Brian Whitaker writes: The Arab League’s much-heralded meeting to review the “progress” of its monitoring operation in Syria came and went on Sunday with barely a whimper. A few more monitors will be sent but unless Syria agrees to an extension, which seems unlikely, the mission will end on 19 January with the presentation of a report.
It’s difficult to see where the league can go from there, except by admitting failure and passing its files to the United Nations.
When the Assad regime accepted the league’s peace plan last month, after weeks of prevarication, it agreed to end the violence against peaceful protests, withdraw the army from towns, release political prisoners and start a dialogue with the opposition. The ill-prepared monitors were then sent in to assess its compliance.
The regime’s insincerity about this was never in much doubt. Apart from some token gestures it has made no real effort to comply, and the killings and arrests have continued. At the same time, though, the presence of monitors does seem to have emboldened the protesters and helped to keep Syria in the headlines.
Despite all that, the failure of the Arab League’s initiative may be preferable to its success. Had there been more progress, the result would have been protracted talks about political “reform”.