x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Beirut blast shows Assad is lashing out

The killing of a Lebanese security chief shows just how vicious Syria's leader is willing to be, an Arab editor writes. Today's other items: the EU's Nobel Prize and Egyptian-Israeli relations.

Beirut blast proves that Syrian regime's agony means peril for anti-Assad figures in Lebanon

The armed rebellion in Syria is taking its toll on the regime of President Bashar Al Assad, who has become desperate enough to send his collaborators firing away in all directions, committing follies in Turkey to the north, and now in Lebanon to the west, noted Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in a weekend column entitled A wounded Assad strikes in Lebanon.

On Friday, a car bomb in the Beirut neighbourhood of Achrafiyeh killed General Wissam Al Hassan, a top security official with close ties to the anti-Al Assad camp in Lebanon. At least seven others were killed in the blast and dozens were injured.

Saad Hariri, the leader of the opposition Future Movement, has accused the Syrian president by name of orchestrating the explosion. Mr Hariri's father, the late prime minister Rafiq Hariri, was assassinated in a similar blast in 2005.

The Druze leader Walid Jumblatt also accused the Syrian regime of Friday's blast, the editor said. "In fact, he went even further and said that the Syrian president has burnt down Syria and now wants to set Lebanon on fire."

The question that demands attention, the writer went on, is how safe are other senior Lebanese officials from assassins linked to the Syrian regime?

"If a man of Gen Al Hassan's stature - practically the most powerful officer in the Lebanese security apparatus - can be liquidated with such ease, how difficult would it really be for his assassins to get to any other political leader or security commander in Lebanon?" the editor asked.

Gen Al Hassan was assassinated in the same horrific fashion that killed other Lebanese figures before him.

But he was not killed for the same reasons, the editor argued. He was not targeted, like the others have been, for exposing spy networks involving Lebanese, Palestinian and other Arabs working for the Israeli Mossad.

"Gen Al Hassan was assassinated because he challenged the Syrian regime at a time when the latter is at its lowest point ever," the editor said. "He exposed the former [pro-Al Assad] Lebanese information minister, Michel Samaha, for his involvement in the smuggling of weapons and explosives inside his car into Lebanon."

The munitions were reportedly intended for operations to kill Lebanese politicians who support the armed rebellion in Syria.

What's more, Gen Al Hassan wanted to summons General Ali Mamluk, the head of national security in Syria, and Buthaina Shaaban, Mr Al Assad's adviser, for implication in the case.

"A few months ago, there were reports about a 'kill list' featuring the names of Lebanese political figures to be liquidated. Gen Al Hassan was tipped as the right man to ensure their protection. Now, he has become the first one to go," the editor said.

Did the EU deserve to win the Nobel Prize?

"I sighed when I heard the news that the European Union had won the Nobel Peace Prize for this year," wrote columnist Zainab Hifni in yesterday's edition of the UAE-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

The sigh, she went on, was at the thought that Arabs still have a long way to go.

Public opinion was divided over whether the EU really deserved the prestigious peace prize, Hifni wrote.

"Those in favour argued that the EU has contributed a great deal to the unification of Europe and the dissemination of the values of peace, and was successful in settling decades-long differences between some of its member states."

But others were not convinced, citing recent riots in Greece and protests in Spain over EU austerity measures imposed on struggling member states.

"The British did not hide their annoyance, making light of the role of the European body and calling the EU nomination 'a joke'. From the British viewpoint, the EU has precisely failed in eradicating internal differences."

But what about the Arabs, who always talk about unity? "Well, whatever people say about the shortcomings of the EU, it has by far succeeded where we Arabs have failed."

There was a time when, after independence, all Arab nations were open onto one another, with no borders or visas, she wrote.

But, sadly, that time is gone.

When Brothers shake hands with Israelis

Last week Shimon Peres, Israel's president, received the new Egyptian ambassador, Atef Salem, who tendered his credentials and a letter from President Mohammed Morsi, reaffirming Cairo's commitment to peace.

In the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej, commentator Amjad Arar wrote this yesterday:

"It must have been preordained for our generation to see an Arab ambassador do what his party has always opposed - presenting diplomatic credentials to the head of the Usurping Entity (Israel), in occupied Jerusalem no less, just a few hundred metres from Al Aqsa Mosque …

"It must have been preordained for our generation to hear an Arab ambassador describe his reception in the Usurping Entity as 'a great honour' and call its president 'a great friend'."

What is the Muslim Brotherhood - and, more importantly, Egypt - gaining by this? Probably nothing, the writer suggested.

The first thing Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier, did after the new Egyptian took office was to reiterate Israel's firm rejection of any amendment to its peace treaty with Egypt.

Cairo had called for amendments to allow Egyptian troops to control armed groups in Sinai - the same armed groups who launch attacks into Israel and chip away at Egypt's sovereignty.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi

aelbahi@thenational.ae