The Arab League must bring down the Assad regime

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As usual the Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad has made a travesty of its promises. It was only a week ago before Eid-ul-Adha that the tyrannical regime had promised to abide by an Arab League proposal to halt all violence, release all detainees, withdraw all armed elements from populated areas and allow unfettered access to journalists and to Arab League monitors. But the violence in Syria has not stopped. More than 60 people have been killed by military and security forces, including at least 19 on Sunday that marked the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

According to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists, Assad’s security forces shot dead 25 people, including two children, across Syria on Wednesday. The network provided some details of Wednesday’s violence: in Homs, Haitham Al-Bawab, kidnapped from work Tuesday, was found with obvious torture marks; in Daraa-Jasim, pharmacist Basil Ibrahim Al-Qowaider was arrested for aiding the wounded; and near Idlib, Abdo Akram Shaqouqa, born in 1988, was killed by two bullets in the chest and neck. The day before, another 18 people were killed, the network said.

The United Nations estimates that more than 3,500 Syrians have been killed since the government crackdown on protesters started in mid-March. And yet, the Arab League and the UN are doing nothing to stop the Syrian monster.

Last Saturday the Arab League held meeting in its Cairo Headquarters. While dozens of protesters chanted and carried placards reading "Freedom for the Syrian people" demanding Bashar al-Assad’s removal, the Arab League voted to suspend Syria in four days and warned the regime could face sanctions if it does not end its bloody crackdown against anti-government protesters. Eighteen countries agreed to the suspension, which was scheduled to take effect on Wednesday in a significant escalation of international pressure on the Syrian government. Syria, Lebanon and Yemen voted against it, and Iraq abstained. The anti-Syria protesters were joined by demonstrators from Yemen, protesting violent government crackdowns in their country.

Explaining the Arab League decision, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim said that the 22-member league will monitor the situation and revisit the decision in a meeting on Wednesday in the Moroccan capital Rabat. "This decision reflects a lack of foreign intervention," he said. "The Arab League has been calling on Syria to stop the violence for four months and it hasn’t happened."

So, why give Assad’s pariah regime additional time to kill more people and prevent biting actions from being implemented? Bin Jassim suggested that Arab League members withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus but left that up to the individual countries. The fact is such political gestures or threats won’t put a dent in Syrian regime’s tyrannical character.

The reluctance of the Arab League to impose sanctions against one of its rogue member is simply inexcusable. It is foolish to assume that the Syrian regime would all on a sudden change its repressive ways and honor its promises.  Like Israel, the other pariah state in the region, the Syrian Ba’athist regime has learned the time-buying tactics rather too well to its advantage. It won’t bring about the desired fundamental change demanded by its people.

What is needed is biting sanctions against the regime, including war crime charges filed at the International Criminal Court against the members of the Assad’s government, followed immediately by military actions, if push comes to shove, that would allow regime change to take place, thus creating the environment for the formation of a representative government. With all those killings, Assad has lost all credibility to rule Syria any more. He must be brought down one way or another.

The reluctance of the Arab League to punish the Assad regime unearths the fact –” an ugly one — that in spite of the popular changes brought into Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in recent months, there are still too many of those anti-people regimes that make up the League’s roster. Punishing one of their fellow buddies for crimes against people is like throwing rocks in one’s own house of glasses!

But whether they like to punish Assad or not, the leaders of the Arab League ought to know that the old days of doing business with foreign patrons protecting them are now gone. If the puppet Mubarak could not be protected by his powerful masters –” the USA, Israel and the EU — what is the likelihood of survival of criminal regimes like those of Assad that is guilty of committing war crimes against its civilians? The Arab masses of the 2011 are different. They are not afraid to die for more noble causes.

As I noted many times before, the UN Security Council and the NATO are unreliable and hypocritical when it comes to the Muslim world and cannot be trusted with anything. They don’t have any moral compass to guide their actions and come to the aid of anyone unless they can profit from their involvement. In all fairness, Gaddafi was a saint compared to both Hafez Assad (now dead) and Bashar Assad, and yet, there seems to be a different litmus test for toppling the younger tyrant ruling Syria. The western reluctance can be explained by one word –” oil; Syria is not Libya with billions of barrels oil reserves; every other excuse is superficial. It is not surprising, therefore, that the NATO has ruled out the kind of military intervention that helped topple Gaddafi. The economic sanctions from the western countries have not been severe enough to collapse the Syrian economy. And as noted elsewhere, such sanctions will not lead to the collapse of an unpopular regime.

The Syrian people will need more than empty sound bytes and sanctions to topple their ruthless regime. They need moral and material support to bring about the desired change, much like what has happened with Libya.  

When the Arab League foreign ministers meet again on Wednesday, they should eject Syria and urge the United Nations Security Council to condemn Bashar Assad and impose international sanctions against the regime. They must come to the aid of ordinary Syrian people and the Syrian opposition the same way that they came to the aid of the Libyan people. Anything short of this would be viewed as treason by the Arab people — much like what their protesters chanted in last Saturday’s meeting "Arab leaders are garbage". If these leaders desire respect, they must earn it by not only coming to the aid of the Syrian people but must also do what is right for their own people. They must reflect on the fact that they would die one day and have to account for all their worldly deeds, including their failure to come to the aid of the oppressed people. Let them be guided by the Prophet Muhammad’s (S) teachings rather than short-term worldly benefits that push one to an eternal life of damnation.

On its part, the Syrian opposition needs to translate its campaign into a coherent vision of governance after Assad and what that will mean for their people –” the majority Sunnis and other minorities (including the Nusayris).

If the United States and Europe are serious about genuine freedom, they should help topple the Assad regime. At a minimum, they should push the UN Security Council to bring about war crime charges against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey, Syria’s neighbor to the north, has an important role, too. Mindful of Syria’s harmful potential influence to exploit the Kurdish problem, the Turkish government, thus far, has avoided confrontation with the Syrian regime. But it should know that it is in Turkey’s best interest and the interest of the region to ratchet up economic and political pressure so that change happens sooner, before violence spreads. 

A regime change in Syria is a much desired one not only for its people but the entire region. The world community has a moral duty to help the Syrian people in their struggle for human rights.

A regime that has no moral qualms about killing unarmed Muslim worshippers –” old and young – on the Day of Eid (when violence is considered absolutely haram or forbidden) has no credibility to rule over its Muslim population. It must be brought down. The Arab League cannot, therefore, shy away from its historical role, nor can others who care about life, liberty and dignity.

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