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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora