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26 Dec, 2011 19:42

Observers in Syria: Time to separate civilians from insurgents?

Dozens of new civilian deaths are being reported in Syria as a group of 50 Arab League monitors arrives to assess the implementation of a peace plan. But are media failing to distinguish between civilians and armed insurgents?

Observers arrived from Egypt on Monday with ten other Arab League officials, marking the first time foreign observers have been allowed inside Syria since internal fighting erupted in March. Meanwhile, more than 30 people have reportedly been killed as tanks opened fire in the restive city of Homs, where an Arab League delegation is expected as early as Tuesday.Hisham Jaber, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies, told RT that there is no doubt that armed insurgents are operating in Syria. But when the media report violent clashes and deaths in the country, for some reason the word “insurgent” is never used.“When they talk about the thousands of people killed in Syria, they don’t mention insurgents – they say civilians,” Jaber said. “And also we cannot deny that about 2,000 soldiers or security men were also killed in Syria within this period.”Arab League observers are charged with ensuring that Damascus sticks to a peace deal brokered by the League, a mission Hisham Jaber believes will be a very “complicated and sensitive” one. But the Syrian government will provide the observers with all the necessary tools to accomplish the job.“The Syrian government made it clear that it is not using forces and weapons against peaceful civilians,” he said. “But the army in Syria will continue the military operation against deserters from the army and against insurgents, who now have the most sophisticated weapons.”Syria accepted and signed the Arab League’s protocol, letting the observers in, because it wants out of the current political dead end, Jaber said. “And many believe that Russia was behind this, convincing Syria to accept the protocol, which represents a breakthrough of the situation,” he added.

Shirin Sadeghi, a Middle East expert and host of the New America Now radio program, believes there is no doubt that the Arab League observers will conclude that Assad is violating his part of the peace deal.

“I don’t think it’s an independent league, and it is not clear whether its interests are with the interests of the Arab people,” she told RT.

Recalling events in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan, Sadeghi points out that the “insurgent,” “terrorist” attacks have often been instigated, funded or even carried out by foreign troops, in some cases by Western forces.