Last Updated: Tue Jan 31, 2012 06:35 am (KSA) 03:35 am (GMT)

How can we save Syria?

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed

In a previous article, I wrote about how the Arab League plan would soon turn into an airbag to protect the Syrian regime, at a time when the League alleges that it is smoothly strangling the regime.

The Arab League is aware that it deals with one of the shrewdest, fiercest and most ruthless regimes in the world. A regime that has swallowed Lebanon -- under the Arab League flag -- within the so-called Arab-deterrence forces, and controlled the country for three decades, while no local, Arab or international power was able to push it out.

That regime's actions in Palestine exceeded what the Israelis had done; it split the Palestinians and marginalized their authority. It conspired against the Mecca agreement and thus killed the only reconciliation initiative.

It is a regime that enabled the Iranians to have access to the Arab world and offered them what they failed to get through their money and militias.

It is a regime that exhausted the Americans in Iraq and caused the killing of 3,000 U.S. troops and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians as a result of its support to al-Qaeda and the jihadists who used to come from all over the Arab world to Damascus, where they got trained before heading to Iraq to die in suicide attacks. In the meantime, it is the regime that negotiated with the Americans and handed them some of Saddam aides, who were still alive.

It is a regime that hosted the Arab observers and cracked down on those who dared to reveal its lies. One observer said they sent prostitutes to their hotel and secretly photographed them in their own rooms and bathrooms, and posted the pictures in order to blackmail them. So why the Arab League still thinks that it is squeezing?

One might ask, first, is there a practical solution to get rid of the regime, and second who dares to do it? Sending Arab troops to Syria is a suicidal action and no Arab country would send a single soldier there. Furthermore, international interference is not as easy as it was in Libya; simply because there are regional and international powers that won't favor such interference, starting from Israel to Iran, Russia and others. Meanwhile, leaving the situation as it is and resuming the efforts of mediation and initiatives would allow more time for the Assad regime to escalate the crackdown against 20 million Syrians.

There remains only one solution; namely to support the Syrian people publicly so they could choose their own destiny. What is the problem if the Arab League announces that the destruction and killings committed by the Syrian regime forces it to suspend the regime's membership in the League -- as it did at the beginning of the crisis. That decision was taken and then postponed when the number of Syrian victims stood at 1,200. When the number of victims hit 6,000, mostly unarmed civilians, the League refrained from isolating the regime!

The Syrians are capable of ousting it, with the help of some moral support from the Arab League and the countries that show sympathy with them. This would force the groups supporting the Syrian regime -- whether Alawites, Christians or Sunnis -- to abandon it. But, alas, the actions taken by the Arab League grew suspicions over its real intentions, whether declared or hidden. This was clear in extending the mission of the Arab observers, as well as in the language used by the League that put the killer and the victim on the same line, according to the statements of the head of the observers’ mission.

A strong political stand from the Arab League giving up on Assad's regime would be a green light for others to isolate it. At then, all powers would recognize and deal with the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the country. But the Arab League is currently covering for the Syrian regime's atrocious crimes.

In the absence of international intervention we need to back up the people of Syria. People there cannot wait too long for either political plans or sending troops. And we shouldn't hope much for an early referral to the U.N. Security Council. If the Arab League kicks out the Syrian regime, that would cost the Syrian people less pain and bloodshed.

The writer is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 30. 2011, and was translated from Arabic by Abeer Tayel

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