x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Failure to respond to calls for reform fuel fires that continue to burn

Regional editorials comment on the Syrian regime's wasted opportunity, Iranian official slamming "hateful Arabs" and the two faces of Egypt.

The battles raging between the Syrian regime and the opposition in the capital Damascus mark a dramatic turning point heralding serious military and psychological repercussions, Abdelilah Belqziz opined in an opinion piece in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

Today, the fighting unfolding in Syria is a full-blown war. It is no longer accurate to describe it as a clash between the regime troops and armed groups.

The Syrian regime, therefore, can no longer easily eradicate an armed opposition that has significantly grown in numbers and ammunitions, and managed to reach large cities, including Damascus.

The violent crackdown is no picnic for an army consumed in a year-long standoff. And a victory, if any, would come at an extremely huge cost. Homs is a case in point.

This is especially hard following the bomb attack on the national security headquarters that claimed the lives of top regime figures, and left the army and police psychologically shaken.

Now, both parties reject any political solution to the Syrian crisis and cling to the military option, the major cost of which would be paid by civilians. But the question is why the situation in Syria has reached this horrible stage?

Some might answer that there is a huge foreign plot and Syria is just standing up to it. But while this statement is not completely wrong, it does not tell the whole truth.

Peaceful protests that erupted 17 months ago as part of a sweeping Arab spring merely demanded limited reforms. And the failure of Syrian authorities to understand the crisis propels it forward.

Today, Syria is paying the price for stalling a political response to the crisis when it could have effortlessly responded to a wide audience that could no longer put up with marginalisation, emergency law and lack of freedom and human rights.

True, the developments, later on prompted the regime to meet many of the protesters' demands but the response was too late, gradual and in pieces, rather than one package that would otherwise have suggested the regime's willingness to offer a comprehensive solution to the crisis.

"I have warned, more than a year ago, against the dangers of the military crackdown for its costly ramifications on the country, the population, and the national unity," the writer noted. "I underlined the need for a deep and bold political approach, the starting point of which is a sincere national dialogue with the opposition at home."

The Syrian regime must not think that vetoes from Russias and China at the UN gives it a free hand to quell the armed rebellion. This will only bring more international pressure and internal attrition.

Syria needs a serious political initiative because even Russia and China will at some point need a political reason to keep supporting Syria internationally.

Iran official's 'hateful Arabs' phrase is odd

A high-ranking officer at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard warned those he branded as "hateful Arabs" last week that they will be in for "decisive blows" if they further interfere in the Syrian crisis, reported Tariq Al Homayed, editor of the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, in his column yesterday.

This begs the question: "Does 'hateful Arabs' imply that there are other Arabs that might be 'dear' to Iran?" he asked.

"Is Yemen, for instance, dear to Iran? How can that be when the Iranian president is still scrambling to contain the recent scandal following the arrest of an Iranian spy network in Sanaa."

Are the Moroccans dear to Iran, by any chance? That can't be either, because Rabat had previously expelled the Iranian ambassador, accusing Iran of funding "Shiitisation" missions in the country. "The Iraqis perhaps? Not possible … Iraqi political forces are endeavouring to bring down an Iran-backed government that bullies the Iraqi people."

GCC states? Iran occupies three UAE islands and Kuwait had previously announced that it had arrested an Iranian spy.

"Who's left among influential Arabs?" Egypt? The scandal of the Iranian media outlet that fabricated an interview with the newly elected Egyptian president has soured feelings.

Hardly any Arabs are left, and this new "hateful Arabs" phrase comes to crown it all.

Egypt has always had a dual personality

The image engraved in the world's psyche of Egypt depicts it as the pioneer among Arab countries and as its source of culture, literature and arts. Seldom does the memory record that Egypt is also the primary birthplace of various extremist Islamists movements, from the widespread Muslim Brotherhood to the Salafist movements and the expiatory organisations such as Al Qaeda.

"There have always been two aspects to Egypt: the land of renaissance and openness on one hand and the hub of radicalism and withdrawal on the other," said the columnist Satea Noureddine in the Lebanese daily Assafir.

Egypt has always been in a state of conflict between these two aspects. The influential Abdel Nasser era and the scandalous experimentation phase that followed with presidents Anwar Al Sadat and Hosni Mubarak paved the way for the Islamic takeover witnessed presently across the state.

The events that have been taking place in the country since the beginning of the revolution are part of that historical conflict.

"The Egyptian Islamic movement has prevailed through the democratic process. Why not? There is no way around it. The time has come to say goodbye to the other face of Egypt for a period that could still be made short," he said.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk