Time's Up for Syria Monitors
Debate rages over whether to extend ineffectual Arab League mission
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2012 7:55 AM CST
Arab League observers arrive at a Greek Orthodox church in Damascus on January 9, 2012 to attend a mass for a 10-year-old boy, killed last month in Homs.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – The Arab League's one-month mandate to observe the crisis in Syria ran out yesterday, prompting a major debate over whether to try to extend the woefully ineffectual mission. By yesterday, the observers were essentially confined to their hotel rooms, the LA Times reports, their presence having done nothing to stop the violence—in the 10 days after they arrived, 400 were killed. Arab League officials will meet in Cairo Sunday to decide what to do next.

Some, including much-maligned mission leader Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi, are expected to recommend extending the mission while expanding its powers, perhaps by sending Arab League troops to guard the monitors, and giving them a mandate to intervene if they see abuses. While the Arab League can be granted a second month in the country with the government's OK, Syrian officials say there's nothing in their agreement with the Arab League allowing such mission changes. Some activists, meanwhile, say the mission should be scrapped in favor of UN Security Council action—though Russia is likely to block any moves there.