Observers will remain in Syria to monitor the government’s compliance with an
Arab League peace plan, Arab government sources said Thursday, despite criticism
from Qatar’s prime minister they had made “mistakes.”
Damascus, keen to
show it is respecting a peace accord, said it had released a further 552 people
detained during the revolt against President Bashar Assad “whose hands were not
stained with blood.”
Syrian rebels raid military checkpoints
Arab body says monitors should quit Syria promptly
The team of monitors arrived in Syria last week to
verify whether the government was implementing the agreement to scale back its
military presence in cities and free thousands of prisoners detained since the
uprising last March.
The League’s special committee on Syria is due to
meet in Egypt on Sunday to debate the initial findings of the mission, which has
been criticized by Syrian activists who question its ability to assess the
violence on the ground.
The activists said the teams did not have enough
access and were escorted by Syrian authorities, who were manipulating them and
hiding prisoners in military facilities.
James H. Anderson, an expert at
the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, said that since the
monitors’ arrival in Syria, the bloodshed only appears to have
“The Arab League, by its own admission, doesn’t have the
experience or the numbers for a thorough monitoring mission,” he told The
by phone from Germany. Anderson said the 150 or so observers now
in Syria represent a relatively tiny delegation by international standards. He
noted that the UN observer mission to Kosovo in the late 1990s numbered several
thousand, and were responsible for monitoring a much smaller geographical
On Thursday, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim
al-Thani conceded the monitors had made “mistakes” in conducting their
“I said we must evaluate the types of mistakes it made and
without a shadow of a doubt I see mistakes, even though we went in to observe,
not to stop the violence,” he told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York.
Qatar is the current holder of the rotating Arab League presidency, and was a
key force in organizing the observer delegation to Syria.
opposition activists insists authorities are violating their promise to withdraw
troops from the streets of strifetorn towns, contradicting statements by
monitors that government forces have pulled back. League Secretary-General Nabil
Elaraby said in Cairo on Monday that the monitors had reported back that state
forces had withdrawn from residential areas.
“We are not seeing the
release of detainees or the true removal of a military presence from the
streets,” said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights.
“Army tanks have been replaced with police armored
personnel carriers that still have the capability to shoot heavy
Videos uploaded by activists on the Internet showed armored
vehicles hidden behind high dirt barriers.
“Nabil Elaraby, you are in
Cairo and we’re in Baba Amr. Here are the tanks and there are your monitors,”
said one activist in a video uploaded on the Internet.
Damascus rejected accusations from the United States that it was failing to live
up to its agreement with the Arab League.
“Such a statement is offensive
to the Arab League... because it is a blatant interference in the core of its
work, the sovereignty of its states and an unjustified attempt to
internationalize [the crisis],” Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdesi
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé called Syrian repression
“savage” and talked of the possibility of UN action.
“The Arab League has
the merit of having taken the initiative, but Arab League observers cannot allow
themselves to be manipulated by the regime as the regime is trying to do,” he
said in Lisbon. “We hope the Arab League has clear objectives and if these
objectives are not met we will work with the Security Council so it pronounces
itself about the Syrian situation.”The Washington Times
week that Iran had tried to broker a deal between Syria’s government and the
country’s Muslim Brotherhood that would see the Islamist group express its
support for Assad in exchange for four high-ranking positions in the
The head of the Brotherhood in Syria – who also sits on the
opposition Syrian National Council executive – told the paper that Iranian
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had sent emissaries to Istanbul in October to try to
reach a deal, but the Islamist movement had refused to meet them.
is no way we can meet with the Iranians when they are assisting in the killing
of our people,” Mohammed Farouk Tayfour said. Tayfour reiterated charges that
Tehran is supplying Damascus with snipers and Hezbollah operatives to aid in the
crackdown, estimated to have killed at least 6,000 people since
Anderson said that if true, the Iranian bid reveals the value the
Islamic Republic places on its decades-long alliance with Syria.
downfall would have very significant consequences for Tehran, including the fact
that its main pipeline to supply Hezbollah in Lebanon would be compromised,” he
said. “There has been documentation of Iranians providing security personnel and
snipers to assist Assad. So this report is consistent with the importance Iran
ascribes to keeping Assad in power.”