Opinion Brief

Can Arab leaders pressure Syria to stop the killing?

The Arab world takes an extraordinary stand by condemning Bashar al-Assad's violent crackdown on peaceful protesters

Syria's increasingly bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters is apparently too harsh for its iron-fisted neighbors: After President Bashar al-Assad's forces killed some 300 civilians last week — bringing the five-month death toll to more than 2,000 — the Arab League called for an immediate halt to military actions. Then, Saudi Arabia urged Assad to "stop the killing machine" and pulled its envoy from Syria Monday. Bahrain and Kuwait quickly followed suit. Assad has been unmoved by criticism from the West, but will pressure from his Arab neighbors get him to cease and desist?

Yes. This proves the Assad regime is "doomed": "The noose around Bashar al-Assad's neck is getting tighter," says Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy. The "extraordinary" condemnations by Syria's Arab neighbors leave Assad almost completely isolated, and that makes his ouster a prerequisite for any "genuine political solution." Assad's "wisest course of action now is to find a safe place to spend his retirement."
"Bashar al-Assad is going down"

No. This won't be enough to dissuade Assad: This ratcheting up of diplomatic pressure from Arab allies is a big deal, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. But "at this point, Assad doesn't really seem to care what the Arab world, or the world as a whole, thinks." He certainly seems to be ignoring Saudi King Abdullah, and "unless someone from the outside decides to intervene, I don't see this ending any time soon."
"Led by Saudis, Arab countries increase pressure on Syria"

Plus, the Saudis are just looking out for themselves: "Abdullah's call for swift reform and an end to the killings is unlikely to be heeded, but perhaps it is not meant to be," says Brian Whitaker in Britain's Guardian. If the Saudis think Assad is doomed, distancing themselves from his regime while archrival Iran still backs him could drive "a wedge between Iran and a post-Assad Syria." We should probably welcome Abdullah's strong stand, but understand that it's not about helping Syrians.
"Saudi Arabia's message to Syria, decoded"

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