Arab League Suspension Intensifies Pressure on Syria

Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

The Arab League placed the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad under some of its harshest diplomatic pressure yet over the violent Syrian crackdown on protesters, with plans to suspend Syria’s activities in the League and calls for Arab nations to remove their ambassadors from Damascus. According to the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star, the Arab League foreign minister’s meeting also accepted the concept of sanctions, but did not go into detail.

The newspaper said the Arab League decision, which was accepted by 18 of the 22 Arab state members on Saturday, suspends the activities of Syria’s representatives effective November 16 until Syria implements the League’s plan for resolving the protester situation.

The League also wants to meet with the Syrian opposition this week to outline a “joint vision for the coming transitional period in Syria.” They have not yet decided whether or not to recognize the opposition.

The strong Arab League step against one of its members follows continued Syrian violence—even after the Assad government accepted the League plan for resolving the conflict on November 2.

According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 3,500 Syrians have died as a result of the Assad regime’s assault on the protests. According to comments released by the UN office on November 8 by Ravina Shamdasani, the acting spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, dozens were reportedly killed after the Syrians accepted the Arab League plan.

Shamdasani said the Syrians announced plans to release 553 detainees on a holiday. Despite that, Shamdasani said that “tens of thousands remain in detention and dozens continue to be arbitrarily arrested everyday.”

At the time, Shamdasani said that tanks and heavy weaponry were still being used on residential areas in the city of Homs, with the Syrian neighborhood of Baba Amr under siege.

Following the Arab League’s stern announcement against the Assad regime, the United States released a statement supporting the measures. “The United States commends the principled stand taken by the Arab League and supports full implementation of its efforts to bring a peaceful end to the crisis,” said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday.

In her comments, which were released by the US State Department, Clinton noted that the Assad regime has “lost all credibility” and called again for Assad to step down “so a peaceful transition can begin.”

In addition, she said that the US “reiterates its calls for an immediate end to the violence, for free unfettered access for human rights monitors and journalists to deter and document grave human rights abuses.”

Said Clinton, “As today’s Arab League decision demonstrates, the international pressure will continue to build until the brutal Assad regime heeds the calls of its own people and the world community.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, November 13, 2011)