The Middle East Channel

Syria signs Arab League deal to allow observer mission

Syria signs Arab League deal to allow observer mission Syria signed an Arab League initiative which will allow outside Arab monitors and which aims to end the violent nine-month crackdown on protests. The agreement was signed after the Arab League accepted various conditions, most significantly agreeing to lift recently imposed sanctions. According to the deal, ...

Syria signs Arab League deal to allow observer mission

Syria signed an Arab League initiative which will allow outside Arab monitors and which aims to end the violent nine-month crackdown on protests. The agreement was signed after the Arab League accepted various conditions, most significantly agreeing to lift recently imposed sanctions. According to the deal, in addition to allowing for monitors, Syria must withdraw troops from towns and villages, free thousands of political prisoners, and begin an Arab League-mediated dialogue with the opposition. Russia, after proposing a peace initiative to the U.N. Security Council last week, asked Syria to sign the deal, according to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, who said, "Syria listened to the advice." Syria had resisted signing the Arab League's deal for weeks, making sure that it protected Syria's sovereignty, according to Muallem. He said that the country welcomes the observers, believing that their presence will vindicate the government's stance that protests have not been predominantly peaceful. He asserted, "There are many countries in the world who don't wish to admit the presence of terrorist armed groups in Syria," continuing, "They will come and see that they are present." An advance team of security, legal, and administrative observers will be sent into Syria within the next three days and will be followed by teams including human rights experts.

Headlines  

Syria signs Arab League deal to allow observer mission

Syria signed an Arab League initiative which will allow outside Arab monitors and which aims to end the violent nine-month crackdown on protests. The agreement was signed after the Arab League accepted various conditions, most significantly agreeing to lift recently imposed sanctions. According to the deal, in addition to allowing for monitors, Syria must withdraw troops from towns and villages, free thousands of political prisoners, and begin an Arab League-mediated dialogue with the opposition. Russia, after proposing a peace initiative to the U.N. Security Council last week, asked Syria to sign the deal, according to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, who said, “Syria listened to the advice.” Syria had resisted signing the Arab League’s deal for weeks, making sure that it protected Syria’s sovereignty, according to Muallem. He said that the country welcomes the observers, believing that their presence will vindicate the government’s stance that protests have not been predominantly peaceful. He asserted, “There are many countries in the world who don’t wish to admit the presence of terrorist armed groups in Syria,” continuing, “They will come and see that they are present.” An advance team of security, legal, and administrative observers will be sent into Syria within the next three days and will be followed by teams including human rights experts.

Headlines  

  • An estimated 13 people have been killed and hundreds injured in the fourth day of clashes with security forces in Cairo, overshadowing the country’s second round of elections.
  • Beginning at dawn on Sunday, the last U.S. convoy including 110 vehicles and 500 troops departed from Iraq, officially ending the nearly nine-year war.
  • Israel released 550 Palestinian prisoners in the second stage of the exchange with Hamas that returned Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
  • Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has invested a $300 million “strategic stake” in Twitter
  • The United Nations reported that nearly four million people in Yemen will suffer in 2012 as malnutrition rates hit levels comparable to Somalia.

Daily Snapshot

An Egyptian protester shows a spent bullet casing during a demonstration at Tahrir Square in Cairo on December 19, 2011 following three days of deadly clashes between demonstrators and security forces (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images).   

Arguments & Analysis

‘Syria’s guilt men’ (David Mepham, Open Democracy)

“The violence in Syria is intense and the abuses chilling. Yet the international response so far has been shamefully weak and indecisive. True, the Arab League — in a break with much of its previous practice — has condemned Assad’s crackdown, suspending Syria’s membership of the league and committed itself to introduce tough sanctions. And three countries on the UN Security Council (Britain, France, and the United States) have pushed for tougher action. But Russia and China have repeatedly blocked this — and they have been supported by rising powers such as South Africa, India and Brazil, all currently members of the UNSC.”

‘Even with Arab economies, spring is increasingly visible’ (Ibrahim Saif, The Daily Star)

“Naturally, the change in transitioning countries’ political structures will also have a deep impact on the structure of their economies. The reform programs of the 1990s were able to disregard the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises and workers in the informal sector (who in Egypt, for example, comprise half of the actual workforce); the agricultural sector was also neglected, as evidenced in its declining share of GDP over the past decade in Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt. Instead, reforms centered on major private stakeholders represented in the chambers of industry and commerce, as well as larger enterprises involved in banking and telecommunications. As a result, assessments of state performance by the World Economic Forum or in the World Bank’s business environment snapshots came to be based on the private sector’s degree of satisfaction with the status quo — or in other words, the private sector’s satisfaction with the government.” 

‘The flag follows trade’ (Oliver Miles, London Review of Books)

“China’s re-emergence as a world power, in some respects as a challenger to the American superpower, has been seen in the Middle East, as elsewhere, mainly in economic terms. China is expected to replace the US very soon as the largest importer of oil from Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East gets 75 per cent of its imports from Asia, expected to rise to 90 per cent by 2030. Iran is a special case, because of the dreadful state of relations with America and the West; China is Iran’s largest trade partner, largest oil purchaser and largest foreign investor. Israel is also special; China buys modern technology, both civil (particularly agricultural) and military, including US technology under the counter. When foreign workers were evacuated from Libya in March this year, by far the largest number — up to 45,000 — were Chinese, involved in fifty large projects, worth $18 billion, in construction, railways, oil services and telecommunications.” 

Latest from the Channel

‘Tawakkol’s revolutionary pluralism’ by Stacey Philbrick Yahav

‘Violence returns to Cairo’ by Marc Lynch

‘Remembering Basra’ by Susan B. Glasser 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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