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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs