August 9, 2011


Responding to Syria: The King's statement, the President's hesitation (John Hannah, August 9, 2011, Foreign Policy)

The floodgates of Arab diplomatic restraint on Syria have finally been breached. In the past few days, both the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab League issued their first official statements on the situation, expressing alarm at the Syrian government's excessive use of force and calling for an immediate end to violence. Even more important, the Gulf's most influential leader, Saudi Arabia's plainspoken King Abdullah, followed up with his own personal blast at the Assad regime, declaring that "What is happening in Syria is not acceptable to Saudi Arabia" and calling for a stop to "the killing machine." For good measure, the King recalled his ambassador from Damascus, a step immediately echoed by Kuwait and Bahrain. (Fellow GCC member, Qatar, actually closed its embassy last month).

True, none of the various statements called on Assad to step down. All urged the regime to implement meaningful reforms immediately. But don't be fooled. For the extraordinarily cautious Abdullah to move out against Assad so aggressively -- after almost five months of sitting idly on the sidelines -- is a sure sign that he's betting the Syrian tyrant's days are numbered.

The final straw for the Saudis appeared to be Assad's Ramadan Rampage, during which Syrian troops have laid waste to the cities of Hama and Deir az-Zour. Up to 300 civilians may have been slaughtered, making it by far the deadliest week of the five month old uprising, where the death toll now stands in excess of 2,000 souls. And no doubt most distressing of all for the Saudi monarch is the fact that the vast majority of the victims are fellow Sunnis.

Posted by at August 9, 2011 6:56 PM

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