x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

For Turkey, only bluster on Syria

Erdogan's talk of war with Syria could only be meant to unnerve the Assad regime, an Arabic language columnist says in today's Arabic opinion roundup. Other topics: Iran's shaky economy and keeping an eye on Morsi.

Erdogan's talk of war with Syria could only be meant to unnerve the Assad regime

Strikes and counter-strikes between Syria and Turkey threaten to spark a regional war if they are not swiftly contained, suggested the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial.

The fighting continued on Saturday despite Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's strong warning to Damascus.

The skirmishes began last Wednesday, when Syrian forces fired mortars on the Turkish town of Akcakale, which resulted in the deaths of five civilians.

Turkey retaliated by shelling Syrian targets in one of the most serious cross-border escalations during the 19-month Syrian crisis.

"The Syrian regime sees Turkey as the main threat to its survival due to its continued political backing of the Syrian opposition," the editorial said.

"The Turkish prime minister, Mr Erdogan, never denied his support of the Syrian opposition or his intentions to unseat the Assad regime, but he didn't anticipate incurring a political or security price for it."

On Thursday, Mr Erdogan called an emergency parliamentary session to vote on a bill authorising military action inside Syria.

The move sparked outrage in Turkey as thousands of people marched through the streets of Istanbul, the country's second largest city, in protest.

A war with Syria would have disastrous human and economic consequences.

Turkey's military is already engaged in a fierce battle with Kurdish insurgents in the east of the country, in which the number of casualties has been mounting.

At such a time, another battle is the last thing Turkey would like to wage.

For its part, the Assad regime has been trying to exploit this perceived vulnerability in the Turkish government.

It has been providing arms and ammunition for the opposition's Republican People's Party that has been significantly gaining ground and popularity for its rejection of any plans to intervene in Syria.

So far, Mr Erdogan managed to avoid falling into Syria's provocation trap.

Last week he confirmed that he was not seeking a war with the neighbouring country, but as cross-border clashes were renewed, his stance soon changed and as public emotion surged, he assured that his country would not shy away from a war with Syria.

"In our opinion, Mr Erdogan's war talk is meant for public consumption and an attempt at unnerving Syrian authorities. Mr Erdogan is well aware that slipping into a war would cost him everything he has achieved in the past decade, especially in economic terms," the paper said.


Iran's economic slump is avoidable pain

Iranians are increasingly trading the rial against the US dollar and the euro in the black market - or exchanging it against gold - a clear indication of how seriously the Iranian economy has been damaged, wrote the columnist Ilyas Harfoush in yesterday's edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

It shows that Iranians "have lost faith in their government's policies" and indicates the degree of misery Tehran's standoff with the West over its nuclear programme has inflicted on the Iranian people.

"A dismal state of the economy, like the one unfolding in Iran, would prompt any government to take responsibility and make attempts to remedy the causes of the crisis in order to regain public confidence … But, as per the tradition, Iran's leaders have chosen to blame 'arrogant world powers'," the newspaper commented.

Due to a series of sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries, the spending power of Iranian citizens has decline sharply with the prices of basic commodities rising by up to 80 per cent in one year, the writer said.

The restrictions on Iran's oil trade are also blunting Tehran's ability to make up for its deficit in hard currency reserves.

At this stage, pointing the finger at the western "enemies" is not going to make the lives of Iranians better.

All eyes should be on president in Egypt

It is part of the opposition's mission to "lay for" the president without a scintilla of hesitance or guilt, wrote Ibrahim Issa, the editor-in-chief of the Egyptian newspaper Al Tahrir.

"In fact, the more loyal the opposition is to its nation and its thoughts, the sharper and closer is the scrutiny," he noted.

There is no opposition in any democracy worth its salt that does not track the president and keep tabs on their activities and mistakes, warn against their decisions and laws, and expend every "political effort" in lying bare their policies and flaws, he added.

"This is the opposition that loves its nation," he said. "In fact, it also serves the president himself by opposing and showing him his weaknesses instead of blowing the president's trumpet."

But in Egypt, a country that has always been prepared to worship any ruler and made them pharaohs, the "magnitude of scrutiny must be even higher as an antidote to all forms of ingratiation to the president".

The Muslim Brotherhood, to which the president Mohamed Morsi belongs, is seeking to imbue him with an aura of holiness in order to take over all the state's institutions. This necessitates more eagle eyes on him.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk