Arab League ‘failure’ in Syria
When I last wrote about the Arab League mission to Syria a few days ago, I ended by saying one should not bet on any real success here. Sadly it is proving the case. Certainly they managed to get to where some of the violence is happening and that is commendable. But the entire mission now seems in a disarray that was widely predicted by many.
The central figure in all this, of course, the mission’s leader. The Sudanese General Mustafa al-Dabi. He was an intelligence officer whose activities during the war in Darfur have seen him widely connected to alleged war crimes in that region and many question where his allegiance really lies now he finds himself heading a 60- strong Arab League observers’ mission in Syria.
Specifically, the general appears to have openly contradicted recent eye-witness accounts of government sniper activity in the country, made by his own team. Not least, one observer who you can see on Youtube saying rather precisely how he had witnessed government snipers firing on protesters.
General al-Dabi later said this observer was speaking hypothetically. Well, it certainly did not look very hypotheitical. More like specific eye-wtiness observation from an Arab League observer about governmnet sniping activity in Daraa from a particular building on a specific day at a specific time too.
All of this reflects poorly on the Arab League itself, desperate to show that it can at last be more than the talking-shop it is widely perceived as being. With seven protesters reported killed on Sunday and more than 150 reportedly dead since the mission arrived in Syria, things are not going well.
So poorly in fact that the Arab Parliament, an advisory body to the league, says the mission should leave, declare failure and thus open the way to more vigorous action, possibly via the UN Security Council. The parliament has no binding powers in terms of what it decides, it merely serves to advise the league in its daily business.
And daily, that business in Syria appears to be dragging the Arab League into ever greater disrepute. Apart from anything else a group only about 60-strong looks pretty puny given the wide geographical area over which unrest is spread after nine months now. And questions over the leadership of the general merely deepen such anxieties.
There hangs in the air the wider question – how come a senior military figure connected to the Sudanese leader, now wanted for alleged war crimes in Darfur, ended up heading an Arab League peace-monitoring operation in Syria? it seems on the face of it laughable – if the consequences were not so bloody and tragic.