By Sharmine Narwani
On December 19, 2011 the Syrian Arab Republic and the Arab League signed a protocol establishing an Observer Mission that would lead efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria and protect civilians in the process.
Almost immediately afterward, once-staunch advocates of this Arab League “intervention” in Syria began efforts instead to undermine the Mission’s efforts.
Before inking the final deal, an Arab League official had warned me that certain member states – Qatar, most prominently – were setting up conditions that would preclude the participation of the Syrian government. But intense shuttle diplomacy at the eleventh hour produced a breakthrough: the Mission was approved by the two parties, and the disappointed spoilers launched a public relations blitz to cast doubt on the Mission’s participants, the Arab League’s capabilities and the investigation’s discoveries.
For the last month, we have heard allegations fly riotously about the Sudanese Head of Mission Lieutenant General Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa Al-Dabi, now suddenly accused of war crimes. Rumors abounded about Mission Observers quitting their posts because of the “horrific” nature of the Syrian government’s onslaught against its civilians. International NGOs and a slew of western politicians even offered to “train” the mission observers – implicitly suggesting that Arabs lack observation and negotiation capabilities, or worse perhaps, that the observers need to be taught to view the Syrian conflict through external lenses.
It was hard to doubt these rumors entirely – the Arab League have, after all, refused to make the final Monitors’ report available to the general media. But the Report has suddenly popped up as an annex to the UN Resolution on Syria currently being hotly debated at the Security Council. Most puzzling though, is that few Western or Arab journalists congregated at the United Nations this week are drawing attention to this critical document that provides insight into the very events contested at Council sessions.
Mission Report: The Good, Bad and Ugly
The full Monitor’s Report of the Arab League, revealed here, refers in several instances to efforts aimed at undermining the Mission and its activities:
“Since it began its work, the Mission has been the target of a vicious media campaign…that increased in intensity after the observers’ deployment. Some media outlets have published unfounded statements, which they attributed to the Head of the Mission. They have also grossly exaggerated events…Such contrived reports have helped to increase tensions among the Syrian people and undermined the observers’ work. Some media organizations were exploited in order to defame the Mission and its Head and cause the Mission to fail.” (more…)