x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Is Syria sliding into failed-state status?

An Arabic-language commentator warns that Syria, like Iraq, is sinking into sectarian discord which may lead to failed-state status. Other topics: Lara Fabian in Lebanon and elections in Kuwait

Do not fool yourself: Syria's civil war has started and it could spiral into failed-state status

"The civil war in Syria has not only started, it is already getting worse," wrote Abdelbari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in his front-page column this weekend.

A group affiliated with Bashar Al Assad's Alawite regime attacked the Sunni-dominated Karm Al Zaytoun neighbourhood in Homs last week, killing a family of 14, including five children, the youngest of whom was 8 months old. Sadly, a revenge attack by Sunni groups on an Alawite neighbourhood is to be expected, and the vicious circle will not stop.

Syria's various denominational groups lived together for decades under the repression and human-rights abuses that characterised the rule of Bashar Al Assad's father, Hafez. That "Syrian social contract" is coming apart now, the editor argued.

While the situation in Syria remains highly volatile, this much is certain: the regime's once-daunting aura has crumbled before the people's eyes.

Mr Al Assad cannot even ensure control over the outskirts of the capital Damascus anymore, let alone the fuming provinces of Homs, Hama and Idlib, the editor said.

"Syria is slipping down the Iraqi slope, where the sense of an all-inclusive national unity is eroding, giving way to sectarian, denominational and ethnic interests. Just listen to the strongman of Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who proclaims he is Shiite first and Iraqi second, prioritising his sect over his national identity."

Before you know it, Syrians will be doing the same, the editor went on. "Let's be honest, the sectarian rift in Syria is deepening at a phenomenal speed, and both the regime and the opposition … share responsibility for this disastrous situation."

This doesn't mean both parties are equally accountable for the Syrian mess. Obviously, most of the blame goes to the Assad regime, which believes that the most efficient way to quell any insubordination is army intervention, the editor added.

Remember the 1982 uprising in Hama which was crushed by Mr Al Assad Sr, leaving thousands dead.

"I'm afraid we will lose Syria just like we've lost Iraq and are losing Libya as we speak. And soon enough, you will look around and see that most Arab nations have turned into 'failed states'," the editor said.

"Trading accusations about who's responsible and glossing over this catastrophic prospect is a way of sticking one's head in the sand and conniving in the criminal plot to tear us apart as an umma (pan-Arab nation)."

The Syrian regime is committing crimes against its people, that is a fact, the editor said. But Syrian issues must be solved from within, not through foreign intervention that, recent history shows us, solves nothing in the long term.

Kuwaitis go to polls in a special context

Kuwaiti voters are going to the polls this Thursday to elect representatives in the 50-member Umma Council (parliament) for the fourth time in five years, but this time the context is a bit different, wrote columnist Saad Al Ajami in the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad.

"The elections this year come on the heels of an unprecedented popular mobilisation in Kuwait."

It all started before the Arab Spring, with members of the opposition calling for the prime minister to step down and, later, for parliament to be dissolved.

The former prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammed Al Ahmed Al Sabah, was indeed grilled before a parliamentary committee. Then February 28 happened, marking the largest demonstration in the country's history, with about 100,000 people out on the street - a 10th of the Kuwait population. That event pushed the cabinet to resign and the country's ruler to dissolve parliament.

"The elections this time were called under pressure from the Kuwaiti people … who were offended by reports of million-dinar (Dh13.2mn) transfers made to the bank accounts of some MPs."

The elections also come amid fierce competition in constituencies where both Sunni and Shiite candidates are running. And the cabinet has for the first time approved a measure that was constitutionalised in 1962: to allow local and international monitors.

Row in Lebanon over Lara Fabian concert

A campaign against Lara Fabian, the Belgian-Italian singer who was controversially scheduled to sing in Lebanon on Valentine's Day, was relaunched after Lebanese authorities decided to grant her an entry visa last week, Sawsan Al Abtah reported in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Fabian, who holds Canadian citizenship, is reported to have sung for Israel's 60th Independence Day celebrations, which is the main reason campaigners are working to prevent her concert in Lebanon.

But the organisers of the show have confirmed that they are proceeding with ticket sales and preparations.

Campaigners described Fabian's decision to sing in Lebanon as "a provocation" they won't accept in their "Campaign to Boycott Israel Supporters." They also called for a meeting with the Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman, to denounce "a singer who wants to promote Zionism in Lebanon."

The Lebanese people consider Israel an enemy state and the two countries do not hold diplomatic relations, the writer noted.

On her Facebook page, Fabian wrote that she was "against threats," and that she believes in "tolerance" and "truth." She is widely known for hit songs like Je t'aime.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi

aelbahi@thenational.ae