As Annan's plan for a solution in Syria proves hopeless, his roadmap could be the way out
How much further will the divergence between Moscow and Beijing on one hand and the international and Arab communities on the other hand about ways to deal with the Syrian crisis trudge along? So asked the columnist, Mazen Hammad, in the Qatari daily Al Watan.
"Sixteen months have passed and a breakthrough has yet to occur in the crisis, all because both Russia and China remain outside the international arena. Once again, they refused to harden their positions vis-ŕ-vis the Damascus regime, despite the Syrian authorities' decision to expel a number of western ambassadors and diplomats," he added.
The expulsions, that were announced earlier this week, only indicate that the six-bullet plan that the UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan proposed is gradually disintegrating after it failed to stop the bloodshed.
Western powers continue to maintain that as long as Al Assad remains in power, no veritable change is likely to take place in Syria. Nonetheless, Russia persists in rejecting any calls for a regime change and insists that Mr Annan's moribund plan is the only way forward. In the meantime, positions diverge even more and the killings spiral out of control.
Between the regime and the opposition, more than 10,000 casualties have fallen so far. Both sides continue to direct one blow after the other to Mr Annan's plan. Even the Arab world seems to have lost any hope in the potency of the special envoy's plan and is calling for its implementation by force.
On the same subject, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi argued in its Thursday editorial that Mr Annan has come up with a roadmap for a political transition to be negotiated via an expanded contact group that would include Iran and Russia along with other states.
The roadmap stipulates that Mr Al Assad step down and be granted safe refuge in Russia with members of his family. It also guarantees presidential and parliamentary elections and a reshuffling of the Syrian security forces according to new criteria.
"The question here is whether Russia would agree to this roadmap in the first place, then whether it would be capable of persuading President Al Assad of stepping down and retiring in Moscow," said the paper.
The Russians have been sending mixed messages that may be genuine or just bait to western powers. Just recently, the Kremlin announced that it supports the Syrian regime but isn't particularly keen on Mr Al Assad remaining in power.
"It is still too premature to speculate on the outcome of Mr Annan's new plan. But it is safe to say that the western states, after a magnified escalation in positions and after beating the drums of war in Syria, have started to retract and to veer towards appeasement," the paper said.
Assad regime makes hay of paradoxes
"Bashar Al Assad is a lucky man: he has gained the support of all polarities," argued Khaled Al Qashtini in the UK-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.
"The loads of contradictions in the Middle East lead the US policies to become contradictory, too," the writer said. The US stances towards Libya and Syria are a stark example. Some think logistics complexities on the ground prompt the US to sit on the fence over using force against the Syrian regime.
"But I would rather attribute it to Israel," he noted. "Israel has not given the US the green light to intervene in Syria. Concerned about an Islamic alternative, it suits Israel that Bashar stays in office."
Bashar has exploited all contradictions at hand: Israel, Iran, Russia, China, Hezbollah, the Syrian Communist Part, US undecidedness, and Arab League inaction.
"It would be more useful for the Syrian opposition to address Tel Aviv and avoid wasting time with Washington," he said. "I think Israel should not be worried about the regime change in Syria. Any substitute for the Baath party would be for many years busy redressing the devastating wrongs of Assad."
Any replacement would have to deal with such thorny issues as unemployment, victim compensation, return of migrants and refugees, debt payment and economy boosting.
Voting for Mubarak man is no way forward
You can argue all you want about how imperfect the Muslim Brotherhood is, but say not you might elect a president hailing from the heart of the Mubarak regime, wrote Bilal Fadl in his daily column "Box" in the Egyptian newspaper Al Shorouk.
"Tell me you do not like the Muslim Brotherhood, tell me you are upset about them letting down the Egyptian revolution at critical times, tell me you detest its political opportunism, unintelligence and short-sightedness," the writer said.
"But tell me not you could vote for a Mubarak-era presidential candidate for fear the Brotherhood might change the form of government."
This is a deceptive argument circulated by scores of "liars and pseudo-media". But they all know Egyptians are not ruled by a government in the first place to be concerned about its form.
The writer asserted that Egypt is ruled by a hotchpotch of self-interest lobbies that are more akin to a mafia than to a government. These people, he went on, keep promoting their misgivings about the Brotherhood occupying senior positions in the state, but they know that "the state is indeed occupied by the shackles of the oligarchs".
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk