x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Bashar Al Assad is firming up his authority in Syria, an Arab editor says. Other opinion topics today: Libya's descent into the unknown, and the thoughts of Ayatollah Ali Khomenei's granddaughter.

Bashar Al Assad’s survival is likelier than ever, with various factors coalescing to favour the status quo in Syria, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the news website Rai Al Youm, wrote there on Friday.

Apart from the National Coalition for the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, no one is calling for the president to step down. In fact, the US administration and some European capitals have switched to “praising” him after his regime’s show of cooperation with the UN inspectors of chemical weapons.

Even Qatar, which has launched a political and media campaign against the Assad regime and spearheaded efforts to freeze Syria’s Arab League membership, is adopting a calmer tone now.

“After two and a half years of fierce fighting against his regime, President Bashar Al Assad is starting to fully realise that international conditions are working out in his favour, and in favour of his regime’s survival,” Atwan wrote. “Indicators of that are not in short supply.”

First, there is a push from the US and Europe to encourage Mr Al Assad to run for office next year, or at least extend his current term by claiming organisational difficulties in light of the fragile security situation across the country, according to Atwan.

“Second, the Syrian regime’s international and regional isolation is abating,” he wrote. “Its legitimacy has actually been bolstered after the chemical weapons agreement [reached between Washington and Moscow] and the US-Iran rapprochement.”

Also, he went on, “a meeting is in the offing between the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and his Syrian counterpart Walid Moallem.”

The Palestinians have also shown signs of willingness to bury the hatchet with the Syrian regime, after two and a half years of falling out. A few days ago Abbas Zaki, the envoy of the Palestinian president, Mahoud Abbas, visited Damascus and met Mr Al Assad, the writer said.

And a senior delegation from Hamas has been to Tehran in recent days to discuss the relocation of the group’s political bureau to Damascus, where it had been based for years until the Syrian regime started cracking down on the once-peaceful uprising.

The new Egyptian government, led by Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi, has been steadily normalising relations with the Syrian government, while the regional “enemies” of the Syrian regime – such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar – are starting to reassess their stances as the spectre of radical jihad and terrorism looms ever larger across the Middle East.

Mr Al Assad, who has become a media star these days, no longer comes across as an embattled president with only a limited number of days left to go in his time in office, Atwan said in conclusion. “He seems like a confident president, determined to keep his regime in place for years to come.”

Revolution takes Libya towards the unknown

The “Libyan revolution” has become a misnomer, given that the whole purpose of a revolution is to redesign the state in a way that is fairer, more productive and more stable. That is far from happening in the North African country, the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej said yesterday in a front-page editorial.

Libya’s prime minister, Ali Zeidan, who was abducted for several hours last week by “a political faction” he did not want to name, painted a dismal picture of his country in a statement on Friday.

Mr Zeidan spoke about the persistent lack of respect for legitimacy and order in Libya, two years after Col Muammar Qaddafi, the country’s dictator for four decades, was toppled and killed in a Nato-backed operation that was hailed at the time as a great new beginning for the Libyan people.

Mr Zeidan’s statement, which described his abduction from the hotel he was staying in Tripoli as “a coup against legitimacy”, was unfortunately not an exaggeration, Al Khaleej said.

“Libya has become like a house with no walls or ceiling; it has turned into a tattered state, a hotbed of militias, guerrillas, traffickers and mercenaries who export terror across the neighbourhood.”

As Libya’s leadership loses control, the whole country “is rushing towards the unknown”, the paper concluded.

Khomeini descendant talks politics, fashion

The election of Hassan Rouhani as the Iranian president in June showed that the Iranian people still believe that change is possible, said Zahra Eshraghi, the granddaughter of Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in an interview on Saturday.

Speaking to the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, Ms Eshraghi, who is known for her bold views in favour of women’s empowerment, said: “The last election, which Mr Rouhani won, is just an extension of the May 27, 1997 election. It is proof that the Iranian people are still calling for reform, despite an eight-year lull during which an anti-reform government unfortunately took power. But the people have made it clear that they want reforms … This election has shown that people have not lost hope.”

Asked about her notable sense of fashion and the potential conflict between her taste for chic attire and her religious upbringing, Ms Eshraghi responded: “My family is actually like me in that regard, including my sisters, my mother and even my grandmother. The wife of the imam [Khomeini] was a very elegant woman; she was more elegant than we, her granddaughters, are … My grandmother was also a cultured woman, well educated, a poet, and a fan of very chic clothes.”

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi