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November 13, 2011

Among Syrians at Walls (2)

OBSERVER

I will try to imagine myself a small fly on the wall in the presidential palace.
Here is my analysis first
First, the discussion is centered on the fact that Syria accepted the Arab initiative with a short time strategy. It accepted the initiative to gain time and throw the opposition in disarray. Then it actually flipped the finger at the AL by continuing the violence and the repression and orchestrating mass demonstrations. It thought that this will give it all the time it needs. It did not count on the new facts on the ground:
1. The AL and every member state is facing a new reality called an active people educated and asking for participatory rule. Even KSA has used its massive wealth to buy yes buy loyalty from its citizens as it knows it no longer can use force. The people are fed up with one man rule with nepotism and corruption and graft and torture and yes slavery. This is the mentality of the regime in Syria and Libya. Either I rule you or I kill you. This is the mentality of the regime that is based I would say like the Zionist one on an exclusive place for the sect and the family in the world order.
2. The Qatari actually anticipated this very reaction and gave the regime a rope to hang itself with. The regime drunk with power was even more stoned after the UNSC vetoes and thought itself immune. Once the facts of non compliance become known and the inability of the regime to genuinely respond become obvious the AL under the GCC moved for the kill. The decision stems from the desire to deny legitimacy to the regime or at least its current method of control. It also stems from the fact that the Arab world is watching to see if any of these rulers are going to hijack the revolutions and keep the regimes in place.
3. The hysteria of the regime and its supporters is because the AL has effectively withdrawn legitimacy by suspending Syria’s representation; by offering a dialogue with the SNC; and by actually forcing the Coordinating committees in Cairo to commit to regime change. The local Coordinating Committees had requested regime change while leaving room for the current leadership to stay in place but the media exposure forced them to declare that the Security State in Syria is not acceptable and that they are not in dialogue with the regime itself.
4. Calling on the armed forces to resist orders is the most important item in this regard as it clearly says that these orders and therefore the people issuing the orders are not legitimate or legal.
5. Now that the AL has forced the issue, Russia is in a corner as it has always maintained that it is fostering a peaceful resolution and promoting dialogue without ever recognizing the legitimacy of the opposition. Now it will be forced to recognize the opposition as a valid and legitimate partner in this invitation to dialogue. In essence the stupidity of the regime has forced the hand of its supporters into recognizing the opposition. If the opposition cannot get its act together now then Syria is doomed.
6. There is clearly talk in Syria of arming the “people” and as Hajj Ali said this am on Aljazeera we will all wear army uniforms now; this talk is meant for the regime base and only the regime base. It is a desperate attempt to rally the troops as they are now fearful of defections within their own ranks.
7. Power delusion we witnessed with the Ghadafi clique as his sons just like Rami warned of dire consequences to the stability of Israel and the West, and we heard the Tooz on the AL from both Saif and the Syrian ambassador. This is emotional outburst that belies a complete misunderstanding of the change sweeping the region and of the balance of power in the region. Money talks and BS walks and B is going to walk. How soon and on which plank is the question now.

Now here is the imagination scene
B: What do I do now? 18 of the Arabths are after me and they are calling on the army not to follow my orderths. Pleathe Athma quiet the kidths I need to think. I have not done that in a while now.
A: crying silently and hugging the kids who are also crying because they cannot play while daddy is thinking.
M: In a rage destroying the furniture and ordering the killing of about 1000 detainees in Tadmur. Even his mother is avoiding him today.
R: Pulling his calculator and re calculating the prices and the creating an excel sheet of where the deposits are.

Now the serious work will be the privy of the old guard of the regime: these are absolutely ruthless thugs that may be plotting acts of revenge in various Arab countries and Turkey. The problem is that the AL is moving way too fast for their taste in this regard. When the AL head says that they are working on ways to protect the Syrian population, this means that the plan is moving forward and it has been thought through for some time. This the reason for the silence of the Turks as they coordinated with the AL and Qatar to see whether the regime is capable of reforms and whether the opposition can get its act together. Now we will see others helping the opposition form a legitimate alternative to the regime. Now they and others will have an Arab cover for intervention.

By the way there is a Dom Perignon bottle that we have kept since 1964 waiting to be uncorked I hope that we can celebrate soon.

ABOUD

I was talking with an American relative who lives on the West coast. She was crying and said she felt so much pain for us. I honestly don’t understand what she means.

I am so unbelievably blessed.

Yes, there are tanks in the streets, army checkpoints most places, shooting and tragedy. But I’m so much luckier than people far away, non Syrians who don’t have the same worries about their own homelands. Those people will finish studies, marry, have kids, live to a ripe old age….and never have done anything nearly as noble as win freedom for their country.

How so much fortunate we all are than our parents, who never got the chance to take on a despot. Without evil, there can be no good. Without darkness, no light. Without depraved villains, no heroes. We, all of us, have been blessed to be present at the exact place and time when our country is living through its most decisive days. What happens in Syria has already changed the Middle East, and will continue to do so for years to come.

Feel sorry for us? I wouldn’t miss this for anything in the world. Days like these come once every two generations. The last time the Middle East was disrupted in such a fashion was 1967. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m not waiting 44 years for another chance to be part of incredible events.

Feel sorry for us? I pity people who will never have the chance to do anything remotely as extraordinary as what I’ve seen the people of Homs and Syria do, every single day for eight months.

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Among Syrians at Walls

Walls is the place where to be at; click here

Excellent articles and fantastic comments. I selected two about the above post but I could have taken all. Go and see for yourselves

I am astonished, in two ways: First, that the Regime in Damascus has so badly played its relations with the countries of the Arab League. Instead of using their collective brain-power to devise fresh strategies, they seem to have visited The Tomb in Qurdaha to receive instructions from the Plan, The Man, The Nation.

So sad and unpleasant to suspect that the Regime is in essence stuck with playbook written by the dead Lion. However much they leaf back and forth in the playbook, looking for the pages that tell them what to do … however much they search the Talking Trumpet points for new-sounding lines … however much they consult the Mafia donnas and dons who rule the Family Compact … however they search, there is no new Plan, just the old Plan. Crush, exterminate, lie, dominate, repress, jail, torture, disappear, harass, hunt, disparage, traitorize, condemn, corral and dispose into Tadmor’s welcoming embrace.

I am also astonished by the frenzied, near-hysterical reaction of the hardcore expat Regimist Kazoos. Their speech acts have today shifted from intensely, cultishly self-deluded into frankly insane and beyond (over at The Other Place, the menhebakji are topping each other with witless hysteria and impotent threats.

I am not as astonished by the Arab League vote itself.

It is as if the senior deluded maniacs at the Syrian Palace have no defense against reality but the shopworn dialects of SANA and State TV. The separation of their cognitive apparatus from dire reality is now a yawning gulf (I watched a solid hour of State TV earlier today — the entirety of the report was a non-stop yammer, Tell Us What We Must Hear ‘ordinary citizens’ recruited to repeat the demented script. Paranoid, deluded, hysterical, uninformed, frightened).

To those here who have approached Syrian issues with gravity, realism, heart and soul, and the utmost collegial intelligence, to our host OTW and to all the listed names above, my tankard is raised in salute.

It is my firm conviction that — finally — Syria is experiencing The Week That Was … although I have only one broken spiritual bone in my body, I utter an invocation: please bring peace and wisdom and freedom to Syria, before Assad runs it headlong into the ditch …

ABOUD

Did you see the regime rep’s press conference? They pretty much told the AL to go to hell. Do not underestimate the role personnel feelings play in the making of policy among the Arabs. Qaddafi had alienated everyone from here to Timbuktu, and no one lifted a finger to save him from himself.

Besho has now cornered himself into earning the same pariah status. There is only so much talk of “you are a tool of ze American-Zionist conspiracy against ze great prezident.” an Arab head of state will put up with, before retaliating.

While the GCC was the driving force, what clinched the deal was Egypt. As does Egypt, as goes the rest of the Arab world. The Egyptian people have noisily and overwhelmingly come out for their Syrian brethren. The Egyptian military council has enough on its plate without risking a backlash from an angry populace for the sake of Besho the Baffled.

In the end, the Arab League bowed to the inevitable. They would have had to take these steps sooner or later. In the age of Youtube and satellite channels, one can no longer ignore bloody atrocities, especially as they happen in a language everyone in the region understands.

Also, remember the very last sentence the Qatari FM said at the press conference. Syria is an important country, a vital one considering its position. The Qataris admit Syria is an important part of the “resistance”. They just don’t think junior is the man to lead it. A civil war in Syria would be disastrous for the region, and the regime’s atrocious behavior, and the astonishing, astounding, unprecedented resilience and tenacity of the Syrian people, was making that nightmare scenario a reality.

Now, two things will happen;

1) The opposition needs to grow up. The AL and the world are pleading with a credible opposition to take Besho’s place. The initiative and momentum is now with the SNC. It has been earned and bought with the lives and blood of a Syrian people *who refused to give up*. Now the SNC must make the most of it.

2) Pressure on Russia and China to reverse their positions. Arabiya’s correspondent in Moscow said that there are deep divisions within the Kremlin on Russia’s policy with regards to the regime. There is no doubt whatsoever that neither Russia nor China are prepared to alienate the Arab world for the sake of Besho. Can you imagine the hysteria of the menhebaks once a security council resolution goes against them?

We can all eliminate and dismiss even the remotest possibility that the regime will come up with a diplomatic coup to extract itself from this mess. They are incapable of speaking or dealing with anyone with anything other than thuggery. Trashing Arab and the Turkish embassy? Seriously Besho? How you manage to put on your trousers in the morning is one of the great mysteries of this revolution.

Read all of the comments at the in place here

Syrian refugees tell of rape, murder and destruction

Watch Kholood and Qotayba tell their stories about the Syria refugee crisis

Newsnight’s Shaimaa Khalil hears testimony in Lebanon from Syrians who have fled their country after protests which have reportedly left 1,100 people dead, hundreds more injured and thousands under arrest.

KHOLOOD – A PROTESTING MOTHER

“You have to cover my face and change my voice otherwise they’ll know it’s me,” Kholood says.

“They have been watching us and they have my name on the wanted list for protesting.”

Kholood (not her real name) is a mother of four who, like thousands of other Syrian refugees, fled the border town of Talkalakh into the Wadi Khaled region in northern Lebanon after the Syrian army and security forces began their crack down on protesters.

Arida, the Lebanese village where Kholood and her family are now staying is only a stone’s throw away from the Syrian border.

You can see Syrian flags fluttering in the breeze and Syrian army personnel patrolling across the border – too close for the refugees’ comfort.

“When we saw what happened in Deraa, Banyas and Talbiseh, and how the people came out like they did we thought, ‘why not us? We should come out too!’ and we did and called for the fall of the regime.”

But the situation turned deadly when the Syrian security forces arrived in Talkalakh last month with tanks and armoured vehicles to crack down on protesters.

“There was non-stop shooting. When I looked out of the window I saw destruction all around. Glass everywhere. They had bulldozed some houses to the ground.”

Kholood continues: “That night we decided to flee. I crossed the bridge with my husband and youngest son.”

“We were all so scared. Some of the people that fled with us were shot on the way. Some were badly wounded and some died before reaching Wadi Khalid.”

Kholood was also fearful of being raped:

“I left Talkalakh to protect my honour. When we talk to our relatives in Banyas, Homs and Talbiseh they tell us horrifying stories. They told us that so many women were raped. These men don’t fear God.”

When I ask her about her three sons, aged 16 to 21 who chose to stay behind in Syria, Kholood bursts into tears.

“I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t want them here with me. I want to tell them to come here, but instead I tell them they should stay and be strong and fight.”

“They are my children. I love them, but we have to sacrifice if we want victory. This is much stronger than a mother’s love,” she cries.

When I ask if she hopes to one day return to Syria, Kholood looks at me defiantly.

“When the regime falls,” she says. “And it will fall, inshallah.”

QOTAYBA – A SOLDIER WHO SWITCHED SIDES

“They gave us orders to fire heavily at unarmed civilians,” Qotayba al Akkari tells me.

“There was random shooting at people, no distinction between women, children, armed or unarmed men. Many, many were killed, many unarmed civilians.”

A Syrian army soldier, he fled to Lebanon and is now sitting among a group of Syrian activists.

“Our commanding officer would say: ‘There’s so much ammunition, no one is going to ask you where it went. Fire!'”

“I would fire in the air or at empty buildings because I knew that if they found out I wasn’t firing they’d detain me or kill me.”

“At first, I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown I was so surprised at all that was happening around me but after a while I got used to it and all the dead bodies.”

“Soldiers have no idea what goes on in Syria. They don’t allow us to watch any news channels except Syrian TV. They would accuse us of treachery if they caught us watching Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya or BBC.”

“There was also no contact between soldiers and their families, the mobile phone coverage was so bad. But even when the soldiers did manage to speak to their families, the families wouldn’t dare say that anything was wrong. The soldiers would ask ‘is everything ok?’ and the families would say ‘Yes, all fine.'”

Qotayba says that he now feels free, but that one day he will return to Syria, to fight with other soldiers who have defected.

“I’m not afraid anymore,” he tells me.

IBN TALKALAKH – A SHOP OWNER TURNED ACTIVIST

“Call me, Ibn Talkalakh,” the young textile shop owner tells me.

The name means ‘The son of Talkalakh’.

Ibn Talkalakh is also a Syrian activist who has recently come out of prison.

“When the people of Deraa moved I thought ‘that’s it!’ we have to do something.”

“It was very difficult in the beginning. People were scared. The tanks came and they started shooting everywhere and destroying homes. They were arresting people who went out to demonstrate and they came for me.”

“It was my brother and I in the house and from the moment they (the security forces) came in they did not stop beating us. They beat us with electric batons and tied our hands behind our backs and made us kneel in front of them, insulting us the whole time.”

“They blindfolded me and took to prison. They put me in a small cell. We were about 50 people in that cell, it was so crowded.”

Ibn Talkalkh was in prison for 20 days and says he was regularly beaten and tortured.

“Once they beat me so hard on the back of my head blood filled my eyes, I couldn’t see anything. When they interrogated me they would tie my wrists and leave me hanging for hours.”

He shows me the marks on his wrists.

“They put me in a room where I could hear others being tortured. I’d hear their screams, their pleas and it would fill me with fear.”

“I’ll never forget, during one interrogation, I was hanging with hands tied up and the interrogator came up to me and said: ‘Listen boy, it is Bashar al-Assad or no-one. We’ll never hand Syria over to you.'”

Yet despite the horrific time that Ibn Talkalakh had while in prison he tells me that he also found it inspiring.

“I met so many people with a much stronger will than mine. I met people from all walks of life – doctors, farmers, lawyers – many people who are willing to go out and take to the streets and keep asking for our rights even if it meant going to prison again.”

“It filled me with hope that justice will come and that this regime will fall. It made me more determined to come out and keep fighting.”

These interviews were conducted in Wadi Khaled on the Lebanon-Syria border on 16-17th June 2011. The BBC cannot verify the authenticity of these testimonies.

The “Half-men” respond to the Boy-king

Nov 12

Posted by OFF THE WALL

In 2006, and during the Israeli war on Lebanon, Bashar Al-Assad, claiming leadership of the Arab resistance camp, and using the popularity of Hizbullah’s struggle against Israel to burnish his own image, called Arab leaders “half-men”. Whether that was on the minds of the 18 foreign ministers who voted yes for the suspension of the participation of the Syrian delegation in all of the league’s activities and meetings remain to be found by those who write books of political intrigue and personalities. For now, it is clear that the Syrian regime thought that its policy makers are smarter than the “Bedouins” and has underestimated their resolve and intelligence.

The Chair of the meeting today, Qatar’s foreign minister outlined the decision in 7 points. Here they are in Arabic, then in English:

نص البيان

أولا :نظرا لعدم التزام سوريا بالتنفيذ الكامل والفوري للمبادرة العربية قررنا تعليق مشاركة الوفود السورية في انشطة الجامعة العربية لحين تنفيذ دمشق المبادرة العربية.

ثانيا: توفير الحماية للمدنيين السوريين بالاتصال الفوري
بالمنظمات المعنية بما فيها الأمم المتحدة ، في حين عدم توقف اعمال العنف والقتل.

ثالثا: دعوة الجيش العربي السوري للامتناع عن التورط في اعمال القتل والعنف ضد المدنيين.

رابعا: توقيع عقوبات اجتماعية واقتصادية على الحكومة السورية
في حال عدم الالتزام.

خامسا: دعوة دول الجامعة العربية لسحب سفرائها من دمشق ، مع الاخذ في الاعتبار ان هذا القرار سيادي.

سادسا: دعوة جميع اطراف المعارضة للاجتماع في مقر الجامعة خلال 3 أيام للاتفاق على رؤية موحدة لمرحلة انتقالية في سوريا ، ويقرر ما يراه مناسب للاعتراف بالمعارضة السورية.

سابعا: بقاء المجلس الوزاري العربي في حالة انعقاد دائم لحين متابعة الموقف.

Text of the Statement from the Arab League Ministerial Committee

  • First: Due to lack of commitment from Syria to the full and immediate implementation of the initiative, we have decided to suspend the participation of Syrian Arab delegations in the activities of the Arab League until  Damascus implements the Arab initiative
  • Second: Provide protection to Syrian civilians through the prompt contact with relevant organization including the United Nations as long as there is no halt to violence and murder
  • Third: Call on the Syrian Arab Army to abstain from being involved in the killing and violence against civilians
  • Fourth: Initiate social and economic punitive measures against the Syrian government in case of lack of commitment
  • Fifth: Calls on all Member States of the Arab League to withdraw their Ambassadors from Damascus, while remaining cognizant that this is a sovereign decision.
  • Sixth: Call on all sides of the opposition to meet in the League’s headquarters within three days to agree on a unified vision for a transition phase in Syria and for the council to decide on what it sees as appropriate in the matter of recognition of the Syrian opposition .
  • Seventh: Maintain the Ministerial Council in permanent session to follow up on the situation.

Some of my own thinking about the 7 items:

First: Due to lack of compliance from Syria to the full and immediate implementation of the initiative, we have decided to suspend the participation of Arab delegations in the activities of the Arab League until the Damascus implements the Arab initiative

While this is not a suspension of Syria’s membership in the League, it is still significant step. In addition, the Arab league here puts the blame squarely in the regime’s court. It is Assad’s regime who failed, willingly to comply with the league’s initiative, even after it was modified to address the regime’s request. The league also indicates that its members consider the statement delivered earlier by the Assad’s ambassador to the league as disingenuous attempt at gaining more time and they said no.

Second: Provide protection to Syrian civilians through the prompt contact with relevant organization including the United Nations as long as there is no halt to violence and murder

This is a very important item. It is the mechanism through which the architects of the AL initiative hope to regain momentum in the UN for the Syrian issue after the Russian and Chinese block. They now have mandate from the AL to bring Syria’s non-compliance with an initiative it signed on to UN Security Council.  The Russian and Chinese Ambassadors to the UNSC will now be in a bind, especially after their own governments have called on Syria to start implementing real reform and to put an end to the bloodshed nearly two months ago after the first attempt at UNSC. What will be the outcome at the UNSC is still undetermined and it will depend a lot on the outcome of other steps in this recent decision by the Arab League.

Third: Call on the Syrian Arab Army to reject being involved in the killing and violence against civilians

I did not expect this one. It came as a surprise and an incredible moral boost. It is a direct call by the Arab league to the Syrian Army to revolt against the thugs who are forcing its members to become involved in the killing of their own country people. It is also a warning that soldiers and officers engaged in such murders will be liable in the future.  This is a call for disobedience that will resonate and should be used to the hilt by the opposition.  However, I would caution against this call being considered a recognition by the AL of the FSA as a legitimate liberation force. Such will depend again on what the opposition does in the next 72 hours (by now 66 hours).

Fourth: Initiate social and economic punitive measures against the Syrian government in case of lack of commitment

No more invitation for Syrian Ambassadors to receptions held in Arab embassies worldwide. No more direct communication with Assad and his inner circle, and a halt to any investment or development project with increasingly tight economic sanctions. It is likely that an increased scrutiny of bank accounts will ensue and things will get uglier for the regime’s big fishes.

Fifth: Calls on all Member States of the Arab League to withdraw their Ambassadors from Damascus, while remaining cognizant that this is a sovereign decision.

Again, this is a clear call for complete isolation. It is unlikely to be followed by all countries and it may take time to implement, but it also gives impetuous for other countries who are not members of the AL to withdraw their ambassadors in recognition of the legitimacy of the AL. Given the hysteria on Syrian media, I expect that several embassies will soon be closed to protect the staff. Continuing insult of members of the league will accelerate the process. You can count on the Syrian regime, its trumpets, and media, to do the job.

Sixth: Call on all sides of the opposition to meet in the League’s headquarters within three days to agree on a unified vision for a transition phase in Syria and for the council to decide on what it sees as appropriate in the matter of recognition of the Syrian opposition 

This is one huge nail in the regime’s coffin. It is also the most serious challenge to the opposition. Some elements in the internal opposition will now face a new reality. If they want to claim legitimacy as part of the opposition, they will have to work within the framework now adopted by the league including the possibility of UNSC decision, and the clear admonition of Assad’s army. No longer can some play both sides since the AL has defined the parameters. The dialog is now defined as being a dialog within the opposition to identify a unified vision for the inevitable transition phase, which does not include the regime in the discussion. The league’s ministers probably intentionally put in a very short time to force the opposition into the table without allowing for maneuvering and to force them to identify commonality rather than bicker and get into backstabbing deals. This will filter the opposition and force fake opposition into the open where they have to declare their loyalty to the maintenance of this dead man walking regime. Recognition of the opposition by the AL opens doors to recognition by many more countries in waiting.

Seventh: Maintain the Ministerial Council in permanent session to follow up on the situation.

They’ll be watching

For now, we’ll be watching this. Thanks to CSI-HAMA once more.

[youtube http://youtu.be/0S9ATYn28_Y?]

[youtube http://youtu.be/OI7-CcUguUY?]

This Time We Mean It: The Arab League Gets Tough on Syria

By RANIA ABOUZEID / BEIRUT Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2099360,00.html

Syria appears to have lost its political cover from the Arab world. Damascus, the self-declared beating heart of pan-Arab nationalism, was suspended from the 22-member Arab League on Saturday. It was an unusually bold move by a body not known for achieving consensus or results, especially on the divisive issue of Syria’s handling of its ferocious eight-month-old crackdown on pro-democracy supporters.

In a stronger than expected move, 19 states approved the suspension, which will take effect on Nov. 16, when the League will meet again in Morocco to discuss Syria’s compliance (or lack of) on its latest demands. Iraq abstained, a move some observers interpreted as a measure of Iran’s influence over Baghdad. Iran remains Syria’s staunchest ally in the region, but Saturday’s vote clearly shows that both Tehran and Damascus have become pariahs in their neighborhood. Yemen, battling its own pro-democracy movement, objected to the suspension, as did Syria’s smaller, weaker neighbor Lebanon, which shook off Damascus’ 29-year occupation back in 2005, but now appears to be firmly back in Syria’s grip.
(See pictures of Syria’s ongoing bloody protests.)

The League also decided to impose political and economic sanctions against Damascus, and urged its member states to withdraw their ambassadors from the Syrian capital in protest. “Syria is a dear country for all of us and it pains us to make this decision,” Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told a news conference at the League headquarters in Cairo. “We hope there will be a brave move from Syria to stop the violence and begin a real dialogue toward real reform.”

With its surprising decisiveness, the league managed to repair a measure of its credibility, badly damaged after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had made a mockery out of a supposed agreement with the League announced just 10 days ago. Under the terms of that deal, Assad was supposed to withdraw his security forces from Syria’s besieged cities, stop violence, free all political detainees, hold a national dialogue with the Syrian opposition within two weeks, and to allow media, the Arab League and international monitors access to the closed country. He didn’t do any of that. Instead, more than 100 people were killed in the tormented central city of Homs alone since the “deal” was announced on Nov. 2, according to a Human Rights Watch report issued this week. HRW has accused the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity in Homs. Syria will be excluded from the pan-Arab body until it implements the terms of this earlier agreement.

“We were criticized for taking a long time but this was out of our concern for Syria,” Qatari Foreign Minister Thani said of the perceived foot-dragging on censuring Syria. “We needed to have a majority to approve those decisions.” The concern, of course, is that instability in Syria, particularly of a sectarian nature, could surge across its borders and ignite similar sectarian conflict in the patchwork societies of Iraq and Lebanon as well as foment trouble in Jordan and Israel, perhaps through Syria’s militant allies, the Lebanese group Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas organization.

Still, despite these fears, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Araby suggested that the body had run out of patience with Assad. “The Arab League started asking Syria four months ago to stop this killing, but without a response,” he said, later adding that “Assad can stop the killing in four days, we’ve been asking him to do so for four months.”

Predictably, Syria’s representative to the Arab League, Youssef al-Ahmad, slammed the body’s “illegal” decision, describing it as a violation of its charter and an indication that it served a Western and U.S agenda, the state-run Syrian news agency reported. In an undiplomatic moment, he also allegedly called Araby and Thani “pigs and traitors,” according to Arabic satellite channels.

Name-calling and finger pointing aside, the question is what happens next? The Qatari foreign minister urged Syria’s fragmented opposition to meet in Cairo over the next three days “to discuss how they can have one opinion.” The Syrian National Council (SNC) was recently formed as an umbrella organization, but it has been marred by infighting and breakaways. Although the SNC has yet to be recognized by most states (apart from Libya’s new leaders), the Arab League went further than it has gone before in anointing the Syrian opposition council as the legitimate representatives of the opposition.

“This is if everything goes okay,” Thani added. “If the killing stops. But if the killing doesn’t stop, we have to come back and see where we are going.” That may include seeking assistance from the United Nations to help rein in Assad, a move that could echo international military action against Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gadhafi. But once again, the League shied away from the specifics, although Thani stressed that arming the Syrian opposition was not on the table — for now. “Nobody in the League is talking about arming [the opposition], or creating a no-fly zone. Not one member mentioned these. The mechanisms will be considered on the 16th.” Will the international community — specifically Russia and China, which have prevented a U.N resolution against Syria — now take cues from the Arab League and move more firmly against Assad? That remains to be seen. But one thing is definitely clear: the Arab deadlines are becoming shorter. Syria’s Baathist regime — which has been in power for five decades — now has four days to act.

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