Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has failed to honor his commitments to the Arab League, including ending violent attacks against peaceful demonstrators and releasing all political prisoners.
There are now more than 100 monitors from the Arab League inside Syria as part of a deal that President Assad made with the organization. According to the United Nations, more than 5,000 people have been killed since March when mostly peaceful anti-government protests began and drew a harsh military response from the government.
Despite the presence of the Arab League monitors since late December, the violence hasn't stopped; this prompted a meeting of the Arab League’s ministerial Committee on Syria on January 8th, which once again called on the Assad Regime to fully and immediately implement the pledges it has made to the organization.
There have been at least 70 new deaths in Syria since the 31st of December, the vast majority of which have been at the hands of Syrian security forces, snipers and others loyal to the Assad regime. In some places, said U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland, "the military is donning police uniforms in order to hide what they're up to." In cases where Arab League monitors have been present, especially without a large regime security presence, ordinary Syrians have peacefully protested and relayed their experiences under the regime to the observers; however there have also been reports of the regime violently cracking down on protestors when observers are not present.
Worse there are also reports that the Assad government is putting out false reports that Arab League monitors are on the way, bringing demonstrators into the streets only to arrest and brutalize them.
The Syrian government has promised to release all political prisoners, "including a release of the most high-level political prisoners," said Ms. Nuland, but it has only released a limited number thus far and has denied Arab League monitors access to some prisons and to other parts of the country.
The United States supports efforts to ensure that the Arab League mission is able to fulfill its mandate to verify whether or not the Assad regime is abiding by agreements it has made aimed at stopping the violence.
If the Syrian regime continues to flout Arab League efforts to stem the violence, the international community will determine other means to protect Syrian civilians.