x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Assad appears to have weathered the storm

Arabic-language newspapers consider the impasse in Syria, halting Palestinian reconciliation and women's situation after the past year's revolutions.

Weekend diplomatic meeting results suggest that Al Assad regime has weathered the storm

"It displeases me to admit it, but the truth is the Syrian regime has managed to counter and ward off all the Arab and international actions against it," columnist Abdel Rahman Al Rashed wrote in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

On Saturday, Arab foreign ministers met with their Russian counterpart in Cairo to discuss a possible solution for the Syrian crisis and to attempt to sway the Russians to turn on their Syrian ally, but to no avail.

The meeting also coincided with a visit by UN envoy Kofi Annan to Damascus, where he met with the president. That meeting ended with Mr Al Assad blatantly rejecting peace talks.

"In just three months, he turned the table on his opponents until the various demands digressed and shrank to mere mediation for reconciliation - pending president Bashar Al Assad's approval," the columnist wrote.

The Syrian president was skilful in dividing international positions. "He applied the same scenario he used following his assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri back in 2005," the writer said. He exploited the fears of western nations, including his staunchest opponents in Europe and the US. He convinced them that his departure would open the way for Al Qaeda's Ayman Al Zawahiri and other extremist groups that are vying to rule his multi-confessional country.

"Saturday's fiasco was obvious. The concerted efforts of the Arabs suffered a harsh setback as countries that explicitly support the Syrian people acquiesced to the call for a reconciliatory solution," the writer continued.

In fact the Qatari prime minister and the Saudi foreign ministers, who have been spearheading the diplomatic assault on Damascus, agreed to refer the Arab League's solution to the UN Security Council despite the loopholes the League provided for saving the regime, such as the proposal to dialogue with the opposition.

Mr Al Assad's throne was shaking beneath him six months ago and the international community seemed ready to decide to interfere and to end the regime's dictatorship.

But the circumstances have changed now, and the regime has regained some of its strength. This is a defeat that came with the failure to unite the Syrian opposition in one front, while the Damascus government shifted its strategy by moving in to the attack.

"This is only one round among the many battles to come. I don't know how Mr Al Assad will be ale to get away from the massive bloodshed he has brought upon his country.

His diplomatic victory on the international scene does not reflect the reality of his defeats inside Syria," said the writer. "All he did was increase people's hatred of him."

Neither Hamas nor Fatah is sincere

Don't hold your breath over Palestinian reconciliation, as there is a lack of genuine willingness on the part of the two main factions - Hamas (in Gaza) and Fatah (in the West Bank) - to push a deal through, opined lawyer Ziyad Abu Ziyad in the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds yesterday.

The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is still hesitant, caring too much about the reaction of the United States and Europe to this reconciliation deal, which many hope for to end more than five years of animosity between Fatah and Hamas, the writer said.

Hamas still rejects the preconditions laid down by the Quartet on the Middle East, so Fatah feels uncomfortable sealing a deal with a party that does not meet the West's approval. The Quartet wants Hamas to recognise Israel's right to exist, among other things, before being accepted as a partner in the peace process.

"Within Hamas, there is a powerful movement that is cool to this whole idea of reconciliation," the writer said. Hamas is worried that the prospective transitional government of technocrats that is being billed as the embodiment of Palestinian reconciliation might end up being a permanent government.

So the Gaza rulers want guarantees that Israel will not interfere after the deal is sealed, while Fatah remains unsure about the feasibility of the whole thing.

Revolutions have not benefited women

As the world celebrated International Women's Day on Thursday, women in the Arab world were barely noticed. The Arab Spring has not done them any favours, according to Shamlan Yussef Issa, a contributor to the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

"The status of Arab women is in constant regression despite the movement of young Arabs for change, to which women contributed significantly in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen," the article said.

In fact, women are worse off now. Take, for instance, the results of elections in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco. "The number of female parliamentarians has decreased.

"We've also started noticing that the more radical parties are proposing projects that are humiliating to women."

Here is an example: the founder of a hard-line Islamist political party in Tunisia - "the Openness and Loyalty Party" - has called for a constitutional clause that allows married men to have concubines, or sex slaves. The argument is that the sanctioning of concubines will heal society of zina - sex out of wedlock.

In Kuwait, not a single woman won in the parliamentary elections last month, and now Islamist MPs are pitching laws restraining women's public freedoms.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk