Arab League

Roula Khalaf

Nearly a year into their uprising, Syrians have finally won the attention of the UN Security Council. Last night the council put on a big diplomatic show of support for political transition in Damascus. Emotional appeals for ending the Syrian tragedy were issued by Arab officials and western powers, words that Syrian activists have longed to hear.

The question, though, is whether the debate on Tuesday night represents any real progress in terms of international action. The Russian (as well as the Chinese) statements last night were not as confrontational as some had expected, perhaps because Moscow wanted to avoid taking the Arab League head on.

But the Russian red lines were nonetheless enunciated, including a clear opposition to any threat of sanctions or any wording that could lead to military action and, most damaging to the Arab-western backed draft resolution on the table, a resistance to a Security Council imposition of a road map for a political transition. Read more

Roula Khalaf

Bashar al-Assad was as arrogant as ever when he delivered a 100-minute speech that promised more of the same for Syria’s beleaguered population.

The Syrian president’s answer to the uprising that has been raging for more than 10 months was to give a lecture on Arabism, lambasting neighbouring states which have frozen Syria’s membership of the Arab League, and declaring that Damascus was more Arab than any of them.

It was, he reminded his audience at Damascus University, the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser who declared that Syria was the beating heart of the Arab world. “Can a body live without a heart?” he asked. And who are these Arabs who are preaching reform? He asked. They are, he said, “like a smoking doctor who wants to convince his patients to stop smoking.” Read more