News / Middle East

Arab League Finds Limits to Pressure on Syria

Syrian protesters throw eggs toward Abdul-Aziz al-Khair, a member of the Syrian National Coordination Committee, center, and other opposition leaders as they try to enter the Arab League headquarters in Cairo
Syrian protesters throw eggs toward Abdul-Aziz al-Khair, a member of the Syrian National Coordination Committee, center, and other opposition leaders as they try to enter the Arab League headquarters in Cairo
Elizabeth Arrott

The Arab League meets again Saturday to deal with Syria's broken pledge to end a crackdown on anti-government protesters.  But, there are limits to external pressure.

Pressure is building on the Arab League to move decisively against the Syrian government, which has yet to keep a promise it made to the league last week to stop attacking civilians. Activists say more than 110 people have been killed since Syria announced it had agreed to the plan.

Doubts about diplomatic efforts were on display outside league headquarters in Cairo.  Opposition members who want President Bashar al-Assad to step down reject the idea that dialogue still has a chance.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said Wednesday more Syrian soldiers are defecting to the opposition because they refuse to be complicit in international crimes.

In remarks to the U.N. Security Council, she said there is a "serious risk" of Syria descending into the type of armed struggle that happened in Libya's popular revolt earlier this year.

Earlier this week, the U.N. human rights office said at least 3,500 people have been killed in the Syrian government's crackdown on dissent since the uprising began in March.

Anti-Assad demonstrators threw eggs at opposition members willing to talk Wednesday, barring most from entering the building.  

But some outside league headquarters are willing to give the regional alliance one last chance.

"I call on the Arab League, if it cannot settle the matter this coming Saturday, to let go of the Syrian portfolio and refer it to the [U.N.] Security Council," said Syrian opposition coordinator Ghassan el Saleha.

It is not clear what more the league can do, but so far, it has been against international intervention.  

Adib Shishakli, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, spoke to VOA via Skype.

"I understand the Arab League concern," said Shishakli. "The way Syria is positioned, next to Iraq, next to Lebanon, next to Israel and Palestine.  You're talking about a TNT box.   I understand they are taking their time on the Syrian issue."

There is also a practical reason that, no matter how bad the violence gets, the league is reluctant to call for outside military force, as it did against another member, Libya.  

Security analyst Anthony Cordesman said "Syria is a real military power. It has fought Israel again and again. It has long range missiles. It has chemical weapons.  It has thousands of tanks that are active and can be used.  Its armored divisions can really fight.  And it has an air force, which if not anything like the capability of a NATO air force,  is nothing like the Libyan force, which had almost no real capability."

No matter what happens at the Arab League or the U.N., opposition member Shishakli says outside force may not be necessary.

"The regime is not as powerful as it was," he said. "Yes, it's continuing its brutality against the people, we're seeing people getting killed every day, but I'm telling you today we are much closer to freedom than any other day. "

Still, demonstrators remain outside Arab League headquarters to keep up pressure for international action.  But the Syrian government shows no sign of buckling, blaming much of the unrest on "terrorists."

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

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More