The Arab League’s actions earlier this year against Libya were not necessarily best understood as the product of a revolution in the region or in that organization, for Qaddafi was a unique figure. He was widely loathed and mocked by Arab leaders, who were glad to be rid of him.
But Syria is different, having been at the heart of the Arab world for centuries and playing in recent decades a key role in inter-Arab rivalries and in the never-ending Arab struggle against Israel. For Arab leaders to dump the Syrian regime is something far more significant.
It is also striking that the spokesman for the Arabs was again — as in the Libya case — Hamad bin Jassem, the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar. Whatever Qatar is doing, it is not exporting democracy — for there is absolutely none back home, when the Amir and Sheik Hamad basically run the show. Certainly they are showing once again that Qatar’s nimble diplomacy and its unlimited funding for such operations (it sent money, trainers, and guns to Libya’s opposition) is giving this tiny nation a larger role in regional politics today than any other. One has to assume that Qatar has contacts today with the “Free Syrian Army” and that, as in Libya, this will pay off with more influence when the regime falls. With Egypt mired in demonstrations and the Saudi leadership old and enfeebled, Qatar is now the leading Arab voice.
When Hamad bin Jassem said on Sunday that “if the international community does not take us seriously in this, then I cannot guarantee that there will be no foreign interference” in Syria, he was driving another nail in the coffin of the Assad regime. It will fall, and Arab leaders are smart enough to know that the longer that takes the harder it will be to put the pieces back together. They want a Sunni-led Syria oriented toward them and away from Iran, an outcome that is also in our interest and will weaken not only Iran but Hezbollah and Hamas as well. They do not want a Syria that is broke and mired in sectarian violence, so they are acting with what is for them unparalleled speed.