The Arab League is considering withdrawing its observers from Syria after conceding that their presence has not stopped a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The 22-nation regional body sent the monitors to report on compliance with a November deal requiring Syria to pull its tanks out of cities, release political prisoners, and begin talks with opposition groups. But human rights groups say the Arab League is just providing cover for President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Has the Arab League's push for peace really failed?

The monitoring mission is a cruel joke: The Syrian people had high hopes for the Arab League monitors, says The Australian in an editorial, especially since Assad's acceptance of the mission was a "rare concession" to those demanding reform. But the Arab League chose to send a sketchy Sudanese general accused of genocide on this mission to Syria, and he is clearly sympathetic to the regime. This is arguably "akin to sending an SS commander to investigate the Rape of Nanking," and it "made a mockery of all hope raised by the mission." It's time for this "charade" to end — Syrian activists "fighting so valiantly for freedom deserve better."
"No sign of Arab Spring in Syria"

Well, it's better than nothing: "Opposition activists are deeply skeptical of the observer mission," says the Associated Press, but they're still glad to have these monitors. "The nearly 100 Arab League monitors are the first that Syria has allowed into the country" during the nearly year-old uprising. And since the monitors arrived, Syrian pro-democracy activists have held their biggest demonstrations in months in an attempt to "make their case to the foreign monitors and take advantage of the small measure of safety they feel they brought with them."
"Syrians hold largest protests in months as Arab League monitors visit"

Maybe the monitors are slow-playing their hand: It's too early to dismiss the mission as a "theatrical stunt," says Sami Moubayed at the United Arab Emirates' Gulf News, meant only to relieve pressure on Syria and make the Arab League look like it's doing something. The monitors might be playing nice "to first win the trust of the Syrian government, before coming up with a very critical report in February." If that happens, this mission could be "a stepping stone" toward getting the United Nations involved in ousting Assad.
"Observers court controversy in Syria"