Saturday, November 12, 2011

Syria Suspended

Back when I taught an interdisciplinary survey of Middle East Studies, I told my students that one constant of Middle East politics was that nothing ever happened at Arab League meetings. Today, however, they did something:
"The Arab League voted Saturday to suspend Syria in four days and warned the regime could face sanctions if it does not end its bloody crackdown against anti-government protesters. The decision was a symbolic blow to a nation that prides itself on being a powerhouse of Arab nationalism.

"Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim said 18 countries agreed to the suspension, which will take effect on Wednesday. Syria, Lebanon and Yemen voted against it, and Iraq abstained. The Arab League also will consider introducing political and economic sanctions against Syria, he said...

"The decision comes as November shapes up to be the bloodiest month yet in Syria's 8-month-old uprising, with more than 250 Syrian civilians killed so far, most as part of a siege of the rebellious city of Homs, according to activist groups.

"Bin Jassim suggested that Arab League members withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus but left that up to the individual countries.

"The 22-member league will monitor the situation and revisit the decision in a meeting Wednesday in the Moroccan capital Rabat, bin Jassim said, a move that appeared to give Syrian President Bashar Assad time to prevent the action from being implemented."

Notice, of course, from that last paragraph, that that they can take it back. Meanwhile, Marc Lynch notes how regimes killing their people is suddenly bad:
"The rapid spread of a new norm against Arab regimes killing their own people is a frankly astonishing, but largely unremarked, change in the regional game. Since the Arab League backed the UN intervention in Libya in March, the idea that regimes might be sanctioned for their domestic brutality has become a normal part of the Arab political debate and enshrined in official Arab League resolutions...

"Let's recall how odd it is that Arab leaders would agree with even an empty principle that regimes which kill their own people should forfeit their legitimacy. Almost every regime in the Arab world has been doing exactly that for decades. Jordan's King Hussein kept his throne in 1970 when his troops massacred Palestinians in the infamous Black September. Syria's President Hafez al-Assad didn't forfeit his Arab legitimacy when his forces leveled Hama in 1982. Iraq's President Saddam Hussein suffered no great normative sanctions for his genocidal campaign against Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s."

He suggests this development may partially be from an unintended, now snowballing precedent set by their decision to use Qadhafi's repression to move against him.



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