Killings in Homs fuel skepticism over Syria peace accord
Syrian forces reportedly killed as many as seven people in Homs today, just one day after Syria agreed to a peace accord that called for withdrawing tanks from the streets.
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Daniel Serwer, a former US diplomat and current professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, writes on his blog Peacefare.net that President Assad was happy to agree to the Arab League plan because "it requires nothing verifiable of Damascus except to talk with its opposition." And to Assad's further benefit, Mr. Serwer notes, the plan may fracture the opposition.Skip to next paragraph
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Bashar al Assad has said he is willing to [talk to the opposition] from the first. But there aren’t many protesters willing to do it, unless there is a prior agreement that they are talking about transition arrangements. If the protesters refuse the dialogue, Bashar will continue the crackdown.
Even better from Bashar’s point of view if some of the protesters accept and others do not. Then he will have succeeded in splitting them. He’ll get some nice photo ops with the dialoguers while going after the others again. The opposition was already having troubles unifying its disparate forces. Accepting the Arab League plan is a neat maneuver to make that even more difficult.
Time Magazine's Rania Abouzeid writes that Syria's implementation is "the catch" to the Arab League plan's success. Ms. Abouzeid notes that without any enforcement clause, the plan's success depends on the Assad regime's will to implement it, and Syria has shown no willingness to commit to similar peace arrangements in the past.
It's not the first time that the Arab League has given the Syrian regime a window to end its ferocious campaign against pro-democracy protesters. A two-week timetable to do so recently came and went with no consequences for Damascus. Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, Assad's once formidable ally, has also huffed and puffed and warned Syria to end its repression, but to no avail. In fact, the League put forward an almost identical plan months earlier that was rejected by Damascus. Why was it accepted now?
The bottom line is that without an "or else" clause — which this deal apparently lacks — the success or failure of any agreement is likely to rest entirely on the Syrian regime's will to comply. The most the Arab League could muster on Wednesday in terms of a warning, was the threat to hold another meeting if Assad ignores them. NATO this week also reiterated that it had no plans to intervene in Syria, under any circumstances.