Leaders at the Arab League Summit in Iraq on Thursday endorsed the UN envoy Kofi Annan’s plan to end the violence in Syria, with Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warning that arming either side in Syria would lead to a “proxy war.”
Fewer than half the Arab League’s 22 heads of state were present at the summit, the first such meeting in Baghdad in decades. Many of the Sunni-led Arab states are suspicious of Iraq’s Shiite government and its close ties to non-Arab Iran. Militants launched attacks on the day of the summit and explosions occurred just outside the Iranian Embassy.
Iran is also Syria’s closest ally in the region, which may have been one reason Maliki did not come out in favor of military intervention, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia have. Instead he warned against international powers arming either side in the conflict.
The plan brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan calls for a total cease-fire, withdrawal of Syrian troops pulled from opposition areas and access for humanitarian services. Both the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad as well as elements of the rebel opposition have publicly accepted the plan, although realities on the ground have not changed.
Incidentally, most powers have rhetorically lent support to Annan’s mission to reach a political settlement and end the violence, they continue to craft their own policies that are probably prolonging the conflict. Russia, even after endorsing the Annan talks, continues to arm and support the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The U.S. has also praised the peace process, but announced recently their plan to send “non-lethal” aid to the Syrian rebels. In fact, Washington had already announced that it had been providing humanitarian aid to opposition fighters and administration officials confirmed last Sunday that the U.S. had already begun to supply some aid, including communications gear, to the rebel Free Syrian Army.