x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

International action on Syria inevitable

Three recent diplomatic efforts on Syria have failed, an Arabic-language editor notes; this can't be good. Other topics today: Libyan money and US withdrawal from Iraq.

International action on Syria is becoming inevitable as the regime continues to stall

The last week has been busy on the international initiatives front as Russia, the Arab League and Iraq have come up with three different proposals to resolve the ten-month-long crisis in Syria, editor Tariq Al Homayed noted in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Does this mean we are seeing an initiative competition, the editor asked, or is it that the Arabs have finally become convinced that the Assad regime isn't about to stop manoeuvring anytime soon?

"Evidently there is no way to provide a firm answer to this question. But a close look into the details may help in reaching an acceptable analysis.

"The Arab ministerial meeting on Syria in Doha [Saturday] was mainly just a of a time-killing ploy by the Assad regime."

It is true that no representative of the regime was present at the meeting, but it had some staunch supporters there, namely the Algerian foreign minister who repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the proceedings.

Furthermore, the meeting saw a lengthy debate about the semantics of the Arab League's proposed protocol, which still awaits ratification by the Syrian side.

In fact, it is said that the new point of divergence between the Syrian authorities and the Arab committee is about the concept of "protection of citizens" that the Arab committee insists on modifying into "the protection of civilians or unarmed citizens".


"This debate in itself shows that the Damascus regime is anything but serious [about the Arab initiative], especially since bloodshed … is on the rise with approximately 50 new casualties everyday," the writer noted.

It is clear that the Syrian authorities have no intention of stopping the killing machine. They persevere in their obstinate rejection of any type of solution, and not only with Arabs.

Informed resources confirmed that Russia attempted to pressure the Syrian regime to sign the Arab initiative, but to no avail.

The Iraqi government too tried its hand. An Iraqi delegation had a series "positive" talks with the Syrian president and members of the opposition, and proposed yet another initiative.

This one is said to include a freeze on the Arab sanctions against Damascus, dialogue and the termination of violence.

However, the Syrian opposition's reaction to the Iraqi proposal wasn't at all positive; the Syrian National Council said Iraq is too "unqualified and biased" to mediate in the crisis.

One truth remains, the writer concluded: any attempt to find a solution under exclusively Arab patronage will be futile. "Not only should the Arab initiative be transferred to the UN Security Council, but a true diplomatic campaign should be launched to guarantee quick international action to save Syrian civilians," he suggested.


Libya's new leaders must make tough calls

Friday's UN Security Council decision to lift sanctions on the Libyan Central Bank and its foreign investment arm paves the way for the unfreezing of the country's assets abroad, which are valued at tens of billions of dollars, the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan noted in its editorial yesterday.

The unfreezing will alleviate a severe liquidity crisis in Libya. But it will also be a test for the Libyan interim government's ability to restore social confidence and stability, the paper said.

"The National Transitional Council has been in need of [funds] for a long time now. It has been struggling to pay employees and workers."

But now there are tougher challenges than helping civil servants get through the day, the paper went on.

Topping that list of challenges is rebuilding the infrastructure of this oil-rich but still-fragile, country.

To see that through, Libya needs its best brains and sturdiest politicians - "all those who can accurately interpret the international state of affairs and have no fear of making the toughest calls so long as they protect the national interests of Libya," the paper said.

More concretely, Libya's foreign policy chiefs must have the resolve to object to three things: foreign military presence; long-term military agreements; and long-term oil exploitation deals.


US exit from Iraq is fake and deceptive

The United States officially ended its war in Iraq on Thursday, and marked the event with "the most fake and most deceptive show", wrote Abdelbari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in a front-page column.

"Fake, because the war in Iraq simply has not yet ended. Explosions, booby-trapped cars and general insecurity are still part of business as usual in this afflicted country," the editor said.

"As to deception, it is in American claims that the mission for which US troops have invaded the country - that is, to stamp out dictatorship and terrorism - has been accomplished."

For his part, the US President Barack Obama told US troops that they should exit with "their heads held high".

"We just can't understand how they should be holding their heads high if they are leaving behind the most corrupt country on the face of the planet," the editor said, "a country that is incapable of offering its people basic services like water, electricity and education."

Iraq today is ruled by a sectarian dictatorship, the editor added. Answering a question about how he defines himself, the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, said barely a week ago that he thinks of himself first as a Shiite; second as an Iraqi.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk