The 11 countries supporting Syria are expected to convene in London for a final meeting on January 11 which is likely to decide the fate of the Geneva 2 conference, Abdel Bari Atwan wrote in an opinion article on the news website Rai Al Youm.
A moot point has been whether Iran should attend the meeting. But now Iran has apparently been excluded after Saudi Arabia threatened not to take part if the Islamic Republic does. So far, Moscow has not seemed to object to the Saudi condition.
However, the role of President Bashar Al Assad in the transition remains the main subject of debate among the 11 countries. There are two camps: one sees that priority must be given to destroying radical groups, particularly those linked to Al Qaeda, and that President Al Assad can be dealt with after that. This potion is supported by the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and the UAE.
The second camp maintains that toppling Mr Al Assad and his regime must be the first priority, and after achieving that, it would be easier to face the radical groups. This argument is adopted by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and France.
The US opposes the Saudi option for fear of radical groups filling a security vacuum following the overthrow of the Assad regime, citing Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan as examples where this had happened.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia seeks to dispel these concerns, saying that it is supporting only moderate Islamic groups, including the Syrian Islamic Front and three other groups which opposes and can, after Mr Al Assad is defeated, eliminate Al Qaeda affiliates such as the Al Nusra Front.
It is hard to foretell the winners and losers of the Geneva meeting, if ever it takes place.The fear that it might not happen is due to US-Saudi disagreement and the insistence on ruling out Iran, which could mean that the Syrian regime does not send a representative.
Iran is a key regional power and plays a significant role in the Syrian crisis through its allies Hizbollah and Iraq. An excluded Iran might try to ruin the party.
The UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is among those calling for Iran to take part in the conference. A veteran diplomat, Mr Brahimi knows that Iran’s attendance is necessary for any viable settlement. This attitude, however, has vexed Saudi Arabia, which has refused to welcome him on several occasions.
The London meeting will be critical for deciding whether Geneva 2 will be convened. And Russia will be the major party to decide the fate of both meetings. But, the writer concluded, Russia might side with Saudi Arabia and France and agree to rule out Iran.
The division of Sudan proves to be a crime
As accounts of horrifying massacres begin to emerge from the bloody tribal clashes in South Sudan, many are pointing fingers at the global powers that championed the division of Sudan in the first place.
Hassan Youness, a contributing columnist with the Qatari daily Al Watan wrote: “For years, the conflict between the north and the south of Sudan was portrayed as religious: Muslims in the north seeking to slaughter Christians in the south. But that was never the truth.”
The West in all its hypocrisy didn’t need the recent bloodbaths in South Sudan to realise the truth – it had already set its mind on division from the start.
All the havoc we see today is a direct outcome of the failing US politics that pushed for separation and misread its real motives and repercussions, the writer said.
In one recent massacre, 238 men were slaughtered in a closed building in Juba by government forces. The dead all belonged to the Nuer tribe and their killers are all Dinka.
“The incident calls for careful review, not only to revise the grave mistakes made in Sudan, but also to prosecute those who were responsible for it. But none of that will happen because that would only unmask the reality at a time when all parties concerned are attempting to camouflage the facts to prove that division was the right choice,” he wrote.
So much for 2013, bring on a new year
As hard and costly as the year 2013 has been, it did have some benefits, mainly in that it finally made away with the few illusions and dreams that remained after the so-called Arab Spring, said the columnist Mashari Al Zaydi in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.
“Masks fell, flowery speeches dissipated and inflated slogans collapsed under the weight of reality,” he said.
“The Muslim Brotherhood ... lost this year what it had spent 80 long years amassing. Likewise, Hizbollah in Lebanon shed the last fig leaf that covered up its sectarian truth.”
In the US, the Obama administration revealed itself as ignorant and hesitant, driven by a melange of condescension and absurdity. It was reckless in Egypt, cowardly in Syria and weak with Iran.
Saudi Arabia stepped up to shoulder its responsibilities and in Egypt, the army was able to prevent the Brotherhood hurricane from wreaking any more havoc.
For his part, Syrian president Bashar Al Assad turned out to be nothing more than a merciless gangster.
“The Arab vessels of change haven’t reached their destination yet, but they did overcome a most arduous journey,” the writer concluded.
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk