x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Arab leadership needed in Syria

Arabic editorials also comment on the state of the Palestinian Authority and a possible Israeli strike on Iran.

Action to bring down the Assad regime must come from the Arab League, not from the UN

The belief that the Security Council in its present state is capable of granting any legitimacy to the plan to topple the Syrian regime is a delusion, suggested the Saudi columnist Abdulrahman Al Rashid in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Alawsat.

Similarly delusional is the notion that an Arab League decision adopted at the UN Security Council would - even it passed - have been able to sway Damascus, Al Rashid argued.

"The solution, exceptionally, lies not in New York, but in Cairo and Syria. The Arab League can punish the regime for its crimes and the apparent genocide that it perpetrates against civilians by expelling it and accepting the opposition as the official representative of Syria. The Arab League has to legitimise this project first, not the Security Council."

The Arab body's recent decision on Syria has backfired. It legitimised Al Assad's regime and saved those countries that support it, such as Russia, the embarrassment of going against the world. What's more, it makes room for sufficient time and legal arguments to protect the regime and keep it in place.

In fact, the Arab decision didn't name the opposition that should participate in the next government.

The decision overlooked a number of major issues regarding the future government. For instance, it didn't define the nature of the opposition's participation or who would be in charge of the sovereign portfolios: defence, interior, foreign and finance ministries. What would become of the dreaded intelligence apparatus? These matters will require a long time to be decided and indecision continues to bolster the regime's position.

Even the phrasing of the Arab League text was disconnected from the statements of Arab ministers. While they say that Bahsar Al Assad must relinquish his authority to his deputy, the text of the decision conveyed a different meaning. It called on the president to delegate his deputy, Farouq Al Sharaa, to cooperate with a joined government that includes the opposition. These are mere cooperation authorities rather than ruling authorities.

"I believe that the Arab League, under pressure from pro-Syrian states, the false campaign against the international interference that saved the Libyan people and because of the big disappointment coming from Cairo, bowed the heads of its majority and acquiesced to the amendments that rendered its decision hollow and worthless," opined the writer.

The Arab League is required to expel Al Assad's regime and to support the Syrian people's right to self-defence. These are two essential steps that would change the situation on the ground and compel the international community to follow the suite of the league rather than lead it.

More waiting and no alternatives for the PA

January 26 has come and gone and something has yet to happen, despite the Palestinian Authority's announcements in previous weeks that things would change radically after that date, said Hussam Kanafani,a columnist with the Sharjah-based daily Al Khaleej. The PA had been promoting a series of "new options" to follow the failed exploratory meetings with the Israeli representatives in Jordan.

"Not that anyone had given much weight to the PA's threats; its options are already worn out," he said. "The Palestinian issue isn't a priority on any world agenda."

The brief western activity that the occupied territories witnessed recently was mostly aimed at keeping the status quo and bringing both sides to the negotiating table in an attempt to contain any likelihood of an explosion. "The Arab follow-up committee meeting, which was slated for Sunday, and in light of which the Palestinians were supposed to decide on the 'alternative options' is all but forgotten," the writer added.

In the meantime, the international Quartet is seeking "goodwill" decisions that would assuage the Palestinians momentarily.

Nothing is expected to change in the Palestinian-Israeli issue in the near future. The international community's efforts are focused on trying to find a solution for the Syrian crisis. The Palestinians will have to wait.

Iran rebuffs the idea that it will be cowed

Last Friday's sermon by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, must have shattered the hopes of western powers who were counting on sanctions against Iran to bring positive results, wrote Abdelbari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, at the weekend.

Ayatollah Khamenei said economic sanctions and the oil embargo imposed on Iran would not affect Tehran's resolve to carry on its nuclear projects.

Coming from the top spiritual authority in Iran, the message is a direct answer to Israel's increasing threats to launch a military strike on Iran. Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, has been reported as saying that his troops cannot sit and watch any longer as Iran's nuclear programme inches closer to maturity.

Ayatollah Khamenei's message was clear: we're not afraid of war. We're not after it, but if it's got to happen, we will have no choice but retaliate.

Let's not blow Iran's military power out of proportion, the editor cautioned. Iran remains "a Third World country, with 20th century weapons".

But as things stand, Iran is telling Israel "bring it on". In the meantime, we just wait for the outcome of that standoff.


* Digest compiled by Translation Desk