News

Arab Summit Marks Milestones for Syria, Iraq, Arab League

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari (R) speaks during a joint Arab Summit conference with the Arab League's Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ahmad bin Hilly, in Baghdad, Iraq, March 28, 2012.
Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari (R) speaks during a joint Arab Summit conference with the Arab League's Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ahmad bin Hilly, in Baghdad, Iraq, March 28, 2012.
Al Pessin

Arab League leaders are meeting in Baghdad this week, with efforts to end the violence in Syria high on their agenda. The summit marks important milestones in the Syria crisis, Iraq’s emergence from seven years of war, and a remarkable evolution in the Arab League itself.

As Arab leaders were gathering, amateur video continued to come out of Syria showing fresh government shelling of opposition strongholds. Stopping the violence in Syria is a key agenda item for the summit.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to the U.N.-Arab League envoy's peace plan, which calls for an immediate ceasefire.

With the government crackdown on the Syrian opposition continuing, however, Western officials and experts suspect a delaying tactic rather than a sincere change of policy. And they don’t expect the Arab League meeting to make much difference. Syria will not attend the summit since it has been expelled from the League, and says it will reject any new initiatives the meeting produces.

Possible fallout of leadership change

Speaking via Skype, Anthony Skinner, director of Middle East analysis at the Maplecroft risk assessment firm, said the change of League chairmanship from Qatar to Iraq could possibly be a setback for efforts to force Assad to back down.

“Qatar was previously chairing the Arab League. It was in a position of authority. But now, of course, this leadership role has transferred to Iraq. And from the perspective of Bashar al-Assad this is arguably a good thing. Al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, has taken a much softer approach,” said Skinner.

Still, the Arab League's effort to play a major role in the Syria conflict reflects its new position in the wake of the Arab revolutions, and the arrival of its new secretary general Nabil al-Araby.  

New energy pervades Arab League

At London’s Center for Arab and Iranian Studies, director Alireza Nourizadeh said the League has been revitalized by the past year’s events.

“Some of these Arab governments, by themselves, they don’t enjoy such respect and support in the international community. But the Arab League is not just talking for the governments. They are representing 'the people,' as they call it now. And it will be dealt with more seriously," said Nourizadeh.

Iraqi leaders also are hoping the world will see their country differently after this summit, especially Sunni leaders in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere - some of whom are boycotting the summit because of suspicions about largely Shiite Iraq’s ties to Iran.

“They look at this summit as a way of coming back to the Arab World. So it is an important factor in the future of Iraq,” said Nourizadeh.

The Arab League summit has many dimensions - including Iraq’s re-emergence as a regional player, the League's new activism and its efforts to end the violence in Syria. But analysts say significant movement on any of those fronts will be difficult to achieve.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
Middle East Voices
. Follow our Middle East reports on
Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Greg
March 28, 2012 9:38 PM
Been hearing a lot about a possible Dinar revalue..... any facts on this subject would be welcome.

by: Kathleen
March 28, 2012 3:51 PM
Iraq is expected to have a Currency that is worth more than a piece of dust.
They are using American Dollars for their day to day expences, lets hope that they revalue their money and start acting like they are a super country.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs