x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Assad's ongoing defiance

Bashar Al Assad has claimed the revolution against his regime is over, but world leaders gathered in Istanbul yesterday offered another narrative, an Arabic language columnist writes. Other topics in today's roundup: Palestinian Land Day and Al Qaeda in Yemen.

Assad regime claims revolution is over as Syria's friends offer only words of condemnation

In a well-crafted, defiant statement read by a top foreign ministry official, the Al Assad regime announced that "the battle to bring down the Syrian state has ended indefinitely".

It was a bid to race ahead of the Istanbul "Friends of Syria" conference that convened yesterday to become the largest diplomatic assembly against the regime featuring more than 70 countries, said the columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.

This is yet another one of Mr Al Assad's tactics; it is a manoeuvre to dim the international assembly in Istanbul. In a similar ploy only a week ago, he agreed to a six-point proposal that the UN special envoy Kofi Annan put forward to end the strife in Syria, but soon enough he came up with a stipulation calling for the discontinuation of arming the opposition as a condition for his approval.

Likewise, following Saturday's premature victory declaration, his foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, said that the government would need some time before withdrawing its military vehicles from the streets.

"It is all an effort to gain more time and allow for a perpetuation of the bloodshed, the destruction and to crush the revolution eventually," said the writer. "No one talks about the 1.5 million-strong security and military troops that are wreaking havoc throughout the country."

It is only natural that the rebels at the Turkish-Syrian border would be frustrated. After all, they risk their lives everyday as they cross the border and transport supplies, refugees, defectors and journalists. They face an unfamiliar situation: a besieged revolution in the absence of any other powers prepared to level the field.

The Friends of Syria Conference that convened yesterday close to the Syrian borders holds no surprises and will amount to nothing more than verbal statements of support for the revolution and condemnation of the regime's massacres. But what differs this time around is that the Syrian opposition groups have officially announced their commitment to the principles of pluralism and democracy as well as the respect of religious freedoms. These are the principles that various countries were waiting to ensure in Syria before announcing their support for the revolution.

"Those who convened yesterday in Istanbul must realise that the Syrians would no longer accept to live under a regime that has humiliated them for 40 years," added the writer.

"Those 70 friendly countries should know that they have let down an entire population. They even failed to supply them with humanitarian aid. They are in fact killing them with their silence and their disregard."

Gazans increasingly oppressed by Hamas

On Friday, the Palestinians celebrated "Land Day" which commemorates the day in 1967 when Israeli forces invaded towns and fired at Arabs that were protesting against the judaisation of their homeland.

For the Palestinians, the day became a symbol of their adherence to identity, freedom and territory and not only to the rejection of occupation, said Abdullah Iskandar, the managing editor of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

"It was the proper occasion that allows Palestinians to announce the minimum common denominators between them, but these days, it seems that the challenge to freedom and pride doesn't only come from the Israelis. In Gaza in particular, the Palestinians see their quest challenged by their own authority, Hamas," he added.

Hamas in Gaza registers a new failure in management every day and on all levels, especially following its withdrawal from the reconciliation agreement. It is no longer possible to find explanation for such defective political performance as Hamas continues to suppress Gazans and prolong their suffering.

"Journalists who dare talk about the dire living conditions or the need for a Palestinian reconciliation are imprisoned. Bloggers who criticise the situation are captured. Even taxi drivers who complain about the situation to passengers are getting captured," he said.

Al Qaeda gaining power in Yemen

The battles that took place on Saturday in the Yemeni south between the army and Al Qaeda groups that left more than 30 casualties are an alarming indication of the future of the situation in Yemen, said the Saudi daily Al Watan in its editorial.

"Ever since the beginning of the youth revolution, Al Qaeda in Yemen has been attempting to forcibly appropriate a part of the country's territory in order to establish a private zone under its total control," the paper explained.

The situation in Yemen is the reflection of the many complexities the country suffers from on every level. Al Qaeda's threat in Yemen is real. And while the fight for power rages on between various groups in the name of fighting terrorism, the organisation is growing in power.

In light of the present political divisions in the country, the Yemeni armed forces can't possibly be trusted to successfully wage a confrontation. Yemen's army has become a series of militias serving their respective leaders and they are all using Al Qaeda as part of their duals.








* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem