On Wednesday, the Arab League gave Syria three days to "stop the bloody repression" of protesters and allow teams of observers in — or face sanctions and suspension from the organization. Though Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime had promised in early November to comply with Arab League demands, it continued its deadly crackdown, which has killed an estimated 3,500 people. Will the Arab League's latest ultimatum finally rein in Assad, or is it up to the increasingly aggressive Syrian opposition, which recently stepped up internal pressure by attacking a military base?
This seals Syria's isolation: The Arab League has delivered "a huge blow to Syria's standing and self-image as the vanguard of Arab nationalism," says Robert M. Danin at the Council on Foreign Relations. Assad's Syria is now unquestionably a source of Arab shame. With Europe also announcing "extremely significant" new sanctions, Syria's isolation is nearly complete, which will make it easier to push out the country's brutal leader.
"Syria's conflict enters a more dangerous phase"
Sanctions won't free Syria: The economic deprivation and government cutbacks that come with sanctions don't "usually bring regime-change," says Joshua Landis at Syria Comment. They certainly never worked in Iran, Iraq, Libya, or Sudan, nor do they seem to be having much effect on Hamas in Gaza. "What sanctions do very effectively is make people poor and hungry. Governments are good at passing along the pain."
"Will sanctions bring down the Syrian regime?"
With sanctions and guns, the opposition stands a chance: On their own, economic bludgeons won't tip the scales of the "one-sided Syrian conflict," says Max Fisher at The Atlantic. But Assad also has to contend with the increasingly powerful Syrian opposition, whose attack this week on a military complex outside Damascus was arguably "the largest anti-government strike since the uprising began." The rebels' cause long looked "utterly hopeless" — not any more.
"First signs of hope — and civil war — in Syria"