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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea