x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Amman's silence towards Syria's plight spells unrest

An extended conflict in Syria would very soon reach Jordan, writes an Arabic-language columnist. Plus the next head of OPEC and Lebanon's culture of war.

At a time when the world is criticising Russia, China and Lebanon for their languid reactions to the crisis in Syria, no one seems willing to point the finger at Jordan for doing the same, said the columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"The situation in Syria would eventually affect its Jordanian and Turkish neighbours regardless of their reactions or attitudes. Burying their heads in the sand in the hope that the danger would blow over isn't going to do them any good," he argued. "A trip from the Jordanian border to the Syrian capital is only one hour by car; that is just over 100 kilometres."

In fact, all the states bordering Syria would be affected one way or the other by the turmoil if they continue to wait for the Assad regime to fall on its own or for the revolution to die out.

At the beginning of the uprising, the Turks raised the bar on expectations, then, as time went on, their rhetoric waned to mere verbal altercations. As for Jordan, and contrary to custom, the silence has gotten too loud.

But Jordan's silence in this case is quite revealing, Al Rashed explained. Amman fears the Syrian regime as it knows that it wouldn't shy away from sending its goons across the border and mobilising some forces inside Jordan and wreak havoc in the small peaceful kingdom.

"But we know that the majority of Jordanians support the Syrian people. Jordan's silence could be interpreted as an apprehension of religious extremism taking hold of power in Damascus should the regime fall, which would create confusion in the Jordanian scene," added the writer.

Although Jordan is a small country with limited capabilities, its fears aren't realistic justification for its negative neutrality towards the Syrian crisis for a neutral position would prevent it from positively influencing the future of Syria. Should Amman intervene to a certain extent, it would be in fact defending itself and its interests.

"I don't mean that Jordan should do what Turkey has so far refrained from doing and get involved in an altercation with the Syrian regime. All it has to do is support the Syrian people across the border," he said.

To leave matters deteriorating as they are without any interference is the greatest threat to Jordan's interests. Should the central power fall, nothing could protect the neighbouring countries from the lava of the Syrian volcano.

Refusal to intervene and offer assistance to the revolution threatens to transform Syria into another Somalia. This is the natural consequence for neglect and misplaced patience.

Inside politics may leave Opec headless

Besides the issue of oil prices falling below $100 a barrel, there will be so much on the agenda of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) as they meet next week in Vienna, wrote columnist Randa Taqiy Al Din in yesterday's edition of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

But a key and touchy item on that agenda is: who is going to succeed the outgoing secretary general of Opec by the end of this year? Abdullah Al Badri, from Libya, has chaired the organisation for two consecutive three-year terms and cannot, under Opec law, renew his mandate a third time.

And while there are two official candidates for the position so far - Saudi Arabia's Majed Al Mounif and Iraq's Thamer Al Ghadban -politicking within the organisation in these sensitive times may hinder the election of a secretary general and leave it headless for months. Which won't be a first, the columnist noted.

"Unfortunately, Iran has always stood in the way of the more competent candidate, even if that meant the organisation would stay without a secretary general for years."

The Saudi candidate may be best suited for the post, she argued, given his good education and long experience. But the current tensions between Iran and the Gulf states would not serve his application.

Lebanon media promotes war culture

Lebanon's crisis is not only political or economic, argued Michelle Tueini in the Lebanese newspaper Annahar. The culture of war is at the bottom of it.

Whenever regional conflicts rage, the Lebanese have to pay a heavy price. Economic bodies have sounded the alarm, but to no avail. Politicians always politicise calls and disregard Lebanon's severe predicament, the writer noted.

But the Lebanese are fed up with this situation and yearn for a new discourse. The problem is that "we live and raise our children in a culture of war."

"The lingo of war, murder and threat have invaded our culture of our own accord," he went on. "Loads of news outlets cling to the language of violence, and would unhesitatingly broadcast pro-conflict reporting."

Even Art promotes the culture of war. Video clips meant to be love songs are replete with scenes of physical and psychological violence, although often off the subject.

Entertainment has also drawn from the lexicon of shooting, arms, killing, assaults and harassment, so much as humour becomes mixed with violence.

"The Lebanese are at loss. Should they protest death with death, injustice with injustice, and war with violence," the writer wondered.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk