x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Arab secularists must return to opposition and restore their reputation

Partnerships with Islamist parties will not bring Arab secularists power; they should start organizing themselves, argues an Arabic-language columnist. Also, why calls for a political transition in Syria are a waste of time and serious measures are needed for Somalia.

The Arab left-wingers, nationalists and liberals must admit their heavy defeat and stop masking it by useless talk about partnerships with Islamists in the revolution and in power, argued Abdelilah Belqziz in an opinion piece in the Sharjah-based paper Al Khaleej.

Some Arab leftists, liberals and pan-Arab nationalists have celebrated the Arab revolutions and the ensuing Islamist regimes. This celebration, the writer said, is akin to their celebration, more than three decades ago, of the Iranian revolution that brought forth a theocratic power-monopolising regime.

Secularists do not learn from their mistakes, or they do but it is in a caricatural way. For instance, when they took notice, 20 years ago, that political Islam was dangerous - after the Iranian revolution had disappointed their romanticised expectations - they would act only through supporting, or at least keeping silent over, dictatorial regimes' sponsored eradication policies against Islamists.

Today, they have completely flip-flopped: from hostility to celebration. Now, they are partners with Islamists in the revolution and in power. Arab secularists have forgotten that several secularist parties were also partners with Iran's clergy in the 1979 revolution. They even took high positions following the revolution. But it was not long before the clergy turned against them and monopolised all power.

"Will Arab liberals have a different fate with an Islamist trend that has displayed an unprecedented quest for power," the writer asked.

Some secularists have tended to accept the fait accompli saying: "Let's try Islamists before we can judge them." But this statement is inaccurate. Islamists have already taken power in several countries - Sudan, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan - only to set the worst example of all political elites.

Some might say that power will teach Islamists realism and pragmatism, and therefore water down their extremism. But this claim disregards the fact that Islamists are already masters of pragmatism, which is how they have ascended to power. Accepting the Camp David Accords is a case in point.

Others might argue that the people who voted Islamists into power can hold them accountable after the end of their term and correct their mistake. Yet this is more like an unproved hypothesis, and no one is certain whether or not they would be punished if they failed.

Any democrat must respect the will of the electorate, the writer said. But there is a huge difference between accepting the victory of Islamists and sharing power with them.

Democracy entails government and opposition. And any party that favours opposition not only respects the will of the people, but also chooses opposition to improve the democratic process.

Nothing but bloodshed in Syria's near future

If the Iranian foreign minister sees that "the situation in Damascus is normal and calm and there is nothing for us to worry about in Syria" and if his Russian counterpart insists that the Syrian regime is still strong and nothing justifies calling on the president to step down, then it is only normal that Damascus would scoff at the Arab foreign ministers' offer of a safe exit for the president and his family, said the columnist Elias Harfoush in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

Following their meeting in Doha on Monday, Arab League foreign ministers insisted that a transitional government, formed by the opposition forces, should take control in Syria.

"Syrian regime leaders are fighting a war of survival. The Arabs' proposals to drive them out of Damascus couldn't be more far-fetched," said the writer. "Damascus doesn't give any weight to the League's recipes and accuses it of providing cover for the 'terrorist armed gangs' within Syria."

Threatening the regime to withdraw the political solution proposal and replacing it with a call for power transition is a waste of time. Meanwhile, the casualties are multiplying.

"Syria is past the stage of political solutions. A safe exit for Mr Al Assad is unacceptable at this point and a peaceful power transition is out of the question, even if the opposition, despite its obvious fragmentation, were able to succeed in forming a transitional government," the writer said.

Pre-emptive measures essential for Somalia

It is unfathomable that years of hardship have gone by in Somalia and it has yet to take pre-emptive and protective measures to counter a new spell of drought that threatens all forms of life on large expanses of the country's soil, said the Qatari newspaper Al Watan in its editorial on Tuesday.

"The preliminary cure would be that the conflicting powers of Somalia seek to bridge the gaps between them and gather around a common goal, to save the people and the land," said the daily. "Then, they must try to put an end to the ongoing conflict that adds to the pressure of the drought."

To counter the recurrent phenomenon of water shortages, Somalia must dig wells to exploit the groundwater that must be present in enormous quantities. The country must provide desalination stations that could provide the minimum volume required for human consumption.

"Somalia can't continue to rely on international aid. It is insufficient and nothing guarantees that it will reach the drought-stricken areas," the paper added.

Bold solutions are an urgent need to counter the natural disaster in Somalia; solutions that can exploit the country's natural resources. But before anything, no resource is greater to provide than security.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk