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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ebola Lockdown May Be Extended

Lockdown, which started Friday, aims to allow health workers to locate hidden Ebola patients, educate others on how to avoid the deadly disease More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid