Robert Fisk: Arab League's 'roar' at Syria shows how tiny Qatar is starting to flex its muscle

The once pathetic group has now got the clout to stand up to Damascus

So did the "Arab Spring" infect the Arab League this weekend – or was it leaned on by the British Empire-style ambitions of tiny, rich Qatar?

The League – one of the silliest, most impotent, preposterous organisations in the history of the Arab world – has suddenly turned from mouse to lion and roared that Syria will be suspended from membership on Wednesday if it does not end violence against protesters, withdraw armour from cities, free political prisoners and start talking to the opposition.

Back roared Damascus: that Syria had already implemented the League's peace plan – a dodgy statement – that the decision was "illegal and a violation of the League's charter" (possibly true) and that Syria's potential suspension was an attempt to "provoke foreign intervention in Syria, as it did in Libya".

But the vote was pretty grim for the Assad regime. Of 22 states, only one abstained – Shia Iraq, for which thank you very much George W Bush – and two voted against: Yemen (of course) and Lebanon, which still lies in the sisterly embrace of Syria.

Qatar, which is Syria's current nemesis – along with the Al-Jazeera satellite channel – was behind the vote, cajoling, pleading and, so they say, paying out large amounts of gas profits to those who might have second thoughts.

Qatar's power in the Arab world is beginning to look distinctly imperial. With its money and its own air raids, it helped to bring down the Gaddafi regime. Now it is the League's vanguard against Syria.

There won't be a Nato no-fly zone over Syria. The Israelis would quite like to keep the Assad regime, on the grounds no-one knows who would come next. Iran would doubtless ask the Lebanese Hezbollah to bombard northern Israel if Nato attacked Syria. The Iranians themselves might get up to mischief with the US fleet in the Gulf. And not a single Arab wants a Libyan-type civil war to burn up Syria. Besides, Leon Panetta, the CIA chief, has already ruled out US firepower.

Nonetheless,it is a serious challenge to President Bashar al-Assad. He and his father Hafez promoted Syria as the "Mother of the Arab Nation" – now the "Arab Nation" wants to humiliate it.

The threat of economic and political measures is a real worry to a nation whose economy is already wearing at the edges after US and EU sanctions.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Technician

£30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Energy Sales Co-ordinator

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Energy Sales Consultant

£25000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil