x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Foreign meddling in Syria

Iran, Hizbollah and Al Qaeda are all getting more involved in Syria, an Arabic-language commentator writes; this can't be good for the Syrian people. Other topics today: civil disobedience in Egypt and fostering Palestinian unity.

As foreign militias join the fray in Syria, the onus shifts to the champions of the people's cause

As if the criminal gangs sponsored by Bashar Al Assad's regime were not enough, foreign parties are joining - or threatening to join - the effort to quell the Syrian uprising, columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed said in yesterday's edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

He singled out Iranian, Hizbollah and Al Qaeda militias. "Bear in mind that Al Qaeda has had links with the Syrian regime for the past seven years, as all the terrorists who were active in Iraq and the Gulf infiltrated through Syria with the prior knowledge of, and in coordination with, the Syrian authorities. In fact, sometimes they would benefit from Syrian training and funding," the columnist claimed.

More recently Iran, which shelters some Al Qaeda commanders, warned that Al Qaeda would take over if Mr Al Assad's regime falls. This was basically a threat to unleash the group in Syria.

"Both the Iranian and Syrian regimes believe that the Al Qaeda bargaining chip would … breathe new life into Mr Al Assad's regime," the columnist said.

"But the question now is not 'what is the Iran-Syria camp doing?' The real question is: 'what are the others doing?'"

Surely, there is a price to pay for every stance taken, the columnist observed. Last summer, when Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Damascus and denounced the massacres perpetrated by the Syrian regime against its own people, the backlash was almost immediate.

Syria vowed "to mobilise Shiite groups and dissidents in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf nations," the writer said. "And that's exactly what happened shortly afterwards, under the aegis of Iran."

After Russia and China used a double veto at the UN Security Council earlier this month, blocking a draft resolution that could have pushed President Al Assad to step down and put an end to the violence, the Syrian uprising entered a new phase, the writer argued.

"We can't afford to continue looking at what's happening in Syria as a war between the army and the shabiha [the regime's hired thugs] on one side, and the protesters and army defectors on the other.

"A regional war is playing out in Syria as Iran, Hizbollah, Iraq and Al Qaeda join the side of Mr Al Assad's regime. On the other side, there is no one really helping lift the siege on ordinary Syrian men and women."

Sure, Jordan shelters those who manage to escape. Turkey has done the same, but refugees can't cross any more after the Syrian army planted mines along the border.

Nations that claim to be on the side of the Syrian people must "skip over" any roadblocks, including Security Council vetoes, and do whatever it takes to provide the Syrian people with everything they need to protect themselves, the writer concluded.

Civil disobedience call was ill-conceived

In the Emirati daily Al Khaleej, columnist Amjad Arrar comments on the reluctance of Egyptian society to respond to a recent call by pro-democracy activists for civil disobedience.

That campaign would have increased pressure on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and its failure shows an absence of unified leadership, which we might expect in a revolutionary movement, he wrote.

"In all fairness, the failure of the civil obedience plan shouldn't be viewed as a rejection of the revolutionary youth's goals," he went on. "Most people have yet to realise that the revolution is in danger of dissipation unless it is properly preserved and defended."

The call for disobedience was an adventure that didn't take into consideration the balance of power and the best way to accumulate enough power to make changes happen for the benefit of the people and their revolution.

"The revolutionary forces in Egypt need to regroup and organise their ideas in a unified political and intellectual programme that reflects the aspirations of a large spectrum of the classes that will be in charge of taking the revolutionary change to its end."

Failed experiences are no less important than successful ones. They are conducive to change and development. Despite the many twists and challenges, Egypt is on the right path. But it may require some time for the fog to clear.

Palestinians not aided by ongoing divisions

In comment to the storm of protest that followed the announcement of the Doha agreement between the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and the head of the political bureau of Hamas, Khalid Meshaal, the Palestinian daily Al Quds wrote in its editorial that it is strange some Hamas leaders were quick to criticise the agreement rather than emphasise its attributes and its role in ending the tragic Palestinian division.

Opposition to the Doha accord centred mainly around the illegitimacy of Mr Abbas' self-appointment as prime minister in the transitional cabinet that will be in charge of preparing for the legislative and presidential elections.

"It is sad that these people claim to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people and adhere to pompous slogans, but when the moment of truth nears, they are unable to prove their credibility."

The unjustified reaction to the accord reveals that Israel isn't the only party vested in perpetuating the inter-Palestinian division. However, the Palestinians aren't naïve; they are aware that the rejection of the reconciliation would only give Israel additional pretexts to oppress them and it goes against their interests and their cause.



* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk