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  • Threats Facing the Goals of the Arab Initiative
    Wed, 28 December 2011
    Abdullah Iskandar

    When the Arab ministerial council decided to dispatch observers to Syria, it did so in the context of a political initiative to appease the deteriorating security situation and prepare the general climate in the country for dialogue to resolve the crisis, while maintaining the right of the regime’s oppositionists to stage peaceful protests.

    However, the negotiations conducted by the Arab League with the Syrian authorities and which resulted in Damascus’ signing of the observers protocol, forced the political initiative to shift away from the goal of appeasement and dialogue toward technical details related to the work of the observers. At this level, the first few days of the mission’s tasks did not herald its actual ability to monitor the implementation of the Arab League’s initiative to allow it to achieve its purpose.

    There are two great deviations which could threaten the goals of the Arab initiative. The first is to transform the observers’ work into that of an investigation commission over this or that act of violence, i.e. introduce the observers in the tunnel of issues tackling the meaning of whichever explosion. This is what the authorities tried to do after the explosions which targeted the two intelligence headquarters in Damascus and what was demanded by some in the opposition in regard to the fall of victims here and there at the hands of the security forces.

    As for the second deviation, it is seeing the observers transformed into witnesses relied on by each of the two sides to confirm their tales. More than one Syrian official and commentator announced that the observers will personally see “armed gangs” shooting at the security forces and the civilians, while many among the spokesmen for the opposition committees and coordination offices called on the observers to witness the security forces shooting at and bombing the civilians who are besieged in their neighborhoods.

    If the observers enter the tunnel of the investigations and testimonies against this or that side, they would have relinquished the main task which they were assigned to carry out by the Arab initiative, i.e. monitor the situation on the ground and the extent of the sides’ commitment to the discontinuation of the violence, the withdrawal of the army from the streets, and the guaranteeing of the opposition’s right to demonstrate. This will move the situation from the arena of violence and security solutions to that of political conflict, and will lead the observers toward a pointless and endless debate over the intentions and the goals behind this investigation or that testimony. In this context, it was not a coincidence to see the spread of false statements regarding the side responsible for the Damascus explosions, while the fabricated testimony attributed to a fictive observer is one without a meaning and whose purpose is to downplay the importance of any ensuing testimony which might actually be real.

    Observation does not mean equaling between the killer and the victim. According to the text and spirit of the Arab initiative, it means the discontinuation of the killing, the withdrawal of the governmental military forces from the streets to allow the demonstrators to express their opinions without being shut at, the release of all the detainees against the backdrop of the protests and the re-launching of political dialogue with the political opposition based on the experience of the last ten months which claimed the lives of thousands of people.

    In other words, the Arab mission should monitor the implementation of these articles as soon as possible and observe the military withdrawal from all the Syrian cities – without there being any doubts over this withdrawal – to allow the emergence of one reality, i.e. the pullout of these troops. Moreover, it must confirm the release of the detainees against the backdrop of the protests, instead of them being transferred to darker places than their current prisons, and the protection of the right to organize peaceful demonstrations in all the regions, far way from any fears or threats.

    Only then would the regime be able to confirm its willingness to engage in dialogue with the opposition to put an end to the previous behavior – which was characterized by excessive bloodiness throughout the past months – and agree over the alternative that would earn popular acceptance to end the crisis.

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