x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

A fresh another round of Geneva talks has little chance of success

The first round of negotiations in Geneva did not alter the elements of the crisis. A second round is also likely to fail, Abdullah Iskandar writes in Al Hayat. Other topics: McCain's Syria prophecy (Rahman Al Rashed – Asharq Al Awsat) and Iraq unrest (Al Bayan)

Arabic News Digest

The first round of negotiations between the Syrian opposition and Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Geneva, under the auspices of the UN, did not alter the elements of the crisis, noted Abdullah Iskandar, the managing director of the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

The past eight days left no option for the coalition but to perform before the international media and defend the idea of a transitional government, as it was unable to bring about any change on the ground to tackle humanitarian matters and aid-related issues.

Throughout this period, the Syrian regime stuck to its usual approach, remaining in complete denial of the fact that it was the cause behind the crisis, and rejecting any serious quest for a political solution.

Some believe that the opposition – represented by the “coalition” – has gained politically by being recognised regionally and internationally as an interlocutor, thus becoming part of the solution. “One may believe that the Syrian regime took advantage of this period to increase violence against civilians”, wrote Iskandar.

According to reports by Human Rights Watch, the number of air strikes considerably increased across the region during the period of negotiations. The Assad regime did not show any lenience while discussing the delivery of aid and relief to affected areas.

While the system gave guarantee to the international community over the dismantling of the regime’s chemical arsenal, under a Russian covenant, to avoid military strikes following their use against civilians, the process turned out to be stalling with the regime giving excuses to evade its responsibilities and commitments.

Meanwhile, it was trying to convey the image of the perfect negotiator in Geneva, throwing ashes in the eyes of the international community.

Geneva 2 took place due to tremendous pressure exerted by Russia on the Assad regime to sit at the same table with the “traitors”, as Waleed Al Mouallem described the opposition members.

The conference itself resulted from both US and Russian wishes to redefine international powers and the role of each on of them. It was a result of internal changes in Syria, whether political or otherwise. The Syrian regime will not make the concessions requested at “Geneva 1” – which are the basis of Geneva 2 – unless the essential political components it has been brandishing are threatened.

Most probably, the interval between Geneva 2 and another round of negotiations – or Geneva 3 – will not have much effect on the balance of power in such way that it will lead to a serious quest for a political solution. “Consequently, the second round of negotiations is expected to end similarly as the first,” Iskandar concluded.

McCain’s predictions on Syria were spot on

The US Senator, John McCain, was among the first to take the Syrian people’s cause and make it his own, noted the columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

Time and again he warned that the cause will not disappear just because the US has decided to turn its back on it. He forewarned that failure to provide military support to the opposition would empower the regime. He even predicted that chaos in Syria would attract terrorist groups and said that the intervention of Russia, Iran and Hizbollah would export the war to the rest of the Middle East.

“He was right on every count,” Al Rashed observed. “Syria today is a failing state and a haven for Iranians, Hizbollah fighters, Iraqi militias, Al Qaeda and ISIL.”

Syria’s war has quickly expanded and come to threaten Turkey’s security and Lebanon’s stability. It frightens Jordan while terrorists run free between Iraq and Syria recruiting and training thousands that would be called on to fight outside Syria in the future.

Yesterday, Mr McCain said that the Geneva conference was doomed to fail in view of Bashar Al Assad’s military supremacy and he insisted that the Free Syrian Army needed US support if it were to shift the balance of power on the ground.

As matters stand, nothing signals an end to the war in the near future. The only solution would be to force Mr Al Assad out by supporting the FSA.

Iraqis must unite to end their plight

Iraq continues to be the victim of a political whirlwind that has been blowing for more than a decade without any end in sight. Tens – if not hundreds – of thousands have been killed while infrastructure was destroyed and violence and tensions run amok throughout the country, observed the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan in its editorial yesterday.

Accusations abound about political marginalisation and terrorism among political parties as Iraq prepares for parliamentary elections.

“The level of complication is mounting slowly in Iraq in the absence of a road map or even a common ground to begin to find solutions for the Iraqi people’s plight,” the paper said.

To make matters even worse, the political situation is fast deteriorating. Nearly 1,000 people were killed in violent attacks since the beginning of this year, marking a 400 per cent increase compared to the same period last year. These figures clearly indicate that Iraq isn’t going forward.

“The situation cannot afford more procrastination especially when the causes of the plight are known to everyone,” the paper added. “It is our hope that Iraqis would consent to sit together and draw the way for the future away from outside influences and without hostilities,” it concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk