x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A real step forward

Elections are a tremendous advance for Libya, says an Arabic-language columnist. Other topics in today's opinion round-up are Syria and Hillary Clinton's pointless visit.

After decades of darkness followed by months of militias, elections are progress for Libya

During his victory speech in Liberty Square last October, the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, announced that Islamic law will become the main source of legislation in the new Libya, noted Satea Noureddin, a columnist for the Lebanese daily Assafir.

Western media, in their coverage of the campaign that led up to yesterday's election, focused on the leader of the battle of Tripoli, the fight that contributed to the ejection from power of Muammar Al Qaddafi, namely the former insurgent leader Abdulhakim Belhaj.

They noted that he had recently trimmed his beard and was taking greater care of his image, just like any other candidate vying for the Libyan voters' support.

"Those images of the Libyan election race were not chosen randomly," said the writer. "They represent the most prominent positive aspect of the revolution that has been so far obscured by the chaos of arms and militias."

Mr Abdel Jalil's speech revealed a remarkable degree of political savvy, a sophistication that can be compared to that of his Islamist peers in Tunisia and Egypt, as they came face to face with the prospect of taking power.

They chose to avoid confrontation with the civil parties that had been their partners in the fight against dictators.

They declared that Islamic law, Sharia, would be the main source of legislation, but not the only source. This is a concept that can be found in many Arab constitutions.

As for Mr Belhaj, his transformation into the leader of a legitimate party and subsequently, into a candidate in a democratic race, although a somewhat tainted one, indicates that the Arab revolutions have indeed been a historic accomplishment, one that benefits Arabs in general.

"This is most important, real progress in Libyan standards. After all, before the revolution, Qaddafi's Green Book had become almost a holy book for Libyans. Then, in post-revolution Libya, militias became a philosophy and a way of life themselves," suggested the writer. A transition to electoral politics means a genuine advance.

Yesterday's legislative elections transport the Libyans, or some of them at least, towards a new pattern of reflection and planning that will allow them to save their country from its present maze, and rebuild it on different bases.

Lamenting that these elections will inevitably put yet another Arab country under the control of Islamists is pointless and, in Libya's case, misplaced.

"In Libya, this is a major political and social leap from the age of ignorance under Qaddafi to Islamic modernity," Noureddin concluded.

Assad's end is nearer than ever before

These are not happy days for Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, who is losing ground to an ever-growing revolutionary army, columnist Hussein Shabakshi wrote in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

The Free Syrian Army was formed by military officers who chose to defect from the national army after it was turned into a ruthless killing machine taking the lives of the people. But so far no defection has had a greater resonance worldwide than that of Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, commander of the Republican Guard and a childhood friend of the president.

Gen Tlass had been living under house arrest in his home in Al Mazzeh for some time following his disapproval of the regime's aggravated oppression and bloody management of the crisis.

His defection was confirmed last week and there has even been talk about him joining the opposition.

The state army is quickly disintegrating. It is no longer capable of supplying ammunition to the troops in various areas except by helicopter, since the FSA has succeeded in liberating many regions and blocking the army's ammunition roads.

In parallel, the international community has come together in Paris last week to admit that the Assad regime must be removed and to warn that the alternative would mean a protracted civil war and the segmentation of Syria.


Clinton's visit to the region is pointless

What can the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, bring to the region during her new visit?

Can she offer any development on the Palestinian issue or a change in the US administration's position? Could she possibly make the Netanyahu government fearful, and force them to review their policies?

The Sharjah-based daily Al Khaleej raised these questions in its Friday editorial.

During an election year, US policies get closer to those of Israel, which becomes the top priority for Democrats and Republicans alike as they compete for the precious and deciding Jewish vote. In this sense, for Arab leaders to meet Ms Clinton or any other US official would be pointless.

The Obama administration's support for Israel is unprecedented. One can only imagine to what extent Mr Obama would be willing to identify with his ally to win a second term in the White House.

"Under Israeli pressure, Mr Obama had to renounce most of the positions he declared following his election, especially his famous pledge in Cairo to secure an independent Palestinian state.

The Palestinian Authority is aware of this reality and, under the present circumstances, doesn't expect any breakthroughs."

After all, how could Mr Obama recant what he has already recanted? * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem