Syrian views on Arab League mission

Opposition members and a government supporter give their views on what Arab League monitors achieved in Syria.

Syria observers
Syrian government says it provided observers all that they required, a claim disputed by the opposition [Reuters]

General Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the head of the Arab League’s mission to Syria, is to present his team of observers’ initial findings to the organisation’s foreign ministers at a meeting in Cairo on Sunday.

The mission has been criticised for being ineffective in enforcing the Arab League’s demands that all violence cease and political prisoners be released.

Al Jazeera asked members of the Syrian opposition and a member of the ruling Baath Party what they expected from the monitors’ initial assessment.

Mulham Droubi, spokesman for Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood

Would you say the Arab League mission has been a success or a failure?

If you look at the objectives of the mission, which is to stop the killing in Syria, I would consider it to be a failure, because [the rate of killings] increased, it did not stop. But, if you look at the mission to document evidence that Bashar al-Assad is still killing our own people, then we have to wait to see what is written in the report, [if] they documented that.

Based on what we see in their reports today, we will classify [the mission] as a success or a failure.

But I am optimistic that the observers will document in their report that killings are still going on and that the military tanks and soldiers are still on the streets. I am hoping that the Arab League will recommend some kind of escalation of the case to the United Nations.

Given government restrictions, what could the observers have done differently to achieve those objectives?

I am sure that the Syrian government tried to deceive the observers. The [bombings] that took place two days ago in Damascus, and two weeks ago also in Damascus, were definitely planted by the government themselves, by the military intelligence, and that was one of the means to deceive and threaten the observers.

The observers tried to go to some places, but some of the hottest spots, in Homs and Idlib and other places, to my knowledge they were not visited thoroughly. They tried to meet some of the families of those who were killed and those who are imprisoned … and, by the way, the number of prisoners [in the last 10 months] could be counted to be up to 50,000. And less than 1,000 prisoners were released [by the government].

What kind of “escalation to the UN” would you like to see?

I am a result-oriented man. As such, I want my people to be protected. I want the killing to be stopped. I want the violence to be stopped. I want the people to have freedom to express their opinions, and to demonstrate.

How would the UN do that? It’s up to them. They have their ways and means. Chapter 7 of the UN charter puts the obligation on the international community to protect civilian protesters, and my people in Syria are civilians and unarmed, and as such need to be protected and have the right to express their views and opinions.

I believe that President Bashar al-Assad is a war criminal now and should be brought to justice and brought to court.

I would like our colleagues, our brothers in the Arab League to really expedite the case in escalating it to the UN. Because we know that that the Arab League does not have any armed forces, so they cannot enforce any decision on Bashar al-Assad. Once, and I hope this happens today, once they are convinced that Assad did not conform with the preconditions, then they need to move forward. This means they need to ally with some sort of international community organisation like the United Nations in order to enforce those conditions, so that the killing in Syria stops, the criminals are brought to justice and I’d like that to happen as soon as possible.

Because every day that passes, Syria loses innocent [people].

What about the armed Syrian opposition, which has been carrying out attacks against government troops? Should they fall under the purview of the observers’ mission?

When it comes to the arms, I only know the Syrian Free Army. They are working to protect the demonstrators, so they are in the defensive mode, not in an offensive mode.

It is up to the Free Syrian Army to express their opinion [on operations against the government]. If it is really something they are doing, it is up to them to classify and describe it. But I would, in general, [say] that if there are some enemies coming to kill your people and you somehow stop them, a preventive action, that is still a defensive mode.

Louay Safi, member of the opposition Syrian National Council

Would you say the Arab League mission to Syria has been a success or a failure?

It has been a failure. It has not succeeded in stopping any of the objectives for which this mission was sent. The killing continues and the regime is able to manipulate the movement of the observers.

The Arab League has sort of [accepted] some of the demands of the Syrian regime. [The government] was able to block some of the individuals who were coming in. The observers are not trained for this mission. The leadership is not prepared to deal with the Syrian government. [Arab League head of mission General Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi] is a general who has been part himself of dictatorship [in Sudan].

Given government restrictions, what could the observers have done differently to achieve those objectives?

[The Arab League] should have insisted that they choose who comes in without compromise. They should have demanded that the Syrian regime stop immediately the killings, withdraw all security forces and the army. It seems they have compromised on this, allowing the military to [remain] in the cities and the villages where they visited. There were no serious complaints about that. [They should have] threatened to withdraw if their demands were not met.

The whole mission has been very clumsy, [and the observers have been] unable to stand for what is needed professionally to achieve their mission.

They should have demanded clearly and contacted their leadership in Cairo, the Arab League central command, making a statement to the press about the need for the Syrian regime to agree to their own demands to enforce practically the league’s initiative. The whole mission was supposed to help protect civilians and create a situation for transition to democratic life, but its clear they have failed at every turn.

What would you like to see from the Arab League’s initial assessment?

What [the opposition] expects from the Arab League is [to say] “We have tried and we are not prepared, and we need to take the case to the UN to see how they would be able to deal with a very dire situation.”

And what form of intervention would you like to see from the UN?

We would like to see a resolution demanding that the Syrian government allow UN observers [and international media], to make sure the Syrian people are protected and to look into the claims that there were criminal gangs responsible for the killing. We believe that those gangs are moving under the cover of the government and in the absence of the neutral media, and observers, the Syrian regime can continue killing people with impunity.

And should the armed opposition also fall within the remit of any observers mission to end the violence?

Definitely. Observers should have the freedom to look into all situations. What’s happening with the defectors [from the Syrian military]… these defectors are part of the military. They are being ordered to kill civilians, and those who cannot do so, they are defecting.

Is the armed opposition co-ordinating with unarmed opposition groups?

In some places, like Homs and in the north, many of those defecting are moving to the mountains. Some of them are taking refuge in neighbourhoods. But it seems to me there is no planned co-operation. It’s sort of spontaneous: people are accepting the presence of individuals who have defected.

But these are limited, reports indicate, because most of the defectors are stationed in places where there is no population, in mountainous areas.

Bassam Abu Abdullah, Baath Party member (via James Bays on “Inside Syria”)

What’s your view on this mission; success or failure?

I cannot say that the history of the Arab League in the past ten years is positive, generally. The Arab League was a bridge for many American projects in the region, towards Iraq and towards Libya. And I think this slogan that protects the civilian people, we couldn’t see in Palestine, we couldn’t see in the south of Lebanon, and because of that, I think this is one of the political cards, which is the main players in the region. I mean, we should see that struggle is going between the United States, Europe, Russia, China, and including Syria and Iran and Hezbollah.

And I think that the Western countries, [and] the Gulf countries, they are afraid that Syria and Iran are becoming closer and this is, geo-strategically, very dangerous for them and for the United States. Because of that, they are trying to use the Syrian crisis to win a big gain between these big powers. Anyway, I will comment that I cannot trust the Arab commission, but anyway, the Syrian government is committed with the [document] that was signed in Cairo

Do you say that the Syrian government has been fully cooperating with these monitors?

Yes, I think they are fully cooperating, and besides that, we opened for all media now we have more than 136 representatives from different media, except Al Jazeera.

Well, except Al Jazeera. I’m sitting here in the “Inside Syria” studio. I’d like to be reporting from inside Syria, but we’ve not been granted a visa.

Al Jazeera, generally, my friend, Al Jazeera was a party during the past 11 months, I think they are not objective. I don’t know Al Jazeera English, but…I met with your correspondent who was from Beirut and from Doha and I had an interview with them.

Anyway, there are some truths which you should know: Who killed more than 2,000 from the army and from the security officers? And we have more than 5,000 in the hospitals, and I think many delegations have visited them. Who killed the civilian people? So we should understand that [people with] this kind of position who are trying to invite NATO or other foreign powers, they are not opposition. We should call them another name, and I think the final solution is for all Syrians to come and have a dialogue.

Other exits, I cannot see. And the opposition, the foreign opposition, they cannot attack the regime. The regime is very strong and I think they should understand that the dialogue is open and reform is starting and they should participate with the people in these reforms in more democracy and more freedom.

But this game is not giving Syrian people any exit from this crisis.

Now, while the Arab monitors have been continuing their work, there have been two bombings in Damascus over the last couple of weeks. Dr Abdullah, who is responsible, do you think?

Yes, I will tell you. If you will go to Saudi Arabia yesterday, on Friday, you can hear from the mosque in Saudi Arabia what they are calling for. You should ask Qatar, you should ask Turkey … you should ask in Qatar what they are doing, why Hamad is very responsible for Syrian people? What is his role? This is the main question we should ask, not what is going on in Syria.

Now human rights we couldn’t see in Palestine … you should stop this because the truth is very clear now, and we are playing on the table not under the table. Everything this opposition [does] is at the hands of the outsiders.

It is not opposition. National opposition is working from inside Syria.

Source: Al Jazeera