x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Challenges are great, but hope remains for Yemen

Some good may come out of the six-month national dialogue, an Arabic-language newspaper opines. Other topics: Syria and the Arab League.

As national dialogue kicks off in Yemen, issues seem daunting, but solutions aren't impossible

Historic circumstances dictated that Yemen be like a wheel that turns in every direction, said the Saudi daily Al Riyadh in its editorial on Monday.

It is afflicted with widespread poverty, illiteracy, tribalism, successive wars and coups. It has become an attractive hub for Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Its Houthis in the north seek to take over the state with Iranian support, while its separatist movements in the south continue to clamour for independence. All the while, Yemen suffers from staggering unemployment rates and an alarming proliferation of weapons. This is all added to economic crises that mean that every issue immediately escalates into a critical mess without a solution in sight.

The UN-backed national dialogue kicked off yesterday in Yemen with the aim of reconciling the various divisive factions. It is scheduled to last six months and bring together more than 550 representatives of political groups.

The day before, on Sunday, hardliner secessionist southern factions staged protests in the city of Aden and announced their boycott of the dialogue initiative. Led by the Southern Movement, they seek independence or at least autonomy for the south.

The sector had sustained successive crises under the former Saleh regime that eventually led to calls for secession, "not our of a desire of provocation, but rather out of de facto necessity", suggested the paper.

"Southern Yemen was once a prosperous region before it witnessed a leftist transformation that drove it to financial ruin coupled with self-inflating egotistical leaderships," the paper added.

After North and South Yemen united in 1990, the south split off again in 1994. The move set off a brief civil war that ended with northern troops controlling the region. Since then, a number of opposition movements have sprouted in the south, with some of them growing more powerful and more radical over time.

The hope is that these all-encompassing talks will help in creating an atmosphere that allows for the foundation of a modern state with a new constitution, a new set of laws and creative solutions for it economic woes, all according to a well-designed plan that will ultimately put an end to tribal or sectarian allegiances.

Yemen has already tried its hand at numerous forms of government under which corruption and favouritism flourished. It is a reality that the state couldn't possibly tackle alone. Hence the dire need for a united stance and for a fresh start after a most tumultuous past.

To hope for utter agreement between all groups concerned with the national dialogue would be far-fetched, especially in such a short span. However, Yemenis have overcome many predicaments in the past and they can be trusted to overcome their differences as long as the good of the country takes precedence to narrow regional, tribal and personal interests, the editorial concluded.

Beware the projection of crisis onto Lebanon

The Arab League ought to turn its attention immediately to the growing tensions at the Lebanese-Syrian border, said columnist Emadeddin Adeeb in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.

It isn't merely a case of some military movements or stray bombs, the years of Syrian mandate over Lebanon have churned out a group of proponent Lebanese political leaders who demonstrate more loyalty to Damascus than Beirut.

From this atmosphere emerged an anti-Syrian national bloc that seeks to defend Lebanon's interests before anything else. This led to a sharp division across Lebanon and Syria and hence, the March 14 bloc became a genuine supporter of the opposition in Syria and the March 8 bloc took it upon itself to support the Assad regime.

"The situation resulted in new alliances and interests that are being supported with money and weapons in anticipation of the moment of confrontation that many believe is fast approaching and would expand the battlefield to involve Lebanon," the writer suggested.

"History has taught us that when totalitarian regimes find themselves besieged and pressured, they attempt to escape their own predicament by taking the crisis elsewhere."

The provocations and the sectarian incitement in recent weeks at the border are a prelude to more serious political escalation that warrants attention.

US prepares to leave as Syrian deaths continue

Since he landed in the Middle East region two weeks ago, the US secretary of state John Kerry has seemed like the ideal man to realise President Barack Obama's wish to hand the reins of the Syrian crisis over to the Russians, said columnist Rajeh Al Khouri in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

"John Kerry is the man entrusted with orchestrating the US withdrawal from the region, which culminates with Mr Obama's visit to Israel. It is clear that the Obama administration is tiptoeing its way out of our region," he suggested.

It all seems evident in light of Washington's morally suspect hesitancy vis-à-vis the Syrian massacre. In the span of two years since the war started, Washington's position has regressed from daily statements by Mr Obama himself, anticipating the fall of Bashar Al Assad "soon" and "any day now", to efforts to secure Mr Assad a place at a negotiation table under the supervision of Moscow and Tehran.

"The US could have withdrawn without causing additional damage in Syria … But Mr Kerry was able to drive a wedge between the members of the opposition national coalition over forming a temporary government and agreeing to talks with Al Assad," the writer said.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk