Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Arab Observers

From every angle that I look at it, the Arab League observer's mission in Syria appears to be unprofessional, bumbling and inept. Apart from the fact that the head of the mission is a general who served under Sudan's Omar Bashir - a man wanted for genocide - the observers appear to lack the equipment, skills and confidence that would allow them to accomplish their role. They also lack the numbers to cover Syria's protesting cities and towns. But that brings us to a very important point, what is the role of the Arab League observers in Syria?

Many frustrated people seemed to think that the observers were sent to Syria to stop the killing, which is not so. They were sent to the country to ascertain what is really happening, speak to the witnesses, and ensure that the Syrian regime has pulled out its forces from the cities and towns. The killing is supposed to have already stopped, something that clearly has not happened. There is now talk of including the UN for assistance in the matter.

"We are coming here for technical help and to see the experience the UN has, because this is the first time the Arab League is involved in sending monitors, and there are some mistakes," said Sheikh Hamad, quoted by KUNA.
 I'm not surprised that the Arab League is a shambles, I've seen videos of the Arab league observers asking for a pen and paper so that they can note down the accounts of people they were interviewing, I've also seen other  videos of the observers "documenting" what they are seeing - by using a mobile phone to take photographs...surely that is precisely why the observers were called in? Was it not the alleged lack of credibility of mobile phone footage precisely why these people were sent over in the first place?

Surely mistakes can be made, but this mission seems to lack even a rudimentary level of planning and preparation. The observers are not assertive enough about where they want to go and who they wish to speak with, and perhaps this is because they have been told not to appear aggressive to the regime. I doubt how valuable their observations will be, or how credible.

If I could hazard a guess, I'd say this Arab league is a formality that will be exploited both by the regime and by the Arab states. Both sides will pretend they have given the other side every opportunity to prove their sincerity, and will proceed to use that political capital in whichever way suits them best. In the mean time Bashar al Assad is killing more Syrians in the hope that the protests will stop and his family can continue to rule the country.

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