x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A regional newspaper is concerned that Syrian observes are off mission

Arabic-language newspapers consider Al Qaeda's goals in Iraq and Palestinians' options to check Israel's relentless offensive.

The observers' mission in Syria derails from its original task of protecting civilians

When the Arab ministerial council decided to send observers to Syria, it was within the framework of a political initiative aimed at calming the escalating security situation and the general atmosphere in the country. That was to pave the way to a dialogue between the regime and the opposition, said Abdallah Iskandar, the managing editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

"However, the negotiations between the Arab League and the Syrian authorities, which led to Damascus' approval of the observers protocol, caused the political initiative to deviate from its initial objectives of calm and dialogue. Instead, we have technicalities related to the nature of the observers' mission," he commented. "The first days of their mission don't augur well for the success of the initiative."

Two major deviations threaten the success of the mission. First, the transformation of observers into an investigation committee. This is exactly what authorities attempted to do immediately after the attacks in Damascus last week. A second possible threat to the assignment would come if observers became witnesses only serving to corroborate each side's story. So far, officials from Damascus and the opposition alike have been calling on the members of the Arab delegation to see for themselves the "armed gangs" killing civilians or the armed forces targeting civilians.

Should observers get entangled in investigations and testimonies, the original mission, to observe the facts on the ground and measure each side's commitment to stopping violence and withdrawing the armed forces from the streets, would be abandoned. This would take matters from the realm of violence and security measures to the much more complicated realm of political conflicts.

"Observation doesn't mean equating the killer and the victim," added the writer. "According to the provisions of the Arab initiative, it means stopping the killing, recalling government military forces from the streets and allowing protesters to express their opinions freely without risking getting fired at. The initiative also provides for the release of political prisoners and resuming talks with the political opposition."

The Arab commission in Syria must monitor the implementation of these items as soon as possible. It must make sure that all military mobilisations cease in all Syrian cities and that the prisoners are indeed released, not merely transferred to even more remote prisons. They must ensure that the right to peaceful protest is guaranteed.

"Only then would the regime have proven its readiness to hold talks with the opposition in order to put an end to its exceedingly bloody behaviour and to agree on an acceptable alternative that would bring the crisis to a close," the writer concluded.

Sectarian divide in Iraq serves Al Qaeda

The admission of responsibility by Iraq's Al Qaeda branch for the bloody attacks in Baghdad last Thursday that killed 70 people came as no surprise, said the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial.

In fact, the general atmosphere in Iraq is quite encouraging for a terrorist organisation that is trying to regroup and continue its attacks in the hope of sparking a sectarian civil war.

In its statement, Al Qaeda qualified the "Thursday Raid" as part of a series of attacks targeting security headquarters, military patrols and "heretics in commanding positions in the state of Baghdad".

This is the direct result of the political elite's failure to coexist in Iraq and to establish a civil state that guarantees decent living conditions for citizens.

"A quick look at the Iraqi political scene reveals an unimaginable deterioration since the birth of the present political process under US occupation," commented the paper. "The Iraqi parliament rarely convenes and in any case, the cabinet doesn't care about it and all authority is in the hands of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and his entourage."

Meanwhile, Iraq is inching closer to a civil war that would certainly end in its fragmentation. Al Qaeda is trying to exploit the current government's sectarianism to bring back the period of explosions and instability.

Palestinians have new options against Israel

Some politicians in Israel imagine that the time is ripe to finish off the Palestinian cause once and for all by consecrating the Judaisation of Jerusalem and turning the Palestinian situation into a permanent reality, suggested the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial.

They believe that Palestinians have no other options available to them, especially since the US announced its intent to veto any decision supporting the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN Security Council.

"But they forget that the Palestinian people's options are still many, including the retraction of the PLO's recognition of Israel which would take the entire issue back to pre-Madrid convention terms," suggested the paper. "Escalation of the peaceful struggle and the protests against Judaisation practices and settlements is another option, in addition to the escalation of the international legal pressure on Israeli military and security leaders."

At this point, it is essential that Palestinians achieve political unity under the terms of the Cairo reconciliation agreement, for unity would be the biggest threat to the accelerated Judaisation efforts. The solidarity of the people would negate any western pretexts about the legitimacy of the statehood bid related to political divisions.

* Digest is compiled by Racha Makarem