News / Middle East

Arab League Seeks Relevance in Arab Spring

Anti-Syrian government protesters flash V-victory signs in the southern city of Daraa, March 23, 2011
Anti-Syrian government protesters flash V-victory signs in the southern city of Daraa, March 23, 2011

Syria has rejected criticism from the Arab League about the crackdown on unrest in the member nation, and other league members are said to be at odds whether to suspend Damascus from the grouping.

Syria's envoy to the Arab League says the criticism of his country was unbalanced and shows an ignorance of what he called the "foreign plots" behind the unrest.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa this week said the league was angry about the situation in Syria, but he would not confirm a report that some members were seeking to suspend Syria's membership.

"We are following the situation in Syria with a lot of concern and there are a lot of consultations, phone calls from many Arab officials on this issue, but we have not received any official request for an urgent meeting -  so far," Moussa said.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa (File)
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa (File)

Syria has reason to be wary of a suspension. In March, the league isolated Libya, then made the key recommendation for a U.N.-backed no-fly zone over the country. Though the Arab League quickly regretted the move, arguing NATO overstepped its mandate, the league remains an important regional voice in international decisions.

Yet only back in January, the 22-member group seemed to teeter on the brink of irrelevance. Headquartered just steps from Cairo's Tahrir Square - the focal point of Egypt's uprising, in spirit the league was far removed from the change demanded there. To the protesters in Egypt and across the region, the men inside the headquarter's marble halls represented exactly the stagnant, corrupt governments they rejected.

Egyptian columnist Fahmy Howeidi says a key to the disconnect can be seen in the group's official name - the League of Arab States, with no claim to represent the Arab people, especially those rising up in protest.

"They didn't talk about what happened in Bahrain. So you can imagine as long as the Arab League is representing the Arab governments and the Arab leaders, they will deal with all changes in the area in a very cautious way and indirect messages either positive or negative," said Howeidi.

That hesitancy has opened the door for potential rivals. The Gulf Cooperation Council has been active in league-member Yemen, mediating a still-unsigned transition deal between the opposition and the government.

Mounzer Sleiman is the director of the Washington-based Center for American and Arab Studies.

"There is a sign that maybe the GCC countries could expand their influence to be a kind of unofficial replacement of the Arab League and they will control the Arab official position," Sleiman said. "Of course, Saudi Arabia would like to play, utilizing its 'money influence' because they do not have political influence or military power to project in the region."

Syria offers a particular challenge for the Gulf-based GCC, and indeed for the Arab League. The country has a strong backer in Iran, rare among members of both alliances. Sleiman believes some figures in Saudi Arabia would like to see the current Syrian government not removed but weakened to a point it would seek help from the GCC, and in particular Riyadh.  
That's a scenario that could further undermine the Arab League. But Secretary General Moussa is upbeat about the group and the region's future.

"We are doing a lot.  We are in the midst of those events and we believe and I believe that the change will be the order of the day," Moussa said. "This region and the Arab world is undergoing a major movement towards the future and the item is change, modernization. There will be no U turns on this."

He may have a rosier perspective than others in the group. He is leaving his post soon, and plans to run for president of Egypt - along with Tunisia the only countries to have fulfilled the immediate promise of the Arab Spring.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid