Qatar's emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani urged Arab nations in a General Assembly speech to form a political and military coalition to intervene in Syria to stop the bloodshed, as a first step towards guaranteeing a peaceful political transition.
"The situation in Syria has reached an unacceptable phase," he told the gathering. "Hundreds of innocent Syrians are killed everyday by the fire of a regime that does not hesitate to use all sort of weapons against its people."
The Qatari leader said the intervention force could be modeled on a Syrian-led Arab Deterrence Force that was established by the Arab League in Lebanon in 1976, and which provided regional backing to Syria's military occupation of Lebanon.
We "have used all available means to get Syria out of the cycle of killing but that was in vain," Al Thani said. "In view of this, I think it is better for the Arab countries themselves to interfere out of their national, humanitarian, political and military duties and do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed in Syria and the killing of innocent people and their displacement in order to guarantee a peaceful transition of power in Syria."
He urged countries "that believe in the cause of the Syrian people to contribute to the provision of all sorts of support to this people until it gains its legitimate rights."
It was hard to measure how serious the Qatari proposal was and doubtful that an Arab coalition could be mustered to go to war with one of the region's most powerful armies, particularly one with strong backing of Iran and Russia. The announcement came hours after the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appealed to governments to stay out of the conflict and support the efforts of his special representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, to resolve the crisis through diplomatic means.
"We must stop the violence and flows of arms to both sides, and set in motion a Syrian-led transition as soon as possible," Ban said. Those remarks appeared targeted at the warring parties -- but also foreign backers, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who have reportedly armed the insurgents, and Russia and Iran, who are backing the government.
However, Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani told Christiane Amanpour this week that Qatar is not arming the rebels, but that it support a new approach -- which he called Plan B -- that would impose save havens in Syria and that "I believe there are a lot of Arab countries who will participate. And there are also European countries who will participate."
It remained unclear how much support the Arabs can expect from the West, but Bin Jassim expressed hope that Washington might support the plan if Obama wins the election. American officials have been chilly to the idea. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told me last week: "I'm not of the view that this is a circumstance in which external military intervention is wise for the United States or others."
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.