Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Arab States Increase Pressure on Syria, Syria Blames American Conspiracy

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As yesterday's post noted, condemnation of Syria seems to have reached a tipping point - with more and more world leaders finally criticising the Assad regime, well into the fifth month of violence. Even "hacktivist" collective Anonymous have jumped on the bandwagon, hacking into the Syrian Ministry of Defence website and leaving photographs of mutilated protestors as long as a message of support in both English and Arabic.



To the Syrian people: The world stands with you against the brutal regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Know that time and history are on your side - tyrants use violence because they have nothing else, and the more violent they are, the more fragile they become. We salute your determination to be non-violent in the face of the regime's brutality, and admire your willingness to pursue justice, not mere revenge. All tyrants will fall, and thanks to your bravery Bashar Al-Assad is next.

To the Syrian military: You are responsible for protecting the Syrian people, and anyone who orders you to kill women, children, and the elderly deserves to be tried for treason. No outside enemy could do as much damage to Syria as Bashar Al-Assad has done. Defend your country - rise up against the regime! - Anonymous

Far more significant than Anonymous is the increasingly strong message being sent to Assad by the Gulf Arab states, following yesterday's statement by the Gulf Cooperation Council. As reported by Adrian Blomfield for The Telegraph (UK), King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia came out publicly with strong condemnations of Syria's actions. Abdullah's sentiments were then echoed by an eminent Sunni Muslim authority. Moreover, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have now withdrawn their diplomatic missions in Syria - an unprecedented rebuke of the Syrian regime.

After months of silence, King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch and the region's most powerful potentate, set the tone by issuing a statement denouncing Syria's suppression of the protests seeking Mr Assad's overthrow as "unacceptable".

"Syria should think wisely before it is too late and issue and enact reforms that are not merely promises but actual reforms," he said. "The future of Syria lies between two options: either Syria chooses willingly to resort to reason, or faces being swept into deep chaos, God forbid."

Saudi Arabia announced it was recalling its envoy to Damascus "for consultations" and its two closest allies, Bahrain and Kuwait, swiftly followed suit.

"No-one can accept the bloodshed in Syria," Sheikh Muhammad al-Sabah, Kuwait's foreign minister said. "The military option must be halted.

The robust language of Arab leaders was swiftly given religious backing, with Al-Azhar, the region's most influential Sunni Muslim authority, calling on Mr Assad to end the bloodshed and listen to the protesters.

"This is a human tragedy that cannot be accepted. The vast repression, the use of the highest levels of violent, arrests and intimidation represent an unacceptable human tragedy," the group's grand imam, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, said in a statement.

Of course, the actions of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are not without irony, given the activities of both regimes in suppressing the Bahraini attempt at overthrowing their despotic monarchy. That said, momentum certainly seems to be swinging in the Syrian opposition's favour and if the Arab States take further action against the Assad regime, the pressure may be sufficient to spark regime change in Syria.

Meanwhile, as reported by MEMRI, the Syrian Government has responded to the condemnations by again accusing the opposition of terrorism and pointing their finger at the US as the puppet master behind the Gulf Arab states' actions.

A Syrian official claimed that the Gulf states should reexamine their woeful position, which ignores terrorist acts by gunmen in the country; the opposition's refusal to hold dialogue with the regime; and the reforms that the regime has been enacting.

The Syrian daily Al-Watan, which is close to the regime, warned that statements made by Arab League secretary-general Nabil Al-Arabi regarding his concern over the Syrian situation and his call to accelerate reforms could lead to foreign military intervention. The daily added that the criticism of Saudi King Abdallah is an American threat, and not dialogue with a sister country.

Some interesting analysis of the trend toward growing Arab and Turkish condemnations of Syria comes from Tel Aviv University scholars Liad Porat and Galia Lindenstrauss and Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz