Arab League threatens sanctions on Syria (video)
The Arab League has given Syria an ultimatum: end the violence, or face sanctions. But can sanctions sway a government already under heavy pressure?
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A day after the Arab League formally suspended Syria's membership, the regional bloc has thrown down another ultimatum: End the violence and allow international observers into Syria in the next three days, or face economic sanctions.
Qatari Prime Minister Hamas bin Jasim al-Thani said yesterday that the Arab League would not wait long to see if the suspension alone made a difference in President Bashar al-Assad's behavior, according to Bloomberg. “We shall stop wasting time,” he said. “If there aren’t any effective measures immediately to stop the killing and release detainees, sanctions will be imposed.”
Although Mr. Assad released more than 1,000 political prisoners on Tuesday, apparently in an attempt to dissuade the Arab League from suspending Syria on Wednesday, the Syrian Army made sweeping arrests once again today, according to the Associated Press.
But the violence is taking on a new form more akin to civil war than a one-sided crackdown. The Free Syrian Army, made up of defectors from the actual Army, has more than 25,000 officers and soldiers, according to Bloomberg. Members have started attacking Syrian military targets regularly, killing at least 34 government soldiers this week alone.
The US has heaped blame on the Syrian regime for the sharp turn toward civil war. US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday, “It is the brutal tactics of Assad and his regime in dealing with what began as a nonviolent movement that is now taking Syria down a very dangerous path."
But Russia took a harder line against defectors. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said all sides need to end the violence, according to the BBC. "This is already completely similar to real civil war," he said. "It is necessary to stop violence no matter where it comes from. It is an important thing because violence in Syria comes not only from government structures."
There is speculation that with an Arab consensus, Russia and China – who have so far resisted international sanctions against the Assad regime – could be persuaded to agree to such collective action.