What is the Purpose of the Arab League Part 2

Nine 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.

Arab_League_summit_Flag_2010On 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.

Fact: Muslim nations are perfectly capable of intervening themselves. That is, if they wanted to.

In March 2012, there were more than 7,500 Syrian deaths. Now there are more than 40,000 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?

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

Upon Turkey’s request, NATO will provide Ankara with Patriot anti-missile batteries, which NATO ministers stated would not be used in an offensive attack against Assad or as a no-fly zone.

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

During my interview with Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian dissident and founder of the Tharwa Foundation, he said that Arab and Muslim countries all have domestic concerns which prevent them from intervening in Syria. Abdulhamid added that this enormous and influential bloc of nations is too terrified to act alone, and therefore require international support to act in Syria. At least that is what Arab leaders say privately, he said.

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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.

But these same leaders waste no time when it comes to condemning Israel and embracing Hamas. In October, the Emir of Qatar became the first international leader to visit Hamas leaders in Gaza since the Islamist militant group seized the territory from the Palestinian Authority by force in 2007.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi denounced Israel as the aggressor for defending itself against Hamas after the terrorist group launched over 100 rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. Some rockets even reached as far as the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Israel as a “terrorist state” and guilty of “ethnic cleansing” for its military campaign against Hamas. Does he truly believe that Israeli behavior is worse than Assad’s? Or can he just not control his hatred for Israel and enjoys relishing in any opportunity to falsely equate Israeli behavior with fascism?

The Arab 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.

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.

  • Herb

    Great insight Dr Sharnoff!

  • Sukhoi

    Are you brainless?

    Syria is under attack by mercenaries paid by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UK, USA, France and probably others. You can not see beyond your TV screen…

    • James

      Where is your proof for this assertion? And you still miss the author’s main point: Why don’t Arab and Muslim leaders protect Syrian civilians by imposing their own No-fly zone?

      • On a very superficial level it’s a seemingly obvious option, but in reality (rather than through the lens of anti-Muslim-regime polemic taken by Sharnoff, here) why would* (not should) they if they can avoid the risk and cost by having NATO forces do it instead (given NATO is the world military hegemon and* that neighbouring Turkey is itself a NATO member)?

        • James

          Of course Arab leaders would prefer to rely on the West to intervene in Syria! Yet they are perfectly capable to impose their own No-fly zone to protect civilians. That is the argument. However your remarks undermine Arab solidarity and Islamic unity and exhibit both condescendence and bigotry by implying that Arab on Arab violence is somehow acceptable.

          • That’s not my intention at all. My point is simply a realist one, vs. Sharnoff’s polemic opining about the moral bankruptcy/hypocrisy of these particular regimes (which I do not deny at all). Arab life–given the global ideology of human rights–‘should’ be worth (here switching from realist analysis to moral opinion) just ‘as much’ as western, Asian, Israeli or sub-Saharan African life (and maybe we should also begin to extend the same courtesy to highly sentient animals like gorillas, chimpanzees or dolphins). However, all that is moral opinion–not political analysis. The geopolitics, economics and sectarian power dynamics at play currently shape and constrain how regimes do or do not act on a state-level. It’s simply a different ball game altogether.

  • There is something to be said for a ‘tough love’ approach to the Muslim world, but given Muslim nations have sectarian concerns of their own, which could easily spill over, and that Turkey is a bonafide NATO member, let alone the fact that the US has obvious strategic incentive to assert dominance, even if at arms length, over the MidEast so as to avoid other regional and/or world powers gaining preferential access/control of its internecine politics and massive fossil fuel reserves, its hard to imagine the West/US just sitting back with their arms folded waiting for the Muslim nations to step in and risk their own stability by getting directly embroiled in the failed Syrian state, as if it were some subsaharan African nation (eg Mali, w/ AU troops now set to intervene). This opinion piece seems not ‘inaccurate’ w/ respect to statements of fact, but rather disconnected from the actual geopolitics at play. That said, I could be wrong (e.g. The US/west could in fact try to take this advice seriously and attempt to use pro-US Arab League members’ militaries as proxies for their own strategic ends in Syria, but it seems pretty uncertain/far-fetched at this particular juncture)