x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Arab Summit a warning to Assad

Bashar Al Assad must have known the end was near when he saw somebody sitting in his seat, an Arabic-language columnist says. Other topics: Arab unity and knowing your enemy.

Bashar Al Assad, the president of Syria, must have watched the broadcast of the inauguration of the Arab Summit in Doha on Tuesday. He must have seen Sheikh Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib addressing the conference from the seat of the Syrian delegation, which held the flag of independence. He must have realised that the game is over for him, said Tariq Al Homayed, a contributing columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"Granting Syria's seat to the opposition at the Doha summit, despite reservations from Iraq, Lebanon and Algeria, means that Al Assad was watching what may be the final chapter of his oppressive regime, which has been disintegrating in front of him for the past three years," he said.

The presence of the Syrian opposition delegation as the official representative of Syria at the Arab summit sends a wake-up message to Mr Al Assad who continues to deny reality. It was also a rattling message to the dictator's close circle and supporters.

As expected, the reaction of Mr Al Assad was outrageous. The Syrian media described the acknowledgement of the opposition at the Arab League as a "robbery" and a "legal, political and ethical crime".

"The truth is inviting Al Khatib to represent Syria in the Arab League was a strong and overdue step. It should be followed by handing Syria's embassies in all Arab countries to the Syrian opposition," Al Homayed suggested. Mr Al Assad wasn't the only one observing the momentous events on Tuesday.

Surely his allies Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hizbollah in Lebanon, and the Mullahs regime in Iran must have watched the historic moment that holds a tremendous significance for them. It was the moment that signalled the end of Mr Al Assad's lectures in Arab forums on Arabism, resistance and struggle, since it turned out that his understanding of resistance and struggle involves killing his own people with the help of Iran and Hizbollah.

Iran and Hizbollah must be aware by now that things have changed in Syria and that the last four decades have reached an end.

"The journey that lies ahead of Syria is still long, especially in the post-Assad phase. But with Al Khatib in Syria's seat at the summit, the entire region has entered a new phase. It is a difficult phase indeed, but its effect will be mostly felt by Iran and its agents in the region," he remarked.

Following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, some regional powers thought they would have free rein over the Middle East. This was also Mr Al Assad's cardinal mistake.

He believed that he would get away with anything and rule the region. But in the end, his spell turned against him, the columnist said.

Spectre of divisions looming in the region

Political, religious and social divisions in the Middle East are deepening by the day, yet many people prefer to ignore them, wrote Saeed Al Shehabi, a Bahraini columnist, in an opinion article in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

He wrote that some of these divisions are caused by sectarian differences which are fuelled by those who oppose unity instead of using their resources towards unity, development and progress. Other divisions are caused by ethnic forces that have been neglected and oppressed by the modern nation-state. There are also those who view Arab unity as a threat to their interests and ambitions that cause divisions.

"This latter type has resources to stoke all types of divisions," the writer said. "This category of people, mostly from outside the region but with allies from oppressive and tyrannical regimes that dominated Arab countries for nine decades, views Arab unity as an existential threat."

He added that the latter forces cash in on sectarian and ethnic divisions to achieve their goals. They either morally support those divisive forces, or help them financially and supply weapons to them.

Religious discourse is also being used, the writer said, to charge up people and turn such sentiments into human explosives that destroy everything.



Arabs must know the enemy at home

Arab dictators have long used the Israeli occupation to justify their moves to stall pressing issues at home; the Arab people swallowed the bait in the beginning but they won't do it any more, noted Saudi writer Suleiman Al Hatlan in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

Arab dictators traded on the Palestinian cause to the detriment of development in their homeland; they used it to mask their crimes, corruption and greed, the writer said.

Libya's Muammar Qaddafi used Palestine as a red herring for four decades, spreading lies and follies about the confrontation with Israel, at the expense of Libya's prosperity.

After seizing power, Qaddafi ruined education and reduced it to outright poppycock such as his infamous Green Book.

In the name of fighting the Israeli occupation, the Assad dynasty has dominated Syria since 1970. It kept vowing that it would liberate the Golan Heights and beat off Israel, without firing a single shot towards Israel. Now, they are firing Scud missiles against the Syrians.

Who is the worst of enemies - the one at home or the one abroad? It is the one who shares the same language and the culture, and yet "kills you under the pretext of protecting you".

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk