We’ll start with the bottom line: The Arab League’s decision Saturday to suspend Syria from
the organization will not bring an end to the brutal repression in the country. It will not prompt President Bashar Assad
to give up or order his troops back to their bases.
Nonetheless, one should not ignore the decision taken in Cairo. What we have here is not merely a technical suspension. The Syrian army was urged not to comply with the repressive orders coming from the presidential palace in Damascus. This is a highly significant statement.
Moreover, the Arab League called for economic and diplomatic sanctions against Syria.
What kind of sanctions? This will be decided in the near future based on Assad’s conduct.
So what are the implications of the decisions taken in Cairo? On the practical level, as noted, we can assume they will not have a dramatic effect on developments on the ground. Suspending Syria from one committee or another in the Arab League, an organization that is not’s too important as it is, won’t prompt Assad to hold his fire or end his personal battle for political survival.
However, what we are seeing is the continued erosion in the legitimacy of the Assad regime. Suspending Syria’s membership, the ongoing pressure and the Arab world shunning Assad harm the Syrian president’s image. His status continues to deteriorate every day, even if this is not patently obvious.
The latest developments, as well as the growing pressure in the Security Council, may prompt Assad’s close associates to decide that they would be better off without him, exactly as happened in Egypt in February. From that point, the Syrian president’s road to a fate similar to that of Mubarak and Gaddafi would be a short one.
Assad himself has no choice. He will continue to boost the pressure against protestors as much as he can, in a bid to repress them before his own moment of truth arrives. The question that must be asked in the West now is how far we are from the moment where someone decides to arm the “rebels” and bring Syria closer to the situation prevailing in Libya or in Yemen.
Those familiar with Syria already know that Assad’s claims about defectors and rebels who resort to ambushes and fire at his soldiers are not fictitious. This may very well be the next phase in the terrible wave of violence sweeping through our northeastern neighbor.