The Arab League's Role in the Syrian Civil War
4. Conclusion and Recommendations for the League of Arab States
While widely accused of lacking common political will and notorious understaffing, the LAS’ development over the past decade is considerable. As section 3.1 illustrates, its mediation efforts and interventions have mitigated internal divides and given the Arab world a stronger voice towards international actors, including the UNSC.
The Syrian Civil War, rife with sectarianism and proxy warfare, has fallen victim to the LAS’ current internal power-struggle. With Western unimaginativeness and distraction by the Ukraine-Russia crisis, an end to the conflict requires regional solutions. The LAS lacks participation of important regional actors, but has proven its ability to offer creative approaches during the conflict’s first year. To allow the formation of a truly Syrian opposition, the “manipulation of people’s inborn religious feelings”165 must end. Establishing pan-Arab common ground would enable the LAS to act as a mouthpiece towards regional and international actors. The LAS must evolve, as developments in Tunisia spread hope to young citizens across the entire region, who will not accept recourse to former authoritarian ways.
To consolidate Arab League improvements:
For interactions with member states:
For interactions with the opposition:
For interactions with President Assad:
For interactions with international organisations:
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List of Acronyms
EEAS – European External Action Service
GCC – Gulf Cooperation Council
ICG – International Crisis Group
IDP – Internally Displaced Person
ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
LAS – Arab League, formerly League of Arab States
MB – Muslim Brotherhood
MENA – Middle East and North Africa
NGO – Non-Governmental Organisation
OCHA – United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
PLO – Palestinian Liberation Organisation
RRP – Syria Regional Refugee Response Plan
SHARP – Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan
SNC – Syrian National Council; now part of the Syrian National Coalition
Syrian National Coalition – ‘National Coalition of Syrian revolutionary and oppositional forces’
UAE – United Arab Emirates
UAR – United Arab Republic
UNGA – United Nations General Assembly
UNSC – United Nations Security Council
UNSCR – United Nations Security Council Resolution
WMD – Weapons of Mass Destruction
1.) For recent Crisis Group reporting on Syria, see: (International Crisis Group, The Rising Costs of Turkey's Syrian Quagmire 2014), (International Crisis Group, Anything But Politics: The State of Syria's Political Opposition 2013), (International Crisis Group, Now or Never: A Negotiated Transition for Syria 2012) and for a widely recognized statement on the American calls for retaliatory strikes in response to the use of chemical weapons, see (International Crisis Group, Syria Statement 2013).
2.) Cf. (The Guardian, Syria death toll over 150,000, says human rights body 2014)
3.) (UN OCHA 2014)
4.) Lebanon host up to 1 million refugees, Turkey between 750,000 and 1 million, Jordan up to 600,000 and Iraq up to 250,000, cf. (The Daily Star 2014), cf.(Voice of America 2014), cf. (Al-Arian 2014), Cf. (International Crisis Group, The Rising Costs of Turkey's Syrian Quagmire 2014)
5.) Cf. (The Guardian, Syria suspended from Arab League 2011)
6.) UNDP 2008 figures, as quoted in (Pinfari 2009, 6)
7.) The country’s official name is the ‘Syrian Arab Republic’.
8.) UN 2012 figures as quoted (BBC, Syria profile - Facts 2013)
9.) (Maddy-Weitzman 2012, 71)
10.) (Pinfari 2009, 1)
11.) Cf. (Nasser 1969): Unlike his successor Sadat, Nasser saw no bilateral solutions to Israel as this would necessarily mean that Israeli occupation of other Arab territories continues. For Nasser it was always either peace or expansion of Israeli settlements. See also: (Al-Jazeera, Arab Unity: Nasser's Revolution 2008)
12.) Cf. (Nasser 1969)
13.) Consult (Arab League Pact 1945) for the original text
14.) Cf. (Pinfari 2009, 1)
15.) As a permanent body currently based in a building off of Tahrir Square in Cairo
16.) The Council Summits are ordinarily convened once or twice a year, granting each member one vote based on (Arab League Pact 1945, 11)
17.) Cf. (Arab League Pact 1945, Art. 2)
18.) Cf. (Arab League Pact 1945, 5)
19.) Cf. (Pinfari 2009, 3): The Political Committee was added to the Arab League structure in November 1946.
20.) For more information, see (Hassouna 1975, 389)
21.) Cf. (Pogany 1987, 55) and cf. (Pinfari 2009, 4)
22.) Interview with (Analyst at the European Parliament 2014) on European relations with the Arab League; and Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014) who confirmed saying that “in terms of personnel, we have no one” and “funding is on a case by case basis.”
23.) Cf. (Pinfari 2009, 3-4)
24.) (Pinfari 2009, 14). See also Appendix C for a list of MENA conflicts and LAS reactions.
25.) Cf. (Al-Jazeera, Arab Unity: Nasser's Revolution 2008)
26.) (BBC Documentary 2013): The majority of around 75% are Sunni Muslim, with Christians, Alawite, Druze and Kurds representing minority populations.
27.) Cf. (Al-Jazeera, A Question of Arab unity:Why Unity? - Documentary 2008)
28.) The “Great Syrian Revolution” to free the country from colonialism started in 1925.
29.) Cf. (Al-Jazeera, Syria: The Reckoning (documentary) 2013) and cf. (Al-Jazeera, Arab Unity: Nasser's Revolution 2008)
30.) Cf. (Al-Jazeera, Syria: The Reckoning (documentary) 2013): This was based on a power-sharing agreement between Alawite and Sunni.
31.) Cf. (VICE 2012): According to citizens “the walls had ears“.
32.) Cf. (Al-Jazeera, Syria: The Reckoning (documentary) 2013)
33.) Cf. (Al-Jazeera, Arab Unity: Nasser's Revolution 2008)
34.) Cf. (Al-Jazeera, Arab Unity: Nasser's Revolution 2008)
35.) On 16 June 1979, the ‘Combatant Vanguard of the Muslim Brotherhood” killed 30 soldiers in Aleppo, cf. (Al-Jazeera, Arab Unity: Nasser's Revolution 2008)
36.) Cf. (Maddy-Weitzman 2012, 74-75)
37.) Cf. (Kerr 1971) and cf. (Nasser 1969): UAR President Nasser describes the immense influence of the Cold War on the Arab world especially during the Suez crisis in 1956. Soviet technicians and arms but also food and minerals were instrumental after the 1967 defeat by Israel.
38.) (Gaddafi 2008)
39.) Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014)
40.) Cf. (Pinfari 2009, 3): During this time, the only non-Egyptian Secretary-General was elected, and the headquarters moved to Tunisia.
41.) Cf. (Mehlis 2005)
42.) Cf. (Maddy-Weitzman 2012, 75)
43.) Cf. (Al-Saud 2013)
44.) This is apparent in Algeria’s and Sudan’s UNGA voting behaviour: formerly strong Assad allies, they have increasingly abstained from voting against sanctions on Assad once his political influence and, therefore, possible political support faded. Cf. Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014)
45.) Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014)
46.) Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014): The Egyptian army is systematically against the MB for fear of Islamist extremism. This reflects mostly U.S.-trained military elites. The MB was outlawed by Egypt in December 2013 and by Saudi Arabia in March 2014.
47.) Cf. (Osborn 2014)
48.) The six Gulf Cooperation Council members are Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Together they hold around 1/3 of global oil reserves. Cf. (Pinfari 2009, 9)
49.) Cf. (Deutsche Welle, Obama and Rouhani talk, first direct US-Iran contact since 1979 2013)
50.) For the full transcript, see (Haaretz Newspaper 2013)
51.) Cf. (Takeyh 2008)
52.) (Carnegie Europe 2013)
53.) Abbas Golriz, Mission of Iran to the EU, at (Vesalius College 2014)
54.) Abbas Golriz, Mission of Iran to the EU, at (Vesalius College 2014)
55.) (Al-Jazeera, Iran seeks Arab help for regional stability 2013)
57.) Cf. material collected by British national Eliot Higgins - blogger “Brown Moses,” (Alsham 2013)
58.) Cf, (Kholaif 2013)
59.) Cf. (International Crisis Group, The Rising Costs of Turkey's Syrian Quagmire 2014)
60.) Mustafa Turan, Permanent Representation of Turkey to the EU at (Vesalius College 2014). ErdoÄŸan distanced himself stating that this was “not the Assad from three years ago,” (ErdoÄŸan 2014)
61.) Cf. (Chatham House 2012)
62.) (Maddy-Weitzman 2012, 78)
63.) Full text of UNSCR1973 available at, (UNSCR1973 2011)
64.) (Ambassador Li Baodong 2011)
65.) Cf. (Putin 2011): If the “Coalition said destroying Gaddafi was not their goal, then why bomb his palaces” and “some officials claimed that eliminating him was actually their goal - did they have the right? Did he have a fair trial?”
66.) Cf. (Bloomberg 2014)
67.) Cf. (Carnegie Europe 2013)
68.) Cf. (SIRPI 2012): SIPRI reported that from 2007-2011, Russia supplied 78% of Syria’s weapon imports. Cf. (Time Magazine 2013): This includes air-defence systems granting Assad significant military advantages.
69.) Cf. (RFE/RL 2012): Aleksei Malashenko, Carnegie Endowment expert and Aleksandr Konovalov, president of the Moscow-based Institute of Strategic Analysis call Syria the last remnant of Soviet politics.
70.) Cf. (Lavrov 2012): Foreign Minister Lavrov voiced criticism against the Syrian leadership as early as March 2012 because it has “responded incorrectly to the very first manifestations of the peaceful protests” and “despite the numerous promises it has made in response to our calls - is making a lot of mistakes.”
71.) Cf. (UN Department of Public Information, Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2139 (2013) to Ease Aid Delivery to Syrians, Provide Relief from ‘Chilling Darkness’ 2014)
72.) Cf. (RFE/RL 2012): Foreign Minister Lavrov called it "the most important thing is that there are no ultimatums"
73.) Cf. (Pinfari 2009, 3): In May 1941 during WWII, British Foreign Secretary Eden to rally support against Nazi Germany supported the Arab countries’ quest for “a greater degree of unity than they now enjoy“.
74.) (Maddy-Weitzman 2012, 78)
75.) (Pinfari 2009, 14), examples listed are the 1958 Lebanese Civil War and the 1961-63 Iraq/Kuwait dispute.
76.) UN Charter, Article 53(1) as quoted in (Pogany 1987, 57)
77.) Prof. Alexander Mattelaer, Vesalius College, Abbas Golriz, Mission of Iran to the EU, Mustafa Turan, Permanent Representation of Turkey to the EU and Jean-Marc Pisani, EEAS Head of ‘Crisis response planning and operation’ at (Vesalius College 2014)
78.) For a list of conflicts from 1948-2008 and LAS responses, see Appendix C.
79.) Article 4 deals with disputes and Article 5 gives the LAS Council authority to “mediate in all differences which threaten to lead to war between two member States, or a member State and a third State, with a view to bringing about their reconciliation” and to arbitrate dispute as long as it “does not concern a State's independence, sovereignty or territorial integrity,” cf. (UNDP 2008)
80.) Cf. (Arab League Pact 1945, 5)
81.) Cf. (Pogany 1987, 54): 1) Arab League Force in Kuwait (Sept. 1961-Feb. 1963), 2) Symbolic Arab Security Force (Jun. 1976-Oct. 1976), and 3) Arab Deterrent Force (Oct. 1976-March 1983) both during the Lebanese Civil War lasting from 1975-1990.
82.) Iraq was absent during the vote on 20 July 1961.
83.) Cf. (Pogany 1987, 59-60): UAR and Saudi Arabia each contributed 1,200 troops, with the remainder of forces provided by Sudan, Jordan and Tunisia.
84.) The mandate was to provide “effective assistance for the preservation of Kuwait’s independence.” For a translation of the operative part of the League Council Resolution No. 1777 (20 July 1961), see (Hassouna 1975, 101)
85.) Cf. (Pogany 1987, 61-62): This meeting was held in Cairo on 8 June.
86.) Troops were to be contributed by Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Syria and the PLO. Cf. (Pogany 1987, 62)
87.) League Council Resolution No. 3456 (9 June 1976) as quoted in (Pogany 1987, 62)
88.) League Council Resolution No. 3456 (9 June 1976) as quoted in (Pogany 1987, 62)
89.) This mission consisted of Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, the LAS Secretary-General, and heads of the Libyan and Algerian delegations.
90.) See the Communique issued by the office of the Presidency of the Lebanon, 16 June 1976. The text is reproduced in J. Nielsen, ed., International Documents on Palestine 1976 (1978), p. 433. as quoted in (Pogany 1987, 62-64)
91.) The troops were quickly deployed between 21 June and mid-July. They were allocated by Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Syria and served under an Egyptian commander. Cf. (Pogany 1987, 63-64)
92.) These were Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization., cf. (Pogany 1987, 64)
93.) For the text of the resolution adopted by the Riyadh Summit Conference, see(Keesing's Record of World Events 1976).
94.) Cf. (Pogany 1987, 67)
95.) Cf. (Pogany 1987, 66-70)
96.) The ‘Arab Initiative for the Resolution of the Lebanese Crisis’ called for the election of consensus president Michel Suleiman, the formation of a unity government and the normalisation of Lebanon-Syria relations under the mediation of the LAS Secretary-General.
97.) Cf. (Dakhlallah, The Arab League in Lebanon: 2005-2008 2012, 53-73). The final agreement included the general requests of the initial LAS peace plan.
98.) Cf. (Huffington Post 2011): Secretary-General Moussa said “what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians.”
99.) Interested readers may refer to a variety of analyses of the Libyan intervention: Cf. (International Crisis Group, Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (V): Making Sense of Libya 2011) and cf. (UN Department of Public Information, Security Council Approves ‘No-Fly Zone’ over Libya, Authorizing ‘All Necessary Measures’ to Protect Civilians, by Vote of 10 in Favour with 5 Abstentions 2011).
100.) Questions addressed to speakers at Brussels‘ conferences, including (Vesalius College 2014)
101.) EEAS Head of ‘Crisis response planning and operation’ Jean-Marc Pisani, at (Vesalius College 2014)
102.) Cf. (BBC, Syria profile - Timeline of Events 2014)
103.) Syria had been on U.S. sanction list long before since President Bush listed Syria among the “axis of evil” and for supporting terrorist groups, seeking WMD and, in violation of UN resolutions, providing Hezbollah with Scud missiles,” cf. (BBC, Syria profile - Timeline of Events 2014) and cf. (Dakhlallah, The Arab League in Lebanon: 2005-2008 2012, 58)
104.) Cf. (Maddy-Weitzman 2012, 76)
105.) (Pinfari 2009, 3)
106.) Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014)
107.) The Committee was led by Qatar’s prime minister and included Secretary-General al-Arabi and the Algerian, Egyptian, Omani and Sudanese foreign ministers.
108.) Cf. (Maddy-Weitzman 2012, 76-77)
109.) Cf. (Foreign Policy 2011). There had been previous LAS fact-finding and vote monitoring missions in Sudan in 2004 and 2011, see (SWP 2010) for an evaluation of LAS involvement in Darfur.
110.) Cf. (Muasher 2012)
111.) Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014)
112.) Several policemen and soldiers defected to form the Free Syrian Army when ordered to shoot at protesters. For an extensive evaluation of opposition in Syria, see: (International Crisis Group, Anything But Politics: The State of Syria's Political Opposition 2013), and (Steinberg 2014).
113.) Cf. (Ryan 2012)
114.) Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014) describing the formation and development of the observation mission
115.) (Malek 2012)
116.) Cf. (UN Department of Public Information, Kofi Annan Appointed Joint Special Envoy of United Nations, League of Arab States on Syrian Crisis 2012): Ban Ki-moon praised “very close [trilateral] cooperation” between the UN, the LAS and the Special Envoy appointed on 16 February 2012. Cf. (Ban 2012)
117.) Cf. (Nuland 2012): The LAS proposal on 22 January 2012 and its ‘continued leadership’ received strong international praise, e.g. by U.S. State Department spokesperson Nuland, who called it “quite remarkable.”
118.) Cf. (The Washington Post 2012). And cf. (Former LAS employee 2014): Morocco traditionally continues to hold very strong ties with France.
119.) Cf. (The New York Times 2012)
120.) (Annan 2012). Annan reminded all parties that "[w]e don't have to go very far in the region to find an example of what I am talking about".
121.) Cf. (Al-Jazeera, Iran criticises Arab League over Syria 2013)
122.) Cf. (Oweis 2014)
123.) For the full speech, see: (Al-Khatib, Translated video of Moaz al-Khatib Speech at the Arab Summit: March 26, 2013 2013)
124.) Al-Khatib headed the Syrian National Coalition for five months (Nov 2012 – April 2013) before resigning.
125.) Reply by Abbas Golriz to question from the author, (Vesalius College 2014): “A mediator has to take into account all realities. It cannot be someone who is involved via proxies.”
126.) Cf. (Al-Jazeera, Iran criticises Arab League over Syria 2013): Iran proposed itself a six-point plan in December 2012.
127.) Observations at Ahmad Jarba speech in Brussels, (Jarba 2014)
128.) Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014)
129.) (Black, Kofi Annan resigns as Syria envoy 2012)
130.) Cf. (Al-Arabiya News 2014)
131.) (Reuters, Kuwait summit merely papers over Arab rifts 2014): Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari accused the three of hypocrisy for punishing Qatar while attempting just the same in Syria.
132.) Cf. (Al-Khatib, Interview with Moaz al-Khatib: The priority is to save Syria 2013): External meddling “almost broke the Coalition.”
133.) Cf. (Oweis 2014): "There are military groups in the opposition that are more influenced by Qatar than Saudi Arabia. But within the Coalition Saudi Arabia is stronger," said Abdelrahman al-Haj, a senior official in the Syrian National Council. And cf. (Al-Khatib, Interview with Moaz al-Khatib: The priority is to save Syria 2013): “The expansion was used to increase influence by external actors.” See also: (BBC, Profile: Ahmad Jarba, Syrian opposition leader 2013)
134.) Cf. (BBC, Syria profile - Timeline of Events 2014)
135.) Cf. (Al-Khatib, Interview with Moaz al-Khatib: The priority is to save Syria 2013)
136.) Cf. (The Times of Israel 2014) and cf. (Sayigh, The Syrian Opposition’s Bleak Outlook 2014)
137.) Cf. (The Daily Star Lebanon 2014)
138.) Cf. Mustafa Turan, Permanent Representation of Turkey to the EU at (Vesalius College 2014): Turkey insists on ending this impunity, preferably by an international criminal court. Cf. (Jarba 2014) speaking about “systematic denial of food and water.”
139.) For the full text, see (UN Department of Public Information, Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2139 (2013) to Ease Aid Delivery to Syrians, Provide Relief from ‘Chilling Darkness’ 2014)
140.) (BBC, Syria conflict: Government troops retake Homs Old City 2014): Only al-Wair remains controlled by the opposition. See Appendix B for a map of Homs.
141.) Resolution 2139 “expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance” without introducing ‘automaticity’. Cf. (UN Department of Public Information, Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2139 (2013) to Ease Aid Delivery to Syrians, Provide Relief from ‘Chilling Darkness’ 2014)
142.) The recurrent use of chemical weapons in April 2014 barely caused any international condemnation. Cf. (Perthes 2014). In reference to Israel’s nuclear programme, former Syrian National Coalition head Al-Khatib cautioned that the destruction of Syrian WMD should be part of a regional initiative. “The opposition will not sell their country,” cf. (Al-Khatib, Translated video of Moaz al-Khatib Speech at the Arab Summit: March 26, 2013 2013)
143.) Interview with (Arab NGO employee working on Syria since 201 2014). For an analysis by Carnegie Endowment predicting military superiority by the Syrian regime especially after the planned Homs evacuation, see (Sayigh, A Melancholy Perspective on Syria 2014) and (Sayigh, The Assad Regime: Winning on Points 2014)
144.) (Al-Khatib, Translated video of Moaz al-Khatib Speech at the Arab Summit: March 26, 2013 2013)
145.) Cf. (Al-Khatib, Interview with Moaz al-Khatib: The priority is to save Syria 2013) “All enemies in the world meet.”
146.) Mustafa Turan, Permanent Representation of Turkey to the EU and EEAS Head of ‘Crisis response planning and operation’ Jean-Marc Pisani at (Vesalius College 2014); Also (Jarba 2014)
147.) Statements by Mustafa Turan, Permanent Representation of Turkey to the EU and Abbas Golriz, Mission of Iran to the EU at (Vesalius College 2014)
148.) (Vesalius College 2014) and cf. (Al-Khatib, Interview with Moaz al-Khatib: The priority is to save Syria 2013)
149.) The ‘Islamic State ofIraq and al-Sham’ is also operating in neighbouring Iraq, and on 6 May an ISIS-linked cell was discovered in Saudi Arabia. Cf. (Al-Buluwi 2014)
150.) The Souk of Aleppo, an UNESCO world heritage site, was destroyed by bombardments in late-2012, Cf. (Karouny 2012)
151.) (Al-Khatib, Translated video of Moaz al-Khatib Speech at the Arab Summit: March 26, 2013 2013) saying that the Syrian people “rejects others’ supervision of its decision-making.” Cf. (Oweis 2014): Senior SNC official al-Haj who discusses Qatari and Saudi influence over military groups and the SNC itself.
152.) (Maddy-Weitzman 2012, 71)
153.) Cf. (Deutsche Welle, Tensions rise as Saudis fear US 'going soft' 2013): Some interpret the Saudi removal of radical intelligence chief al-Bandar (cf. (Black, End of an era as Prince Bandar departs Saudi intelligence post 2014)) as shifting policies and return to alignment with the U.S. after a low-point when Saudi Arabia turned down a UNSC seat and issued statements of ‘going it alone’ over upsets caused by U.S. reluctance to strike Syria and political opening to Iran. cf. (Al-Saud 2013)
154.) For a discussion of ripeness, the interested reader may consult(Zartman 2001).
155.) Cf. (Perthes 2014)
156.) Anger over the invitation to partake in Geneva-II which was later withdrawn still resonates strongly in Iran, cf. Abbas Golriz, Mission of Iran to the EU at (Vesalius College 2014) and cf. (Reuters, Ban Ki-moon withdraws Iran’s invite to Syria talks 2014): The official justification was that Iran had not endorsed the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2013.
157.) (Al-Khatib, Translated video of Moaz al-Khatib Speech at the Arab Summit: March 26, 2013 2013)
158.) Statement by Professor Alexander Mattelaer, Vesalius College at (Vesalius College 2014)
159.) Mustafa Turan, Permanent Representation of Turkey to the EU at (Vesalius College 2014)
160.) Abbas Golriz, Mission of Iran to the EU called unilateral claims against Iran hypocrite, referring to intervention from various unnamed neighbouring countries at (Vesalius College 2014).
161.) Interview with (Arab NGO employee working on Syria since 201 2014)
162.) Cf. (Mason and Rychard 2005, 6-7)
163.) Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014)
164.) Interview with (Analyst at the European Parliament 2014)
165.) (Al-Khatib, Interview with Moaz al-Khatib: The priority is to save Syria 2013)
166.) Cf. Saudi King Abdullah’s decree threatening incarceration for anyone fighting outside the kingdom, (Al-Jazeera, Jail for Saudis who join foreign conflicts 2014)
167.) Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014)
168.) Statement by (Jarba 2014)
169.) Interview with (Former LAS employee 2014): Meetings took place at working level and between Secretary-General and heads of NGO.
170.) Cf. (Financial Tracking Service 2014): To date only 24% of funding pledged by SHARP and RRP has been received.
171.) Coalition President Jarba strongly stated that Syria strongly resembles the desolate state of post-WWII Europe, Cf. (Jarba 2014)
172.) (UN 2012)
173.) (SyriaMap 2011)
174.) Own figure based on (Pinfari 2009, 21)