qualitative rather quantitative factors. While from the outset the Mission was undermanned and rushed in with good intentions to as promptly as possible deliver some impetus to end the violence and oppression, unfortunately the Syrian regime now has set the tone. It will be difficult to change such tone and current trend toward the Observer Mission being perceived as more veneer for continued crackdown rather than a tempering effect on regime. Saudi Arabia has withdrawn from the Observer Mission and the Qatar chairman of the Arab League Foreign Ministers has expressed serious doubt about the continued efficacy and impact. The League Secretary General Nabil El-Araby has his own reservations but facing a deepening division he has now another crisis to deal with besides the immediacy of Syria’s emerging civil war. Nonetheless, I think it is unavoidable that Syria will be once again delivered to the doorstep of the UN Security Council, (and perhaps the International Criminal Court). The delay serves most the Syrian regime’s apologists on the UN Security Council, for now. The longer-term consequence may be that the Arab League Observer Mission making a direct appeal to the UN Security Council could deliver unbearable pressure to act upon the regimes apologists at the UN. Most critically though, the Arab League Observer Mission must remind one of the fundamental lessons of the UN Peacekeeping Mission (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia & Herzegovina – if you are not the solution, effectively and promptly, you can then actually become part of the problem – at least as an excuse for no more robust measures to confront the killings By Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey Facebook Become a Fan at “Diplomatically Incorrect” Twitter – Follow at DiplomaticallyX FOLLOW mo @MuhamedSacirbeyand oppression. Below is our last Article, January 9, 2012 on: Security Council Briefing on Syria/Arab League, by Ambassador mo Can Arab League still have positive effect on Syria? Could UN Security Council deflect an Arab League referral to the UN Security Council of Syria as repression/brutality continues even if some on the Council want to avoid/deflect? The UN Security Council being sharply divided on the matter, has effectively abdicated its role to the Arab League. While Arab League sanctions have a practical and symbolic impact upon the Syrian regime, ultimately the leverage of referral to the International Criminal Court and sanctions by the UN Security sanctions may be necessary. The Arab League observers may have had some impact on reducing the Syrian regime’s brutality, but it has been probably more cosmetic rather than substantive. Many in the opposition now view the Arab League efforts as either irrelevant or even counterproductive in that it may be providing greater cover rather than deterrence for the brutality and repression. Should Arab League Observers Withdraw from Syria? As not entirely fair such assessment may be toward the Arab League efforts, that perception will become more of the reality if there is no dramatic modification in terms of political reform as well as violence. From my experience in similar situations including Bosnia & Herzegovina, when peacemaking/peacekeeping efforts become assimilated with the status quo rather then delivering a dynamic and significant momentum toward the stated objectives, such missions become part of the problem. Read: - “Should Arab League Observers Withdraw from Syria?” - UN/UN Security Council Ultimately Will Have to Do their Role: The Arab League observer mission in Syria is at such a critical crossroads. I think that my friend Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby will see this as do some of the Arab League representatives including Chair and Qatar Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani. One option was to incorporate UN advisers/observers into the Arab League Mission to Syria. This probably would have been a wise choice. It would add more numbers and expertise to an overt already well below original numbers and breadth of mandate envisioned. UN participation would also facilitate ultimately a call upon the UN Security Council – a step that I think is necessary if Syria is about to witness reform and peace. Despite opposition from China, South Africa, India and Russia (Bottom Photo), to varying degrees, an Arab League reference to the UN Security Council would be difficult to avoid or deflect, and such opponents would be hard pressed to stand in opposition to the Arab League and members as a whole. Syrian Regime Calculating? The Syrian regime may have calculated already how to minimize the numbers and independence/freedom of movement of the Arab League Mission in such a manner as to make it ineffective, bound to Syrian regime handlers or both. Without any real presence of independent media in Syria, the job of observing and dousing repressive violence becomes even more difficult. On January 10, 2012, the UN Security Council will be briefed by the UN’s top Political Affairs official B. Lynn Pascoe. The situation is rather fluid and 5 new members of 15 have started their terms on the Council as of January 1, 2012. However, after the false and perhaps orchestrated step of Russia introducing a draft resolution on Syria last month without ultimately any action being taken, some new momentum and pressure is necessary to put the Security Council into the position of having to be more responsible and accountable for developments in Syria. Below is a worthy briefing from “Security Council Report” ( on the anticipated informal discussion tomorrow within the UN Security Council. --- Tomorrow (10 January), Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe will brief Security Council members on Syria during the Council’s monthly “horizon scanning” briefing. (The monthly DPA briefing usually covers a number of emerging issues of concern and while it appears that Syria will be the main focus of the briefing, Pascoe may choose to bring up other issues.) Council members have been closely following the Arab League’s approach to the Syrian situation and are likely to be interested in hearing an assessment of the situation in Syria since the Arab League deployed its observer mission in late December with an initial mandate of one month. There is also likely to be interest in hearing about possible UN involvement in the Syria situation. On 8 January the Arab League expressed interest in coordinating with the UN on technical assistance for the observer mission. (This issue was also discussed on 4 January during a meeting between the Prime Minister of Qatar and the Secretary-General.) While the Council condemned the 23 December and 6 January terrorist attacks in Damascus in press statements, it continues to be unclear whether the Council will take action on the larger crisis while the Arab League observer mission continues. While some Council members are concerned that by remaining silent they are sending the wrong signal, others appear to want to wait and see if the observer mission can achieve progress in resolving the situation. (The observer mission is expected to report back by 19 January, a month after Syria signed the protocol with the Arab League.) At press time, it was unclear when Council members might meet again to discuss the draft resolution circulated by Russia on 15 December. Most members appear to be waiting to hear Pascoe’s briefing before deciding how to proceed. Although there was a great deal of activity on the draft in late December, largely at expert level, it seems fundamental divisions remain. Many Council members consider that any resolution on the Syrian situation should clearly condemn the violence by the Syrian regime and demand full implementation of the Arab League initiative and not just the observer mission. In addition, while most Council members apparently agree that violence is now being perpetrated by the opposition as well as the regime, many members emphasise that any resolution should refrain from suggesting an equivalence in the level of violence—or responsibility for it—between the Syrian regime and the opposition. It appears another point of contention is the suggestion by some members for inclusion of stronger human rights references, explicit language on access for independent observers including media, humanitarian actors and cooperation with the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry. These members also consider measures such as sanctions, especially a total arms embargo, may also be necessary. It seems that in late December, the EU members of the Council and the US proposed the inclusion of language on the possibility for further action if Syria fails to comply and an ongoing reporting requirement to keep the issue firmly on the Council’s agenda. However, at press time Russia had not incorporated these suggestions into a new draft. It seems Russia is uncomfortable with any suggestion of sanctions, further measures or ongoing reporting. On 1 January, five new elected members replaced the five rotating off the Council. Four of the newly elected Council members (Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco and Togo) voted for the 19 December General Assembly resolution condemning the violence in Syria and supporting the Arab League initiative, whereas Pakistan abstained. Of the remaining Council members, Colombia, France, Germany, Portugal, the UK and the US voted in favour while China, India, Russia and South Africa abstained. ---

About the author


"Voice of the Global Citizen"- Diplomatically Incorrect ( provide film and written reports on issues reflecting diplomatic discourse and the global citizen. Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey (@MuhamedSacirbey) is former Foreign Minister Ambassador of Bosnia & Herzegovina at the United Nations. "Mo" is also signatory of the Rome Conference/Treaty establishing the International…

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