Syrian forces kill 13 as Arab League calls meeting

Analyst tells 'Post' "Arab League has intentions to support uprising in Syria but needs US commitment to support them if Iran retaliates."

Syrian protesters with old Syrian flags 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout)
Syrian protesters with old Syrian flags 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout)
Syrian forces killed 13 people on the Id al-Adha holiday Sunday, and Qatar called on the Arab League to reconvene over the Syria crisis just days after a similar meeting produced no tangible results.
The new meeting would discuss “the continuing violence and the government’s failure to stick to its obligations under the Arab Action Plan to solve the crisis in Syria,” Egypt’s official news agency MENA reported.
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Last week the Arab League proposed a plan for President Bashar Assad’s regime to withdraw its tanks from Syria’s cities, release political prisoners from jail and hold talks with opposition figures. Damascus agreed to the plan, but has yet to carry out any of the steps it outlined.
Analysts and observers have expressed skepticism that the Arab League would be able to match its rhetoric with action.
Walid Phares, a Washington-based Mideast analyst and author of the recent book The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East, said Arab leaders would be pleased to see Assad removed, but fear retaliation from Damascus’s patron Iran.
“The Arab League has the intentions to support the uprising in Syria but needs a US commitment to support them if Iran retaliates,” Phares told The Jerusalem Post by email.
“The regime knows that if it pulls out its security forces from the streets, more demonstrations will explode and would eventually overwhelm the regime. The opposition knows that if they stop demonstrating in the streets, the security forces will go get them in their homes,” he said.
“[Assad] has seen the fate of his predecessors in the Arab Spring: Mubarak on trial, Ben Ali in exile, Gaddafi killed.
This explains why he doesn’t want these choices and decided to stay and fight.”
Sunday’s violence again centered on Homs, a battleground city between anti-government protesters and forces loyal to the government that has been under tank bombardment since Tuesday.
Activists said another 13 civilians were killed by tank fire in the city on Saturday.
More than 3,000 people have been killed in seven months of protests.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland accused the Syrian government of failing to follow through on the Arab League plan and said Washington has no confidence that it would.
“We have a long, deep history of broken promises by the Assad regime,” she told reporters this weekend.
“Assad cannot let go of the oppression because he knows it would trigger the end to his regime,” Phares said. “Hence he will continue to suppress on the one hand and talk about solutions on the other hand. His real card, as far as he projects, is the rapidly approaching US withdrawal from Iraq. If he can survive until then, he will have an endless support from Iran, via Iraq, and Assad’s flanks to the East and to the West [Hezbollah] will be protected...
“When that happens, Assad thinks, no international force can dislodge him without a regional war.”
Reuters contributed to this report.