x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Al Assad is looking to his future

Massacres in the west may indicate that Bashar Al Assad wants to set up a new republic of minorities, an Arabic-language columnist says. Also: Kerry and Turkey, and Egypt's stalled revolution.

Westward direction of massacres indicates that Al Assad is paving the way for his next republic

In the past five days, Bashar Al Assad's forces, aided by Hizbollah militias and pro-regime mobs, have been besieging and waging a violent offensive on towns and villages in the western part of the city of Homs.

This raises questions as to the reason behind such a massive mobilisation in countryside areas that are mainly small farming villages, said columnist Abdulrahman Al Rashid in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

In a meeting with a delegation of Lebanese supporters earlier this week, Mr Al Assad explained that his strategy for the present phase in the fight focuses on "purging" the region of Homs and its countryside.

The westward direction of the battles reflects the way the fighting is unfolding in the whole of Syria. The rebels have succeeded in controlling several areas in south and east Syria and are now fighting Mr Al Assad in Damascus.

"Either [Mr] Al Assad is preparing to escape once the capital city has fallen and retreat to the sectarian regions towards the western coast with the inclusion of Homs, or he intends to hold out and control approximately one third of Syria from Damascus to Homs and the Mediterranean coast," Al Rashid wrote.

Mr Al Assad used the word "purge" to refer to his hideous scheme to get rid of unwanted categories of people. This could only mean that the regime is gearing up for new massacres, killing hundreds and burning down towns with the purpose of terrorising inhabitants and pushing them to escape.

By evacuating hundreds of thousands of "unwanted" town and village inhabitants, Mr Al Assad would have "cleansed" the territory in a way that allows him to announce his future republic to host Syria's minorities - Alawites, Christians, Druze and Shiites, plus a small number of pro-regime Sunnis.

"Theoretically, [Mr] Al Assad's next republic only requires that the territory be burnt and cleansed of its inhabitants. Then 'qualified' citizens would migrate to it from Damascus and the rest of the towns that would fall later," suggested Al Rashid.

"From a practical perspective, however, his republic is a project for a longer-trudging war and more atrocious massacres. It is the dream of a power-hungry dictator who would be happy ruling over a small, remote village on top of a mountain. For this reason, he is willing to divide Syria," the writer added.

But would his would-be citizens want to live under a corrupt and malignant regime?

It may still be too early to speak of post-war scenarios, the writer concluded. What is important now is to save lives and stop the brutal massacres the likes of which the world has never seen, except in Cambodia. But at that time, unlike now, the world couldn't see or hear what was happening.

Kerry misconstrues Turkish visit to Gaza

In what some Arab observers saw as tactless interference that is unbecoming of a senior diplomat, US secretary of state, John Kerry, said at a recent news conference in Istanbul that he hoped the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would postpone a scheduled trip to the Gaza Strip.

"It seems that in Mr Kerry's mind, the Turkish visit, which has no specified date yet, would somehow undermine his efforts to restart the idle peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," wrote columnist Mazen Hammad in yesterday's edition of the Doha-based newspaper Al Watan.

"But Mr Kerry's assessment and conclusion are erroneous," he added. "Mr Erdogan's visit is, in fact, part of the process of renormalising relations between Israel and Turkey."

Following the recent Israeli apology over the killing in 2010 of nine Turkish activists on-board an aid ship headed to Gaza, Turkish officials reminded their Israeli counterparts of two other preconditions before the two nations' ties could go back to normal. One is compensation for the families of the victims; the other is lifting the Israeli blockade on Gazans.

"Thus, we don't really see how the Turkish prime minister's visit to the Gaza Strip is inconsistent with Mr Kerry's consecutive meetings with Mahmoud Abbas and [Benjamin] Netanyahu to get them to resume peace talks," the columnist said.

Egypt's revolution is turning upside down

"What's left of a revolution when those against whom it started are leaving their jail cells one after the other, while those who took part in the uprising are sent to replace them there?" asked Waheed Abdul Majeed, a columnist with the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram.

In an article titled Upside down, the writer said that many of the key figures of the old regime of Hosni Mubark had been released from jail "as if they had been on a pleasant country vacation".

Accusing the judiciary alone of this manifest impunity would be absurd, given that the present rulers of Egypt are still incapable of directing the security apparatus to reveal all the indicting evidence held against Mr Mubarak regime suspects, the writer argued.

Young Egyptians are being held after peaceful demonstrations, where they were protesting nothing but the "loss of the revolution they had helped start".

Zizou Abdo is one of them. He was arrested in late March during a peaceful demonstration in front of the interior minister's residence.

His friends, Mohammed Mustafa and Mamdouh Sabri, were picked up on the same day.

"And these are just a few examples," the columnist said in conclusion.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae