x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Annan's aspirations for a Syrian solution in Tehran are mere delusion

Kofi Annan is running after a mirage in Iran, writes an Arabic-language columnist. Plus the deadlock in Egypt and why Iran has lost the latest oil war

On Tuesday, in a new attempt to salvage his moribund Syria plan, the UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan spoke from Tehran to say that "Iran can play a positive role" in ending the 16-month crisis and that it should be "part of the solution".

Commenting on this, columnist Randa Takieddine wrote in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat: "Kofi Annan is running after a mirage in Iran. His mission there is impossible. He will only return with false promises, but at least, he would have tried."

The former UN secretary general believes that Iran holds pressure cards over Syria. But, even if this likelihood was true, Iran wouldn't give Mr Annan that card for free - and, in any case, there is nothing to force it to grant his demands.

The price the Iranian regime wants in exchange for any assistance in the Syrian case isn't Mr Annan's to give; he doesn't have any power to lift the internationally imposed oil and economic sanctions.

On more than one occasion, during the international negotiations over its nuclear programme, Iran has attempted to present itself as a broker for a solution in Syria, but its manoeuvres were repeatedly rejected.

International powers are aware that Iran plays a major role in creating instability in the Middle East region, in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

How does Mr Annan perceive that the Iranian regime would agree to persuade the regime of President Bashar Al Assad to acquiesce to transferring power to a government that includes the opposition with the option of stripping Mr Al Assad of his powers?

The fact is that Mr Al Assad doesn't intend to stop the crisis. Even as he met Mr Annan earlier this week, his killing machine was relentlessly wreaking havoc throughout Syria.

But with more than 15,000 casualties since the start of the uprising, the chances of Mr Al Assad staying in power are getting ever dimmer, despite the staunch support he continues to receive from his allies, mainly Russia.

The days when Russia was a great power are gone. Today, its only strength is its veto power at the UN Security Council; a power it wants to demonstrate to emerging powers such as China and India.

But, if Russia is to safeguard its interests in Syria, it will soon realise that its safest bet is to side with the Syrian people and not with a doomed regime.

Earlier this week, Moscow announced that it would halt arms sale to Syria. In Iran, the mounting financial crisis would soon prevent the government from extending material support to Syria.

This is expected to reflect in a change of the situation on the ground in Syria in the coming weeks, the columnist noted.



Egypt's deadlock due to wrong road map

The dilemma Egypt is facing now is mainly due to the wrong road map that most Egyptians adopted, argued columnist Emad Eddine Hussein in the Cairo-based Al Shorouk.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed forces (Scaf) and Islamists are politically responsible for the impasse we are faced with now," the writer noted.

It does not stand to reason that President Mohammed Morsi decided to reopen the People's Assembly without having consulted the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party or certain other political forces.

This decision has revealed that Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood behind him are in a heated race against time to entrench themselves in power because they probably feel that all they have attained might vanish into thin air.

Some believe Mr Morsi sought to send a message that he is strong and able to challenge the rulings of the military; others contend that he just wanted to regain the legislative power from the military.

A third party said Mr Morsi knew that his move was illegal, but went ahead just to prove he had confronted Scaf, but afterwards could not challenge the rulings of the judiciary. Therefore no one would slam him as "weak or hesitant".

Mr Morsi's decision might earn him momentary popularity, but it would undercut the Brotherhood, and show it as eager to take over the whole country.

Iran has lost the first battle in the oil war

It seems that the first battle of the global war on Iran's oil exports is over with Saudi Arabia and its allies victorious over Iran, columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed opined in London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat yesterday.

A week ago, the ban on Iran's oil went into effect, and the oil barrel did not rise to $200 (Dh735), which would have prompted the world to back away from using the "oil export weapon", as the Iranian leadership had bet.

The oil price would not have remained stable if major exporters had not been determined to fill the gap. In fact, there has been a surplus despite Iranian officials threatening "oil chaos".

"The ongoing oil war has revealed two things. First, that the Gulf states are able to dismiss the Iranian tutelage … and second, that Iran has turned out to be a paper tiger," the writer went on.

For more than a year, Iran has been threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation if it were banned from exporting oil. However, not only did Iran relinquish its threat, but it also issued a statement announcing that it had no intention to close the strait.

Iran knows that if it did, it would be crushed militarily, which is why it resorted to manipulation: Iran said it had bought more oil tankers to sell oil directly in the market. But this won't work either.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk