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Arab League Extends Observation Mission in Syria
January 23, 2012

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Despite observing little other than bloodshed, the Arab League has agreed to extend is observation mission in Syria, an attempt to convince President Bashar al-Assad to stop his armed forces from firing on civilians.

The League has put in place elements of sanctions against Syria, which independent observers say has killed more than 5,000 protesters in the streets of Damascus, the capital; Homs; and other large cities. One of the main tenets of the peace agreement put forward by the League has been the removal of tanks and other armored vehicles from the streets of the country's larger cities. So far, that has happened to a limited degree.

The observers were to be a presence that would deter further violence at the hands of Syrian tanks and troops, but that hasn't happened. Violence continues to erupt. The difference now in some cases is that some of the people in the streets are fighting back.

The number of army defectors has risen steadily in the past few months. In the past few weeks, the opposition announced the defection of several key intelligence personnel as well.

Another key part of the League peace plan was a reversal of a longstanding policy to bar foreign journalists and human rights workers from entering the country. Most reports of events inside Syria are either from government spokespeople or through second-hand reports filtered through other countries.

Assad has done some things that have made opposition leaders happy. He recently released more than 9,000 political prisoners and ordered troops to pull back from parts of Damascus. But Assad has been quick to dismiss a recent League plan to have the Syrian government and opposition meet for talks.

So far, the pressure on Syria's leader has been nowhere as much as that faced by Egypt's former president, Hosni Mubarak, or Libya's former leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi.



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