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Aarti Panchal asked: Why has Syria been expelled from the Arab League? What were the key reasons cited in this regard?

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  • P.K. Pradhan replies: Syria has been suspended from the Arab League allegedly for its failure to comply with a previous order passed by the League to end the violent crackdown on the protesters. The decision to suspend Syria from the League was taken at an emergency meeting in November 2011 where 18 out of 22 members supported the decision while Lebanon, Yemen and Syria voted against and Iraq abstained. In the meeting, the members also decided to impose some economic and political sanctions on Syria and, at the same time, appealed the member countries to withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus.

    Syria says the decision of the League is biased and illegal. But beyond the reason cited by the Arab League, there seem to be a number of political factors working behind the decision. The Bashar al Assad’s regime is heavily unpopular among other dominant and powerful members in the organisation. Assad is a friend and an ally of Iran which poses a geopolitical challenge to its Gulf Arab neighbours. For them, fall of Assad will significantly reduce Iranian power and influence in the region. Also, Assad being an Alawite Shia does not get along well with the powerful Sunni Arab rulers in the region. They have differences of opinion over regional issues, such as, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, etc. The proximity of the Arab countries to the United States and the rivalry between the United States and the Assad regime are other factors which may have influenced the decision of the Arab League.