The Arab League proposed its latest plan for Syria on 22 January. A plan it had proposed in November was accepted by the Syrians but no part of that plan was put into practice. It called for a total stop to violence, freeing of prisoners, withdrawal of the army from centres of protest and free movement of observers and news media.
The January plan added political boldness. It called for President al-Assad to transfer his power to a vice-president and form a national unity government within two months, which would be responsible for preparing free, pluralist legislative and presidential elections, under Arab League and other international supervision.
Damascus rejected this plan, calling it flagrant interference in Syria’s internal affairs. The Arab League then turned to the United Nations. It hope the 15 Security Council members would endorse its proposal. But the resolution was defeated, vetoed by Russia and China.
The League suspended its Syria mission but stopped short of formally declaring it over. Powerful Saudi Arabia was the first country to pull out of the monitoring party in Syria. The Arab monitors generally come from countries that are themselves struggling for stability. Western powers have talked about going outside the UN and creating a coalition of countries that would impose tougher sanctions against Assad. The League is stressing diplomacy.
Nabil Elaraby, Arab League Secretary General, said: “There are two alternatives, let’s put it that way. One of them is a surgical alternative – the Libyan scenario. It is not valid here, no one wants to do it, we don’t – as Arab League – we don’t want to do it. The other one is that a doctor will see someone who is in a very bad shape and will try to give him some medicine. And that’s what we are trying to do. We are trying to quieten things, get the situation under control.”
Thirty years ago, the father of Bashar al-Assad crushed an uprising by destroying a city. The estimates of dead were in the tens of thousands. Proponents of political transition today wish to prevent more of the same.