The decision to freeze Syrian delegates’ activities stopped just short of full membership suspension. In addition, the Arab League warned of political and economic sanctions, urged Arab states to withdraw their envoys from Damascus, and called on Syrian forces to reject orders to fire on the protesters revolting against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian rule.
“We were criticized for taking a long time, but this was out of our concern for Syria,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al Thani, who led the committee on Syria, told reporters in Cairo. “We needed to have a majority to approve those decisions.”
The 22-member, Cairo-based Arab League surprised political observers with Saturday’s measures, which went well beyond what anyone had expected from a body that’s been long regarded as calcified and toothless. Analysts used words such as “watershed” and “historic” as they parsed the announcement on Twitter.
The Arab League also invited the main Syrian opposition umbrella group to Cairo to hold talks. "We are calling all Syrian opposition parties to a meeting at the Arab League headquarters to agree a unified vision for the transitional period," Thani said.
Few predict a chastened response from the defiant Assad, whose ...