Arab League Suspends Syria as Israeli Warns of “Islamic Empire”

The Arab League suspended Syria on Wednesday at its meeting in Rabat, Morocco, and gave the Baath government three days to cease shooting protesters or else threatened economic sanctions would kick in.

Aljazeera English has a video report, which came out before AL officials confirmed that the suspension was in effect.

Meanwhile, violence continues to escalate in Syria, with army defectors attacking several military and intelligence bases around Damascus on Wednesday. The Free Syrian Army, based just over the border in Lebanon, claimed the attacks.

Monday was one of the Syrian uprising’s bloodiest days, with some 90 people killed across the country. Dozens of the dead were Syrian troops or security men targeted by the Free Syrian Army, including 34 government troops allegedly killed in an ambush near the southern town of Deraa.

Syria has become increasingly isolated, with King Abdullah II of Jordan calling for him to step down, and Turkey denouncing the continuing bloodshed and announcing the end of joint petroleum exploration with Damascus.

Aljazeera English reports:

In contrast, some officials in Israel’s security apparatus are more afraid of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood coming to power than of Bashar al-Assad remaining in office. Amos Gilad, who heads up the diplomatic-security office within Israel’s Ministry of Defense, said that he was worried about an “Islamic Empire” confronting Israel if the Muslim Brotherhood took over both Egypt and Syria. It has long been reported in the Arabic press that the Israeli security and defense establishment favors retaining Bashar al-Assad and his secular Baath Party rather than see Muslim fundamentalists come to power in Damascus.

In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood is not monolithic, with each national organization autonomous. The MB in Egypt has said that it would not abolish the Camp David Peace Treaty with Israel, though it might seek changes in the text.

External boycotts and sanctions are unlikely to bring down the Baathist government, especially if Israel were to decide to give Bashar covert aid.

But the development of the Free Syrian Army and its attacks on bases and ambush of government troops suggest the beginnings of a serious armed insurgency. Unfortunately it may also announce the beginnings of a genuine civil war.

Posted in Syria | 17 Responses | Print |

17 Responses

  1. it’s no surprise to me that Israel preferrs Assad over the MB and I think the only satisfactory replacement for him in their eyes would be a Republican or Democratic party (in the US sense of the words). Assad had Israel to complain about, but what exactly did he do towards repaitriating the Golan? Just talk.

  2. Prof. Cole, The drums of war against Iran were being beaten unrelentingly this a.m.,on MSNBC with a guest Iranian whose name I think I have seen in your articles, named Mar???jani. The four or so program regulars and a guest, Richard Haas (?) flung every imaginable insult at the elderly, bearded, possibly devout Muslim person and actually sneered at him when he denied some accusation that clearly applied more to what Washington has been doing around the globe than Iran’s activity. Finally when they had mopped the floor with him one of them asked him why “Iran is so paranoid about the USA” and they all chimed in to press him for an answer, he just barely managed to ask the same question of them regarding the US. It was unnerving to watch. cheers, rmdw

    • Think that was Larijani. I saw him on Peirs Morgan and their exchange was along the same lines. The guy spoke good, nuanced English, which even if accented was very much to his advantage—others in the region, in addtion to Israel, should take note.

      OBJECTIVELY, he gracefully and effortlessly parried all the usual manufactured talking points being channeled thru Peirs, but the BIG POINT WAS:::

      It made no difference, and his points were neither recognized or responded to.

      Larijani would answer, then counter with a few simple questions in a unambiguous and conciliatory tone that PM, or his his handlers, simply could not accept: what should Iran do when surrounded by US forces and public language? What about sanctions, and supporting barely concealed covert actions, is not belligerent? When Israel has already introduced nuclear weapons into the region with no regard to world opinion, how could Iran be the one to let the geni out of the bottle? And so on.

      To be fair, he was a slick with his responses and the distinction between nuclear weapons possession and peaceful latency is a thin one. But again, to your observation, nobody has any interest in listening to what he or Iran says or does, this is all about Israel’s wishes, for whatever reasons.

  3. An update: Sadly, they League’s now backing off. According to the NYTimes ( link to nytimes.com ), they’re now offering to send monitors in what’s being billed as a “reprieve.”

    The ineffectiveness – and, sadly, the hypocrisy – of the Arab League is simply astounding. How much more evidence do they need before they can agree on the appropriate sanctions? Maybe they need to see another 5,000 dead in the streets before they’ll take action.

  4. Uh, yeah, that’s quite an empire. Egypt and Syria? Look out now!

    What ever would poor little Israel do, if faced with such an overwhelming menace? Besides mop the floor with them both inside of a month and then annex some territory. You know, like last time. And the time before that.

  5. I’m not sure if this is a good development or bad development. Obviously any escalation of armed conflict is bad, but I’m not sure what the positive alternative is without violence, assuming Assad refuses to step down and refuses to allow civil discourse. The defections could be a sign that the civil war won’t necessarily be won by Assad, but Syria definitely isn’t like Libya, and I think you still need a higher defection rate for the rebel forces to have a chance. My fear is that this will only push Assad to do a massive crackdown like his father in Hama, or like Saddam Hussein in Iraq after the intifada. The worst-case scenario is even more likely in my view if the sanctions, especially the new ones by the Arab League, begin to have/are having a significant negative impact on the regime.

    As of now, it seems there were more reasons to be optimistic about Libya at this point in their conflict, compared to Syria. I guess the big question for the West is, is there a tipping point that exists, where enough military defections will encourage them to have a no-fly zone and protect civilians.

  6. Amos Gilad, who heads up the diplomatic-security office within Israel’s Ministry of Defense, said that he was worried about an “Islamic Empire” confronting Israel if the Muslim Brotherhood took over both Egypt and Syria. It has long been reported in the Arabic press that the Israeli security and defense establishment favors retaining Bashar al-Assad and his secular Baath Party rather than see Muslim fundamentalists come to power in Damascus.

    External boycotts and sanctions are unlikely to bring down the Baathist government, especially if Israel were to decide to give Bashar covert aid.

    The United States is clearly working to force Assad out. The Obama administration publicly said the opposition should not put down its arms. If you’re claiming Obama is doing this against Israel’s wishes, that is impossible to believe.

    The thing about Israeli covert aid is also an absurdity.

    Where Syria is headed from worst to best case from Israel/US point of view:

    1) Assad hangs on and the opposition loses steam and dwindles
    2) An opposition council with commitments to the US takes power by force, holds elections after some delay and maybe, depending on what constitution is written, leaves Syrian foreign policy as independent of US pressure as it is today, but quite plausibly does not.
    3) Syria is mired in a deep civil war and internal destruction that makes it unable to influence the rest of the region for an extended period of time, even if hostile forces nominally win. This is what we’ve seen in Iraq.

    If the Muslim Brotherhood completely took over Syria, the worst they could to do Israel is support Hamas and Hezbollah, which is exactly what Assad is doing. Syria is not in a position to wage a conventional war with Israel regardless of its leadership.

    Today’s Syria, or 2010 Syria is the worst case scenario for Israel. If you disagree, then what specific policy could Syria pursue that would be worse for Israel?

    The best case for both the welfare of the people of Syria and for the principle of democracy would be for violence on all sides, particularly against the state to be subdued for long enough for elections to be organized in which anyone, including Assad can campaign and run.

    Then after seeing election results it will be clear whether or not Assad has more or less popular support than the very passionate protesters in small cities who have outside support. It is very possible, almost likely, that he does.

    If Assad is less popular than some alternative, then a graceful exit should be determined.

    US policy, with your support, Cole, seems designed to ensure scenario 3 above happens. That is a great outcome for Israel and a horrible outcome for the people of Syria.

    Scenario 1 then elections is the only one that could possibly lead to a graceful transition of power even if Assad does not have more popular support than some alternative.

    • Oh! Ok Arnold, why don’t you put that on a “thinking of you” card and send it to Bashar. I’m sure he’ll see your logic and start preparing for elections right away. He’ll probably have the opposition over for tea too.

      The United States is clearly working to force Assad out. The Obama administration publicly said the opposition should not put down its arms. If you’re claiming Obama is doing this against Israel’s wishes, that is impossible to believe.
      OK, well then, nothing to worry about. The good ol’ USofA would never appear to do one thing while secretly doing another. I can state that with confidence because I’ve watched their impartial mediation of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I guess corporate “democracy” really does work and I can just go back to bed.

    • The United States is clearly working to force Assad out.

      And what makes this so clear?

      The Obama administration publicly said the opposition should not put down its arms.

      Wait…what? Is that what the United States does when it is clearly working to force someone out?

  7. It doesn’t matter what Israel thinks. Syria is governed by a vile bunch of murders and the likelihood is that things aren’t going to get worse even if the next bunch of rulers are also a bunch of vile murderers.

    they’ll be wielding less control.

    on the other hand, there are reasons for thinking that the next regime will be a better one.

    • Like, which ones?
      Things can get far worse and they probably will. I´m not a fan of Assad´s, but self-styled liberation armies about to drag the country into a civil war that no single party can possibly win in the near future are my own private nightmare scenario for all the nice people I know in that country and I deeply feel with them.

      My own folks lived through the Spanish civil war which was another example how things got from bad to worse through a civil war. This is NOT a two-party situation where good and bad are outlined nearly as easily as in Libya!!!!!

  8. If the MB took power in Syria, the Arab counties would still be no more united than they were in 1948. This ‘Muslim Empire’ would be no more of a threat to Israel than was Nassar’s secular nationalism in 1956.

Comments are closed.