x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Arab newspapers comment on violence in Syria, Britain's wedding

Editorials in Arab newspapers comment on the future of the American presence in Iraq and the Fatah-Hamas deal.

Arab rage at violence by Syria's al Assad

Friday has become a nightmare for most Arab governments. Since the start of the uprisings in the Arab region, this day has become the prime time for protestors to flood the streets after the midday prayer and urge their governments to halt repression and initiate radical reforms, stated the pan-Arab Al Quds al Arabi newspaper.

This past Friday in Syria, dubbed the Friday of Anger, demonstrators marched out of the mosques into the streets, braving the heavy presence of national security squads deployed in the main squares and avenues. Dozens were reported killed by the police.

"But the deployment of the Syrian army tanks to support police forces failed to dishearten the protesters or dent their determination to stand up to the repressive security apparatus."

Clearly, the Syrian president Bashar al Assad is determined to follow in his father's footsteps. In 1982, Hafez al Assad crushed similar protests in the city of Hama, killing more than 20,000 Syrians and leaving tens of thousands injured.

The Syrian regime should have learnt from the Tunisian and Egyptian experiences; the more killings it perpetrates, the nearer its downfall.

And if Syria is targeted by a "conspiracy", as the regime claims it is, well, the best way to help that purported plot succeed is to continue killing more protesters.

Manufacturing hope crucial to nationhood

"If there is any secret to the advancement of the West, it can be summed up in one phrase: hope-building," wrote Mamoun Fandy, a columnist with the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

"It's hope that Catherine Middleton embodies, this regular girl who stole the heart of the future king of Britain. A fairy tale that mothers tell their daughters, it's a legend meant to give young girls hope. Yet this fairytale has actually materialised before the eyes of the British people as they watch Catherine Middleton tie the knot with Prince William."

Arab princes and kings have married commoners before. Take the current queen of Jordan, a regular Palestinian girl who married a prince who later became the king of Jordan. But there is a key difference. The William and Catherine wedding has become an emblematic story of a nation, not just a relationship between two people.

"Hope does not fall from the sky. Hope is a national industry in which a society participates. That's what happened in Britain. It wasn't about Catherine and William, it was about a nation building a narrative of hope, a narrative that turns a fairytale into reality.

"We Arabs have not invented spaceships or missiles or any real heavy industry, but I'll be really glad if we started the making of hope."


A 'stealth occupation' in the making in Iraq

When the United States invaded Iraq, it did not have an exit plan, because there was no intention of leaving in the first place, said the Emirati Al Khaleej newspaper in its editorial.

The two key goals that motivated the invasion were long-term: control the oil resources of Iraq and neutralise the country in the Arab-Israeli conflict. So Washington knew all along that even if it pulls its troops out of Iraq one day, it will have to remain present in some other capacity.

Obviously, all the talk about a deal between the Americans and the Iraqis regarding the pullout of the troops by the end of 2010 was merely blowing smoke. This was exposed beyond a doubt when the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, sent a request to the Iraqi government to extend the US military's mandate in the country.

"Most of the Iraqi factions voiced their opposition to the idea and vowed to resist the US military presence. But the US administration has a backup plan after all: turning the US embassy in Baghdad into a military base of sorts; a stealth occupation plan."

According to Maj Gen Bernard Champoux, the commander of the 25th US Infantry Division, 20,000 employees will be stationed in this US embassy.

It's obvious that this will be a fully-functioning military base, foretelling a long and painful presence of US troops in Iraq.


After the Hamas-Fatah deal, what next?

"Just to spare our people yet another shock in the future, we must make sure to draw a clear distinction between signing a reconciliation agreement and implementing one," wrote Abdulnasser Al Najjar, a columnist with the West Bank-based Al Ayyam newspaper, commenting on the reconciliation deal signed between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo last week.

"We're all for true reconciliation and were most hurt by division. We are ready to pay the price for this reconciliation for the sake of the greater national cause, which necessitates a firm unified stance against Israeli occupation."

But has anything changed that fundamentally to allow the Palestinian people to be able to have faith in the Cairo agreement?

"Was there any arrangement reached to revamp the whole Palestinian political system, in such a way as to make it integrated and complementary in its strategies and vision for the future of the Palestinian people?

"And was there any arrangement regarding a unified security strategy that indiscriminately serves all parties and factions and marks a break with the ties that were knit over the years with other regional forces?"

The broader lines of the Cairo agreement are easy to accept by both parties, but the devil is in the details.

* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi