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‘Syrian people in for very rough time’

Published time: January 09, 2012 23:36
Edited time: January 10, 2012 03:36

Syrian pro-government protesters hold up a national with a picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as Arab League observers (R) arrive at a Greek Orthodox church in Damascus on January 9, 2012 to attend a mass held in memory of a 10-year-old Christian boy, killed last month in Homs as he ventured out to buy cookies, and the son of Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun who was also killed in the flashpoint city in October (AFP Photo / Joseph Eid)

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Violence continues to mount in Syria along with the international pressure on the regime of Bashar Assad, while the opposition claims the Arab League's observer mission is only giving the regime more time to crush the dissent.

At a Sunday review meeting in Cairo, the Arab League urged Damascus to halt its crackdown, saying the Assad government had only partially implemented pledges it agreed to in a peace plan.

Despite the fact that the League is planning to bring more observers into the country, raising the number to 200, the Syrian opposition slams the monitors for failing to stop the violence.

The initial report is too vague, and it essentially buys the regime more time,” said Rima Fleihan, a member of the Syrian National Council, quoted by Reuters.

We need to know what the League will do if the regime continues its crackdown in the presence of the monitors. At some point it needs to refer Syria to the UN Security Council.”

Earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood accused the Arab League of seeking to “cover up" the Assad regime's “crimes.”

It is clear that the observer mission in Syria seeks to cover up the crimes of the Syrian regime by giving it the time and opportunity to kill our people and break their will,” Brotherhood spokesman Zuhair Salem said on Monday.

Also on Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the ongoing violence in the neighboring state, saying the conflict is sliding toward “civil war” and must be stopped. He spoke Monday at a joint news conference with Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Ankara.

Stoltenberg stressed the need to increase international pressure to force Assad to step down.

Dr Benjamin Barber, senior fellow at American think-tank "Demos," told RT that the Arab League is powerless in dealing with Syria without Western support.

As long as the West is not really interested in intervention – and clearly it’s not – very little is going to happen.”

He stresses that as the US is reducing its military involvement around the world, it has “no appetite” for another intervention. “And without the US in the background, NATO certainly won’t act.”

Barber says there is currently no clear alternative to Assad and his Alawite loyalists, so the West is making a lot of “noisy moral rhetoric about what’s going on in Syria, but taking no serious actions that would lead to the overthrow of Assad.”

The Syrian people are in for a very rough time,” he stated, adding that Assad will remain in power for a long time given his hold on the army.

Barber believes the death toll on both sides will rise as more and more soldiers defect to the opposition's side, and outside forces are unlikely to intervene.

Moreover, the sanctions from the international community will only worsen conditions for ordinary people. “Sanctions are sanctions on the people, but not on the elite that manage to keep their own hold on the little bit of resources that are there,” he explained.