Syria called Sunday for an emergency summit of Arab League heads of state, an
apparent attempt to thwart the organization’s decision to suspend Damascus for
its violent eight-month crackdown on anti-government protests.
meanwhile, called the suspension “unhelpful,” chiding the Cairo-based bloc for
helping “foreign powers interfere” in Syrian affairs.
takes effect November 16. The move came after Damascus flouted an Arab League
plan to mollify the Syria crisis by ordering a military pullout from cities,
release of political prisoners and dialogue between the government and
A day after the League suspended Syria and said it would
impose sanctions, the bloc’s secretary-general said officials from the 22-member
organization would also meet Syrian opposition representatives, a further blow
Gabriel Ben-Dor, director of national security studies at
the University of Haifa, described the suspension as “unprecedented,” but said
the move needs to be backed up by further action.
“The major decisions of
the Arab League have to be taken unanimously or they’re not binding,” he
Yemen and Lebanon opposed Saturday’s decision, and Iraq
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Ben-Dor said the decision should also be viewed within the
context of Arab and Western attempts to contain an emboldened Iran believed to
be pursuing nuclear weapons.
“They’re hoping to dismantle the axis of
Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, and to somehow weaken this entire coalition, which is
a common interest of all major powers of the Arab world,” he told The Jerusalem
Post. The Arab bloc’s suspension, he added, “is an attempt to isolate Iran even
more by depriving it of its only major ally in the Middle East.”
said Western military intervention against Syria could be viewed as a way of
weakening Iran without incurring the geopolitical and military risks of striking
at its nuclear facilities.
“This is being contemplated in several Western
capitals as an alternative to military action against Iran,” he said. “The idea
is that if you take on Syria, where the regime is on the brink of collapsing
anyway, then you isolate Iran further and send it a very forceful message at a
very low cost.”
On Sunday, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman
described the suspension as “unhelpful” and warned it would exacerbate rather
than solve the Syria crisis.
“The issuance of the Arab League statement
happened as foreign forces are trying to interfere in the internal affairs of
Syria,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as
saying by state broadcaster IRIB. “The ground is prepared for success in the
reforms being implemented by the president of Syria and the people of that
On Sunday Syrian security forces shot dead eight people who
shouted slogans against President Bashar Assad at a rally that had been
organized by authorities in Hama to protest the Arab League decision, activists
The United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed since
demonstrations began in March.
“Security forces were leading public
workers and students into Orontes Square when groups broke away and started
shouting ‘the people want the fall of the regime.’ They escaped into the
alleyways but were followed and four were killed,” said one of the activists in
Video posted online shows a group of teenagers who broke away from
the rally running for cover down a street as the sound of automatic gunfire is
heard. “God damn your soul, Abu Hafez!” some of them shouted, referring to the
State television said millions of Syrians denounced the Arab
League decision in demonstrations across the country and showed crowds with
Syrian flags and posters of Assad in Damascus, Latakia and
France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia said their diplomatic premises
were attacked by pro-government crowds overnight.
Some 1,000 Assad
supporters attacked the Turkish embassy in Damascus on Saturday evening,
throwing stones and bottles before Syrian police intervened to break up the
protest, Turkey’s state-run Anatolian news agency said.
long courting Assad, has lost patience with its neighbor’s failure to halt the
violence and implement promised reforms and now hosts the main Syrian opposition
and has given refuge to defecting Syrian soldiers.
minister was to meet Syrian opposition members in Ankara later on Sunday, a
clear diplomatic signal of its growing discontent with Damascus.
called on Syria to guarantee the safety of Turkish diplomats and for those
behind the embassy attacks to be prosecuted. Ankara also warned its citizens
against non-essential travel to Syria.
Turkey has threatened to impose
its own sanctions on Syria since early October but has yet to do
Meanwhile, another group of Assad supporters armed with sticks
attacked the Saudi Arabian embassy in Damascus.
Residents said hundreds
of men shouting slogans in support of Assad beat a guard and broke into the
Saudi embassy in Abu Rummaneh, three blocks away from the president’s offices in
one of the most heavily policed areas of the capital.
“We sacrifice our
blood and our soul for you, Bashar,” the crowd shouted, according to
France said it “very firmly” condemned “the
systematic destruction of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Damascus” and attacks on
its own honorary consulate in Latakia and diplomatic offices in Aleppo. It said
the attacks were carried out by groups of demonstrators and security forces did
Saudi Arabia, wary of the growing influence of Shi’ite
regional power Iran – Syria’s biggest remaining backer – is one of the Arab
nations leading the push for stronger measures against Damascus.
said NATO intervention in Libya – which was preceded by an Arab League
suspension of the Libyan government – was likely foremost in the minds of the
“Arab states are afraid that if they do not take forceful
steps someone else will, and then the fall of the regime will be attributed to
outside interference rather than the ability of the Arabs to put their own house
in order,” he said. “Syria has been making enemies all over the Middle East, and
these enemies are ganging up on it now that it’s down.”
Also Sunday, a
top US Treasury official held talks with senior Jordanian officials and banking
executives on efforts to enforce economic sanctions against Syria.
and US have recently expanded sanctions against Syria to put pressure on
Daniel Glaser, the US Treasury Department’s assistant
secretary, arrived in Amman after meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati
and Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh in Beirut.
A US embassy statement
said the Treasury official stressed the “need for authorities to protect the
Lebanese financial sector from Syrian attempts to evade sanctions.”
Lebanese and Jordanian banks have several branches in Syria that were opened in
the last six years when the country lifted restrictions on foreign stakes in the
The Arab League also plans to impose as yet unspecified
economic and political sanctions on Damascus, and has appealed to member states
to withdraw their ambassadors.
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