Arab Silence on Syria’s Chemical Weapons

When Syria uses chemical weapons, why should the West intervene when Arab leaders are perfectly capable of imposing their own no-fly zone?


Credit: USA Today

For the first time during Syria’s twenty-five month civil war, the White House said the Syrian regime has deployed chemical weapons. British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed with these claims, and supported President Obama’s position that using chemical weapons would be a “red line” for possible intervention.

Why, it must be repeated loudly, clearly and in no uncertain terms, should the West intervene when Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Morocco are perfectly capable of doing it themselves?

Thirteen months ago, I wrote that the 22 member Arab League and 56 member Organization of Islamic Cooperation demanded a UN (Western) intervention in Syria to protect Syrian civilians against President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown.

On December 12, CBS News published an interview with Syrian opposition spokesperson Yaser Tabbara, who insisted that Washington arm the rebels so they can establish a no-fly zone against Assad.

Muslim nations are perfectly capable of intervening themselves

In March 2012, there were more than 7,500 Syrian deaths. Now there are more than 70,000 deaths, half a million refugees and 2.5 million internally displaced persons. What will it take for Arab and Muslim nations to offer open and direct assistance to Syrian civilians? How many more must perish before someone responds to this crime against humanity?

In the West, mainstream news continues asking the wrong questions. Why are Russia and China protecting Assad by blocking UN resolutions? Should the West arm the Syrian opposition? Should the West impose a no-fly zone?

In a global ranking of military defense expenditures, in which the US ranks first, Egypt and Saudi Arabia rank 16 and 26, respectively. In 2011, Egypt’s defense budget was $7 billion, and had more than 4,200 tanks and helicopters. Saudi Arabia’s defense budget was $39 billion, and had more than 9,700 land and air weapons.

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Who it must finally be asked, are their enemies? Do they think Israel will attack them? Iran? Unlikely, and this threat is a relatively new phenomenon which does not explain the 30 years of military buildup in the Middle East.

The reality has always been that  disputes within the Arab world are not remedied by other Arabs. Arab leaders spend a disproportionate amount of their budget on military hardware and sheepishly waits and relies on the West to save them.

Why are Arab and Muslim leaders reluctant to unilaterally impose their own no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians? They could use Turkish airbases to accommodate their Western made fighter jets.

For Syrian civilians, it is tragic and unfortunate that Arab leaders have failed to protect them. These leaders have the same narrative – criticize Israel and ignore the suffering of fellow Muslims when the killing is done by other Muslims – and then, of course criticize the West for not helping.

This article has been modified since its original publication on December 19, 2012 in Sharnoff’s Global Views.

Michael Sharnoff is founder and editor of Sharnoff’s Global Views. For instant updates and breaking news, join our global community on Facebook and Twitter. Read other articles by Michael.

  • Bryan

    Well put.