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Syria protests: Arab League consensus paves the way for UN sanctions

After eight months of Syria protests, the Arab League decision to suspend Syria's membership gives regional backing for UN sanctions, which could ease Russian and Chinese opposition.

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An emerging Arab consensus against Syria for its brutal assault on a pro-democracy uprising paves the way for broader international pressure on the Assad regime.

Much like the Arab League support for a Libyan no-fly zone made international action politically possible, Saturday’s vote by the Arab League to suspend Syria's membership in the bloc makes international action more likely.

While the League's members made clear that they were not endorsing military action this time, their public stance against Syria could help turn the tide in a stand-off now entering its ninth month – both by opening the way for United Nations Security Council sanctions and by helping to unite the fragmented Syrian opposition.

“The significance of the Arab League's decision was that it had finally lifted the Arab cover from the Assad regime,” says Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center. The addition of regional Arab opposition to Turkish and Western criticism of Syria, he says, will lead to a coalition that "is not only going to seek to pressure and isolate the regime, but will also increasingly be looking at a post-Assad Syria."

Since Saturday’s vote, the European Union has imposed additional sanctions on 18 Syrians it says are responsible for or associated with the regime’s repression. Jordan’s King Abdullah said Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should step down. He is the first Arab leader to say so publicly.

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