Will Arab League turn a blind eye to Syrian crackdown?
They can't very well declare their observer mission a "failure." So in a report they will release - perhaps as early as today - they will highlight President Assad's "cooperation" in releasing a paltry few political detainees, and the pulling of tanks and artillery off the streets of Syrian cities.
But make no mistake. The crackdown continues with small arms and bully boy tactics by the black clad militia who terrorize neighborhoods by hauling off thousands of Syrian men, saying they support the demonstrators. No charges are filed against these prisoners and there is no acknowledgment that they have been taken. Most of them simply disappear or their dead bodies are sent back to their families as a warning to others.
Snipers regularly pick off demonstrators and unwary innocents alike. Will the Arab League report include any of this? That's what has Syria on edge today.
While the mission does not have a mandate for peacekeeping or to stop the conflict, it is tasked with verifying Syria complies with the four points for the Arab League action plan.
They are release detainees, allow media and other observers, halt the violence and pull heavy equipment off the streets.
Human Rights Watch notes that League Secretary General Nabil el-Araby said, "Syria has already taken some steps under the terms of the agreement, withdrawing heavy weapons from Syrian cities, and releasing about 3,500 prisoners."
But it cites examples of Syria failing to abide by the League initiative, including security forces' attacks on peaceful demonstrators since the mission began.
Residents say attacks have continued during visits by Arab League officials, but at later times.
Most shelling occurs after officials leave the city and go back to their hotels, a resident in the besieged city of Homs said.
"They take the leaguers where they want," he said Saturday. "These are massacres. We have tens dying daily. Stores are closed ... civilian life is at a halt."
Opposition activities said at least 27 people were killed in attacks across the nation on Saturday. Eight of those deaths occurred in Homs.
It seems weird but in order to continue the observer mission, the Arab League must keep President Assad happy. Thus, they may downplay the violence that breaks out after their visits to cities like Homs and Hama while pointing to Assad's partially complying with the 4 point peace plan.
It won't help the opposition. They need a strong statement from the Arab League condemning Assad for his non-compliance. They won't get it. But they may get an acknowledgment that the violence is continuing and unless it stops, further sanctions will be forthcoming.
That's the best they can hope for from an organization that is always reluctant to take a stand against dictators.