Showing posts tagged as "Arab League"

Showing posts tagged Arab League

22 Jul
Understanding John Kerry’s Logic | Bernard Avishai 
“It’s not an agreement—it’s an agreement to have lengthy negotiations,” writes the dean of Israeli columnists, Nahum Barnea, in Yediot Achronot; and negotiations “have been part of our life for a very long time.” Nathan Thrall, from the International Crisis Group, is even more skeptical. “Kerry, like his predecessors, has concentrated on 1967 issues such as borders and security, showing few signs that he has learned from past failures,” he writes in The New York Review. 
FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Beast)
Photo: US Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan/Flickr

Understanding John Kerry’s Logic | Bernard Avishai 

“It’s not an agreement—it’s an agreement to have lengthy negotiations,” writes the dean of Israeli columnists, Nahum Barnea, in Yediot Achronot; and negotiations “have been part of our life for a very long time.” Nathan Thrall, from the International Crisis Group, is even more skeptical. “Kerry, like his predecessors, has concentrated on 1967 issues such as borders and security, showing few signs that he has learned from past failures,” he writes in The New York Review. 

FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Beast)

Photo: US Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan/Flickr

31 May
Hope on Israel-Palestine? Maybe, Just Maybe | The Nation
By Bob Dreyfuss
Something might actually be happening in the Middle East, that is, on the Israel-Palestinian front. It’s not an area that’s usually visited by The Dreyfuss Report, because it seems permanently stalemated and stuck. (We’re talking decades here.) But Secretary of State John Kerry might be up to something.
FULL ARTICLE (The Nation)
Photo: Jamie Lynn Ross/Flickr

Hope on Israel-Palestine? Maybe, Just Maybe | The Nation

By Bob Dreyfuss

Something might actually be happening in the Middle East, that is, on the Israel-Palestinian front. It’s not an area that’s usually visited by The Dreyfuss Report, because it seems permanently stalemated and stuck. (We’re talking decades here.) But Secretary of State John Kerry might be up to something.

FULL ARTICLE (The Nation)

Photo: Jamie Lynn Ross/Flickr

5 Aug
As Kofi Annan Steps Down, What’s In Store For Syria?  |  NPR
Kofi Annan will step down at the end of the month from his post as UN-Arab League envoy for Syria. Annan’s resignation is the latest blow to the faltering efforts to find a solution to the crisis in Syria. Steve Inskeep talks about the implications with Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group.
FOR AUDIO (NPR)
Photo: Freedom House/Flickr

As Kofi Annan Steps Down, What’s In Store For Syria?  |  NPR

Kofi Annan will step down at the end of the month from his post as UN-Arab League envoy for Syria. Annan’s resignation is the latest blow to the faltering efforts to find a solution to the crisis in Syria. Steve Inskeep talks about the implications with Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group.

FOR AUDIO (NPR)

Photo: Freedom House/Flickr

19 Apr
Los Angeles Times | Arab League calls emergency meeting on 2 Sudans
The Arab League said Thursday it would hold an emergency meeting over the increasing violence between Sudan and South Sudan. The south reported new skirmishes even as Sudan’s president increased his threats of war toward the south.
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir said the recent violence has “revived the spirit of jihad” in Sudan. South Sudan said it had repulsed four attacks from Sudan over a 24-hour period as fighting on the border showed no signs of slowing.
Acting on a request by Sudan, the Arab League scheduled an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo next week to discuss the violence, Deputy Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed bin Helli said. The league earlier called on South Sudan to withdraw from the oil-rich Heglig area that southern troops invaded and took over last week.
Despite the threats from Sudan, a southern government spokesman said South Sudan was only defending its territory and considers Sudan a “friendly nation.”
South Sudan military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said three of the attacks were on Wednesday and one was on Thursday. He did not give a death toll.
South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year after a self-determination vote for independence. That vote was guaranteed in a mediated end to decades of civil war between the two sides. But the sides never fully agreed where their shared border lay, nor did they reach agreement on how to share oil wealth that is pumped from the border region.
Instead, the two countries have seen a sharp increase in violence in recent weeks, especially around the oil-producing town of Heglig. Both sides claim Heglig as their own. It lies in a region where the border was never clearly defined.
FULL ARTICLE (L.A. Times)

Los Angeles Times | Arab League calls emergency meeting on 2 Sudans

The Arab League said Thursday it would hold an emergency meeting over the increasing violence between Sudan and South Sudan. The south reported new skirmishes even as Sudan’s president increased his threats of war toward the south.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir said the recent violence has “revived the spirit of jihad” in Sudan. South Sudan said it had repulsed four attacks from Sudan over a 24-hour period as fighting on the border showed no signs of slowing.

Acting on a request by Sudan, the Arab League scheduled an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo next week to discuss the violence, Deputy Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed bin Helli said. The league earlier called on South Sudan to withdraw from the oil-rich Heglig area that southern troops invaded and took over last week.

Despite the threats from Sudan, a southern government spokesman said South Sudan was only defending its territory and considers Sudan a “friendly nation.”

South Sudan military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said three of the attacks were on Wednesday and one was on Thursday. He did not give a death toll.

South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year after a self-determination vote for independence. That vote was guaranteed in a mediated end to decades of civil war between the two sides. But the sides never fully agreed where their shared border lay, nor did they reach agreement on how to share oil wealth that is pumped from the border region.

Instead, the two countries have seen a sharp increase in violence in recent weeks, especially around the oil-producing town of Heglig. Both sides claim Heglig as their own. It lies in a region where the border was never clearly defined.

FULL ARTICLE (L.A. Times)

16 Apr
The Washington Post: U.N. monitors begin work in Syria 
A team of six U.N. observers set up headquarters in Damascus on Monday and began reaching out to the Syrian government and its opponents, in hopes they could start healing the country’s violent divides.
The team is led by a Moroccan colonel named Ahmed Himmiche, and another 25 members are expected to arrive in the next few days, said a spokesman for U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan.
The team is set to monitor the implementation of a six-point peace plan proposed by Annan, accepted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and backed by Syria’s allies Russia and China as well as Western governments who have called for Assad to step down. The Syrian foreign minister was due to arrive in China on Monday for meetings, according to Chinese news agencies.
According to a U.N. Security Council resolution passed Saturday, the monitors’ work is dependent on the maintenance of a cease-fire that went into effect April 12. Despite numerous reported violations of the terms of the agreement by both security forces and armed opponents of Assad, the daily death toll remains dramatically lower than it has been in recent months, when dozens of civilians, soldiers and rebels were killed almost daily.
FULL ARTICLE (The Washington Post)

The Washington Post: U.N. monitors begin work in Syria 

A team of six U.N. observers set up headquarters in Damascus on Monday and began reaching out to the Syrian government and its opponents, in hopes they could start healing the country’s violent divides.

The team is led by a Moroccan colonel named Ahmed Himmiche, and another 25 members are expected to arrive in the next few days, said a spokesman for U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan.

The team is set to monitor the implementation of a six-point peace plan proposed by Annan, accepted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and backed by Syria’s allies Russia and China as well as Western governments who have called for Assad to step down. The Syrian foreign minister was due to arrive in China on Monday for meetings, according to Chinese news agencies.

According to a U.N. Security Council resolution passed Saturday, the monitors’ work is dependent on the maintenance of a cease-fire that went into effect April 12. Despite numerous reported violations of the terms of the agreement by both security forces and armed opponents of Assad, the daily death toll remains dramatically lower than it has been in recent months, when dozens of civilians, soldiers and rebels were killed almost daily.

FULL ARTICLE (The Washington Post)

10 Apr
Syria’s Phase of Radicalisation
Damascus/Brussels  |   10 Apr 2012
With the Syrian crisis having taken a perilous turn, predictable obstacles in implementing UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan should not lead to give up on what – for now at least – remains the only serious option on the table.
Syria’s Phase of Radicalisation, the latest policy briefing by the International Crisis Group, examines what has driven President Bashar Assad to unleash his loyalist forces and opposition groups to escalate their own violence. It concludes that in the absence of a realistic, workable alternative, the best (if slim) chance to halt this slide is to build on aspects of the envoy’s initiative and achieve broad international consensus around a more detailed roadmap.
A year into the uprising, violence has crossed several horrifying thresholds. Regime forces have subjected entire neighbourhoods to intense bombardment. Within large cities, massive bomb attacks have taken the lives of innocent civilians. Perhaps most sickening of all have been pictures displaying the massacre of whole families, including the shattered skulls of young children. This escalation has not elicited a meaningful response from key players, making it likely that the situation will only get worse.  
“Conditions presently exist in which extreme forms of violence are becoming routine”, warns Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Iraq, Lebanon and Syria Project Director. “This will empower the most radical elements on all sides, justifying the worst forms of regime brutality and prompting appalling retaliation. Should these trends persist, the current death toll likely will appear modest in hindsight”.
The outside world is caught between four costly postures. Iran and Hizbollah support the regime unconditionally. Russia and China put the onus on regime foes at home and abroad to defuse the situation. The West has exhausted its economic and diplomatic leverage and tiptoes around the question of military intervention. Saudi Arabia and Qatar threaten to arm the opposition but it is easy to see how such efforts can backfire – and difficult to see how they might bring a well-armed regime to its knees.
All of which has ensured that the regime finds itself in its comfort zone, perceiving no immediate threats either to itself or its leaders’ lifestyle; bolstered by the blind backing of hard-core supporters; convinced that the international community will do very little; and persuaded that the balance of power has shifted in its favour over the past several weeks.
Without renouncing prospects for a genuine political agreement on a transition – which will require a shift in the diplomatic or military balance of power – the priority today must be de-escalation. Action should be taken to flesh out Annan’s plan regarding the make-up and mandate of an observer mission, mechanisms to ensure weapons are not smuggled through Syria’s borders and procedures to investigate the worst acts of bloodshed.
“Full and timely implementation of Annan’s plan almost surely was never in the cards”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “But that is not a reason to give up on diplomacy so soon. One should not repeat the mistake committed at the time of the Arab League-sponsored initiative: to expect its failure; rush to pull the plug on an unsatisfactory policy; wait for the emergence of an alternative that has been neither considered nor agreed. And then watch, as the killing goes on”.
FULL BRIEFING

Syria’s Phase of Radicalisation

Damascus/Brussels  |   10 Apr 2012

With the Syrian crisis having taken a perilous turn, predictable obstacles in implementing UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan should not lead to give up on what – for now at least – remains the only serious option on the table.

Syria’s Phase of Radicalisation, the latest policy briefing by the International Crisis Group, examines what has driven President Bashar Assad to unleash his loyalist forces and opposition groups to escalate their own violence. It concludes that in the absence of a realistic, workable alternative, the best (if slim) chance to halt this slide is to build on aspects of the envoy’s initiative and achieve broad international consensus around a more detailed roadmap.

A year into the uprising, violence has crossed several horrifying thresholds. Regime forces have subjected entire neighbourhoods to intense bombardment. Within large cities, massive bomb attacks have taken the lives of innocent civilians. Perhaps most sickening of all have been pictures displaying the massacre of whole families, including the shattered skulls of young children. This escalation has not elicited a meaningful response from key players, making it likely that the situation will only get worse.  

“Conditions presently exist in which extreme forms of violence are becoming routine”, warns Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Iraq, Lebanon and Syria Project Director. “This will empower the most radical elements on all sides, justifying the worst forms of regime brutality and prompting appalling retaliation. Should these trends persist, the current death toll likely will appear modest in hindsight”.

The outside world is caught between four costly postures. Iran and Hizbollah support the regime unconditionally. Russia and China put the onus on regime foes at home and abroad to defuse the situation. The West has exhausted its economic and diplomatic leverage and tiptoes around the question of military intervention. Saudi Arabia and Qatar threaten to arm the opposition but it is easy to see how such efforts can backfire – and difficult to see how they might bring a well-armed regime to its knees.

All of which has ensured that the regime finds itself in its comfort zone, perceiving no immediate threats either to itself or its leaders’ lifestyle; bolstered by the blind backing of hard-core supporters; convinced that the international community will do very little; and persuaded that the balance of power has shifted in its favour over the past several weeks.

Without renouncing prospects for a genuine political agreement on a transition – which will require a shift in the diplomatic or military balance of power – the priority today must be de-escalation. Action should be taken to flesh out Annan’s plan regarding the make-up and mandate of an observer mission, mechanisms to ensure weapons are not smuggled through Syria’s borders and procedures to investigate the worst acts of bloodshed.

“Full and timely implementation of Annan’s plan almost surely was never in the cards”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “But that is not a reason to give up on diplomacy so soon. One should not repeat the mistake committed at the time of the Arab League-sponsored initiative: to expect its failure; rush to pull the plug on an unsatisfactory policy; wait for the emergence of an alternative that has been neither considered nor agreed. And then watch, as the killing goes on”.

FULL BRIEFING

"Full and timely implementation of Annan’s plan almost surely was never in the cards”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “But that is not a reason to give up on diplomacy so soon. One should not repeat the mistake committed at the time of the Arab League-sponsored initiative: to expect its failure; rush to pull the plug on an unsatisfactory policy; wait for the emergence of an alternative that has been neither considered nor agreed. And then watch, as the killing goes on."

—Robert Malley, Program Director for the Middle East & North Africa, from the media release for our new briefing, Syria’s Phase of Radicalisation.

25 Jan

Foreign Policy: Collectively failing Syrian society

Peter Harling

For months, neither the Syrian regime, the international community, nor the opposition in exile have offered much hope in a dangerously deteriorating crisis. Increasingly, they seem to be unintentionally conniving in bringing about a civil war although it will serve no one’s interests, destabilize Syria for years, and suck in the rest of the region. Their enduring pursuit of maximalist demands may sabotage what chance still exists for a negotiated transition.

The regime’s vision consists in cracking down decisively against residual pockets of foreign-backed trouble-makers, then opening up politically within sensible boundaries — similar to Jordan’s or Bahrain’s promise of limited reforms. Outside players currently bent on its demise, it wagers, ultimately will realize it cannot be destroyed; already hesitant for lack of good options and fear of ensuing chaos, they will grudgingly move to softer forms of pressure and, in time, even resume engagement. The regime’s sympathizers and allies are all too keen to believe that it is strong, that the reach of the protest movement is wildly exaggerated by hostile media, that the foreign conspiracy is both all-encompassing and impotent, and that Syrian society is so disease-ridden — a hodgepodge of fundamentalists, thugs, and third party proxies — that it cannot but deserve the security services’ tough medicine.

This narrative is flawed in more ways than one. For ten months, the regime has been collapsing in slow-motion, and it is showing. Its political structures, weak at the outset, have eroded beyond repair; the executive has lost any ability it once had to implement policy and the ruling party is an empty shell. The security services remain largely cohesive and ready to fight, but in many places they increasingly resemble at best an occupying force cut off from society, at worst a collection of sectarian militias on a rampage. The military is fragmenting, slowly but surely. The regime’s territorial control depended on the protest movement remaining largely peaceful. Now that an insurgency is spreading, it is losing its grip. Arguably, the regime has refrained from using much of the firepower at its disposal, for fear of tilting the balance decisively against it within the international community. It could easily muster enough troops to put down resistance in any specific area, but at the expense of letting things slip elsewhere in a losing game of whack-a-mole; other rebellious areas would go for broke, knowing their turn would soon come if the regime was allowed to deal with them sequentially. Meanwhile, the economy’s collapse is accelerating. Because none of this is lost on a majority of Syrians, once spectacular demonstrations of loyalists have narrowed to the point where official footage prefers close-ups to aerial photography. The “silent majority” the regime claimed to have on its side is now angry and scared: it both blames the country’s leadership for spelling disaster and distrusts the protest movement, exiled opposition, and outside world for offering no clear prospect for the future other than growing chaos. 

FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy) 

2 Dec

BBC: How the Arab League embraced revolution

By Bill Law

The Arab League, often seen as a do-nothing organisation, has confounded expectations by changing gears as revolutions sweep the Middle East.

Of all the startling changes that the Arab Spring has brought about, perhaps the most intriguing has been the transformation of the Arab League.

This 22-member organisation, previously seen as a comfortable club for Arab autocrats, has been rocked to its well-appointed and expensive foundations.

With the energetic and, by Arab standards, youthful prime minister of the wealthy gulf state of Qatar playing a leading role, the league let Egypt’s Mubarak fall with barely a murmur.

It voted to suspend Gaddafi’s Libya in February and watched while the Qataris assisted anti-government forces there. And a crucial vote in March in support of a no-fly zone enabled Nato to play a decisive role in swinging the war to the rebel side.

And then most unexpectedly of all, the Arab League took a hard stance against the Syrian regime of Bashir al-Assad.

In August, the league condemned the Syrian government for its repression of nationwide uprisings and called for an immediate end to the violence.

Then in November it suspended Syria for failing to stick to a deal that included halting military action and starting talks with the opposition.

And when Syria continued to prevaricate, the league slapped sanctions on the regime.

In all its previously unremarkable 66-year history, nothing quite like what has happened in the past few months has ever before occurred.

It’s as if a gentleman’s club, very wealthy, very smug and sure of itself, had suddenly been forced to drink deep from the revolutionary’s cup and found it rather intoxicating.

So how did it all come about?

The Arab League was an organisation established in Cairo in 1945 primarily to be a counterweight to the looming and soon to be realised state of Israel.

Through the decades since, the league’s efforts to establish itself as a significant political force have been lacklustre at best.

Egypt’s influence in the league waned as the power and financial clout of the gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, grew.

Although the league has a military protocol, and various members have waged wars on Israel over the years, its only previous joint exercise was, ironically, to join Syrian troops in Lebanon from 1976 to 1983.

Countless summits have come and gone while the Arab League slumbered on, apparently unconcerned about human rights abuses, rampant poverty and unemployment, and the frequently brutal suppression of pro-democracy activists among its members.

Al Thani

Then came the Arab spring.

As dictators fell one by one, the league began to wake up. Angry young Arabs were shouting and the risks of appearing not to listen were all too readily apparent.

Ignoring the Arab Spring was not an option. The alternative, to support the push for freedom, was scarcely more palatable for this league of autocrats. But influential players like Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah knew something had to give.

Facing pressures from western allies, and worried that their own populations were enthusiastically taking up the Syrian opposition cause on social media sites, the more energetic members of the club sat up and took notice.

None more so than Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the 52-year-old prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar.

One of the world’s wealthiest men, he’s earned the nickname “peacemaker” for his efforts over the years to broker reconciliations between warring factions in Africa and the Middle East.

Middle East observers see him as tough, bright and very much up to speed with what is happening in the region.

He grasped earlier than his colleagues that the league could not ignore the killing of unarmed civilians in Syria. And he pushed hard to suspend the country and impose sanctions against the embattled regime of President Bashir al Assad.

Ever the pragmatist though, Jaber Al Thani had shown no public concern for the violence and killing of protesters in February and March in Qatar’s next-door gulf neighbour Bahrain. The Bahrainis were happy to return the favour by voting for sanctions against Syria.

Riyadh-based Saudi analyst Mohsen Al Awaji says “without the personality of that man, the message would not have been delivered. His was the strong hand behind the process.”

Others see the Qatari initiative as further proof that Saudi Arabia is out of touch and slow to move in fast changing circumstances.

"Compared to the Saudi royals, the Qataris are in overdrive, they are hyperactive," says Middle East expert Peter Harling of the think tank International Crisis Group.

Harling argues that Qatari foreign policy is decided by a tight group - the emir, the prime minister and a few key advisors.

"Their style," he adds "fits the era. It’s a golden opportunity for them to stake a claim"

FULL ARTICLE (BBC)