x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

International inertia may have led to Ghouta

Arabic-language newspapers express their views on events in Syria and Egypt, and question the role of the major global powers.

The international community's inertia over the Syrian conflict is behind the Ghouta massacre

Images and television footage from Wednesday's Ghouta district massacre that left at least 1,300 people dead were horrifying, said the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial on Thursday.

Al Assad regime forces launched an offensive to win back Ghouta from rebel forces in the early hours of Wednesday. Heavy artillery bombardment and air strikes were directed there, but it was the chemical agent used in the attack, most probably sarin gas, that caused the biggest number of fatalities.

News footage showed scores of bodies of children and infants littering the streets while many other children were convulsing or unconscious. There were no signs of blood.

"It is quite astonishing that such atrocities were perpetrated while an international chemical weapons inspection team was only a few kilometres away," the paper said.

In the attempt to explain the brutal attack, three main points transpire, according to the editorial.

Firstly, the regime may have committed the massacre in retaliation for the ever-expanding opposition military operations along the Syrian coastal areas and around Alawite villages that the regime holds sacred.

Secondly, the Ghouta district may have been targeted because of the growing popularity of opposition forces among its resident.

And thirdly, the Assad regime used the horrible massacre as a message to send to the international community to express its discontentment over the Geneva conference preparations.

The regime may be attempting to bring forward the date of the conference, which would allow it to impose its own terms as long as it enjoys an advanced military position on the ground.

"The Assad regime's massacre is a provocation of the international community and a challenge to the Obama Administration's 'red line' on chemical weapons. This was [Bashar] Al Assad's way of telling the world he is the one to decide what the lines are and what colour they should be," the paper opined.

Only hours following the massacre, and amid accusations and counteraccusations between the regime and its opponents, the UN Security Council convened an urgent session in response to calls from various parties.

"But, in light of the sheer horror of the Ghouta slaughter, does it matter whether the Security Council convenes? What good would its condemnations and expressions of sorrow and concern be as long as its reactions stay within the realm of statements and as long as it doesn't decide to intervene militarily," the paper noted.

The international community is responsible for this terrible massacre. It is the direct outcome of its inaction and empty statements over the past two years, the editorial concluded.

Obama's weakness is Al Assad's strength

If it weren't for the flailing US policies in the region, and most recently in Egypt, Bashar Al Assad wouldn't have dared to continue committing his harrowing crimes, said the Saudi columnist Tariq Al Homayed in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.

Observing the Obama administration's position vis-à-vis the Egyptian crisis, Mr Al Assad understood that he could escape forward. Washington's position over Egypt reveals one of two possibilities: either it is using the Egyptian case to relieve itself from the responsibility of dealing with the Syrian conflict or it doesn't have a vision for dealing with events and is incapable of taking a strategic position regarding the imminent collapse in the region, he said.

"Mr Al Assad assessed Washington's incapacity and saw an opportunity to exploit the discrepancy in reactions to Egypt's events due mainly to Washington's floundering."

Whether the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in the Ghouta massacre or not isn't important anymore. What's important is that a heinous crime was perpetrated against innocent women and children and the US didn't do anything about it.

Washington is dealing with the Egyptian events, where 30 million people took the streets to demand the fall of a radical regime, as a coup, while it continues to see Syria's conflict, where the regime has been killing its people for two years, as a civil war.

Russia will replace the US in the Middle East

Vladimir Putin doesn't need to knock; the door will be automatically opened for him due to the follies of the US administration that hasn't woken up from the shock of the collapse of its plan to "brotherhoodise" the Middle East with the fall of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, suggested the columnist Rajeh Al Khoury in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

While the US administration went too far addressing false accusations to the Egyptian army and cheap insults to the Egyptian people by threatening to discontinue its military aid to Egypt, it was the Russian military support that helped Egypt.

Washington's threats to impose sanctions on Egypt have prompted many military and political leaders in Cairo to call for a switch towards Moscow.

"It isn't simply a matter of military support. What makes this development most significant is that there are voices in Egypt that are calling for a separation from the US," the writer said.

Egypt has been stuck in the US orbit ever since president Anwar Al Sadat's era, which only led to shrinking Egypt's regional and international role. US president Barack Obama's policies in Syria and Egypt will eventually cost him the Middle East to Vladimir Putin, who is desperately seeking to reclaim Russia's role in the region.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk