Syria refuses Arab League monitors, sanctions loom

Syria refused to allow Arab League monitors, designed to tamp down regime attacks on protesters, into the country. Sanctions could follow.

Muzaffar Salman/AP
Syrians hold a huge flag at a pro-regime rally.

Sanctions on Syria may be about to get a little tighter.

On Thursday, the Arab League gave Syria a 24 hour deadline to allow observers into the country as a hopeful check on President Bashar al-Assad's bloody crackdown on anti-regime demonstrators. That deadline came and went today, and now the Arab League is scheduled to consider further sanctions on Syria -- a founding member of the group -- tomorrow.

Syria has remained defiant as the Arab League, powerful neighbor Turkey, much of Europe, and the US have moved to isolate the regime. The AP reports that Syrian government news agency SANA called the Arab League a "tool for foreign interference."

Turkey, which appears to be tolerating camps of armed defectors from Assad's regime on the border, warned the country today that the clock is ticking.

CNN reports that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said "Syria has to make a decision... It will either continue this crackdown policy against its people and become isolated more and more, or it will say yes to this well-intentioned Arab League proposal, sign this protocol and observers will monitor the situation on the ground by going to all Syrian cities."

Arab League action against a member state is rare. But with the Arab democracy uprisings of the past year, the regional context has shifted immensely. What's more, evidence is mounting of a horrific toll from state violence in Syria.

Reuters reports the UN Committee against Torture is finding evidence of widespread, systematic abuse in Syria.

"More than 3,500 people have been killed since March, according to the United Nations, and activists say that more than 30,000 have been arrested, including families of dissidents.

 The U.N. committee said reports of children suffering torture and mutilation during detention were of particular concern, and that Syrian authorities had been acting with total impunity in what it called "gross and pervasive" human rights violations."

To be sure, there isn't a great deal of urgency in that committee; it asked Syria to send a report in March detailing the country's efforts to end torture.

Turkey is taking the situation a little more seriously. Beirut's Daily Star reports the country is considering tougher action:

"Turkey has ratcheted up the its criticism of Assad since its diplomatic missions came under attack by pro-government demonstrators in several Syrian cities earlier this month. Tensions were heightened further on Monday when two busloads of Turkish pilgrims travelling through Syria on their way back from the hajj in Mecca were attacked by Syrian gunmen.

Turkey, which is already sheltering about 7,000 Syrian opposition activists who fled their home, is however mulling plans for a buffer or no-fly zone on its border with Syria. Among those on Syrian soil is Riyadh al-Asaad, who defected from the Syrian army and is now leading a group of deserters in the rebel Free Syrian Army."

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