OIC suspends Syria, but is it effective?

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), suspended Syria’s membership at a summit of Muslim leaders in Makkah, citing President Bashar Assad’s violent suppression of the Syrian revolt.

“The conference decides to suspend the Syrian Arab Republic membership in the OIC and all its subsidiary organs, specialized and affiliated institutions,” the closing statement said.

He described the decision to suspend Syrian membership as “a message to the international community … that the Islamic community stands with a politically peaceful solution and does not want any more bloodshed.”

Meanwhile, the United States commended the OIC on Thursday for suspending Syria’s membership in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, saying it sent a “strong message” to President Bashar Assad’s regime.

OIC must be credited for doing a credible act long overdue. The suspension may be humiliating for Assad but with little or no effect on the uprising.

Syria’s most important pillars of strength are its international friends in Moscow, Beijing and Teheran. Arms and weapons imports from Russia and China have literally fuelled Assad’s murderous assaults on citizens. Teheran remains Assad regimes’ political and religious ally from where it receives support for proxy wars against Israel and pro western blocks.

Iran’s support for Assad is painted with a sectarian color trying to imprint a Shiite connection between the secularist Alawites and the deeply conservative Iranian clergy. The connection between Iranians and Alawites have less to do with a common faith in God and more to do with power and influence in the region.

OIC’s suspension will push the Alawite regime more convincingly into the lap of its only coreligionist supporter. Muslim countries in the OIC could have tried, risking a high chance of failure, to officially persuade Iran to change its policy on Syria. Iran could have been morally convinced to influence Assad to scale down military offensives and allow international medical aid to reach the victims.

Syria’s arms imports will not change direction either due to the OIC suspension. Fearing hostilities from OIC neighbors Assad is likely to step up his weapons purchases after the suspension. OIC could have drawn experiences from other international bodies whose sanctions cripple states weakening their abilities to withstand external interventions. OIC, though not a military alliance, could have formed a peace keeping force for intervention in Syria, with contributions from member countries, as the last resort for halting sectarian violence, genocide and civil war. Other than the threat of force against a brutal regime little would suspensions and sanctions work effectively.

OIC’s sanctions would not carry any binding regulation on the bilateral relationships between Assad and his supporters. Sanction from the UNSC will most likely be stalled due to Syria’s diplomatic support from Russia and China. Veto against any military strike by the UN will surely be expected, which will basically leave only one last military alliance left empowered to strike against any state which poses a threat to any of its member states. The threat from Syria to a NATO member state is Turkey. North Syrian Kurdish rebels have been attacking Turkish towns sending war signals to the Turkish forces ahead of any large scale fight for an independent Kurdish state. Due to this threat to Turkey, a NATO member state, intervention by implementing ‘no fly zones’ over Syrian territory western military intervention seems more likely.

Intervention in Syria therefore will most likely require the strategic presence of Turkey followed by an important role to be played by Turkish forces to keep domestic peace and security in a post Assad Syria.

 After the failure of Kofi Annan and the much anticipated diplomatic whistling from newly appointed UN – Arab League politician Brahimi Syrian citizens must be asking “why is the global muslim fraternity not doing enough to stop this bloodshed?” The OIC suspension might not make any real impact on the Syrian uprising as such, but it could indirectly help boost the chances of external intervention (most likely by NATO) as the only viable option which can realistically help the revolutionaries dislodge Assad.


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