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
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines