x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Libyans have little to celebrate

Two years on from the revolution that toppled Qaddafi, Libya is a failure, an Arabic-language writer says. Other topics: Gaza tunnels and Syria.

Libyans have hardly anything to celebrate on the two-year anniversary of their revolution

Libya, the oil-rich North African nation, is set to celebrate the two-year anniversary of its revolution against Col Muammar Qaddafi, yet the majority of Libyans are likely to stay at home, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in a column at the weekend.

"Some of them may go out on the streets, but only to call for the downfall of the new regime or the dismissal of all senior officials that served under the old regime," Mr Atwan said.

So, do not expect any of the key foreign players who endorsed, if not helped trigger, the Libyan revolution to make an appearance during those "celebrations", the editor noted.

For sure, Bernard-Henri Levy, the French Jewish intellectual and "godfather" of the Libyan revolution, according to Mr Atwan, will not be seen.

Likewise, Mr Levy's good friend, the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, will take no trouble to attend, even though both men spared no effort to get the international community and Nato forces all pumped up about ousting Col Qaddafi.

"Even the Arabic satellite news channels - which have compounded Nato raids with intensive media assaults to mobilise Arab public opinion in favour of a foreign military intervention - will keep a low profile."

The fact is, nobody wants to be associated with a failure.

"On the anniversary of its revolution, Libya looks more like a military barracks, isolated from its Arab and international surroundings," Mr Atwan went on.

"Libya's borders are completely sealed off, to the east with Egypt, to the west with Tunisia and Algeria, and to the south with Chad and Niger. Its southern provinces became a closed military zone."

True, post-revolution Libya had its free and fair elections several months ago, resulting in a democratically elected 200-member parliament. But that hasn't solved any of Libya's security woes yet.

Angry protesters have stormed parliament on a number of occasions, some eastern cities are de facto autonomous, and assassinations are part of the mainstream. "More than 30 police officers were killed last year in Benghazi alone, including the chief of police."

And while billions of petrodollars keep feeding the national treasury, broad-daylight corruption is standing in the way of any government master plan for development.

"The chaos in Libya is affecting only the people, not the country's oil exports to the West," the author said, with oil giants like BP announcing multibillion dollar prospecting deals.

"By saying this, we are not deploring the ouster of the corrupt Qaddafi regime," Mr Atwan said in conclusion.

"We are simply expressing our regret that the post-revolution government in Libya has been such a failure."

New Egypt declares war on Gaza tunnels

Egypt is waging "an unprecedented war" on the tunnels that Gaza residents have been using to smuggle in commodities from Egyptian cities in a bid to survive a seven-year Israeli blockade, columnist Amjad Arar wrote in yesterday's edition of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

Egyptian authorities, even under the regime of Hosni Mubarak, have long tolerated these smuggling activities out of a moral obligation to the Palestinian people, the writer said.

Yet, the rulers of the new Egypt, whom many thought would be even more lax on the matter, have launched a real campaign over the past week, flooding dozens of those tunnels and putting professional smugglers out of business, the columnist said.

The strong ideological ties between President Mohammed Morsi's camp and Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood's branch ruling in Gaza, have apparently failed to counterbalance Israel's constant pressure on Cairo to act on the tunnel issue.

Israelis claim Gazans smuggle more than just household items and building materials. Some reports suggest that 150 to 200 tunnels have been either filled up or flooded since President Mori came to power.

Of course, it is Egypt's sovereign right to control its borders, the writer said. "It's just that it would be a shame if the movement of goods and people between Gaza and Egypt should be subject to Israel's wishes."

Ex-Syrian spokesman apologises to victims

Jihad Makdisi, who was until a few months ago the public face of the Syrian foreign ministry, has apologised to the families of Syrian victims in his first statement since his defection, the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat reported last Thursday.

He has relocated with his family to the UAE, the paper said, citing "close sources".

Commenting on Mr Makdisi's apology in yesterday's edition of the same newspaper, columnist Mohammed Al Rumaihi said: "It is not important where he is now, what matters is that he apologised to Syrian victims, perhaps out of a need to clear his conscience, realising that repressive rule does not go very far."

Mr Makdisi is reported to have said in his statement: "I would place a kiss on the forehead of every mother who lost a martyr and every father who lost a dear one. I extend my condolences to them and ask their forgiveness if my diplomatic position had ever given them the impression that I was disregarding their deep suffering."

Al Rumaihi described the apology of Mr Makdisi, a member of the Syrian Christian minority, as "a brave move".

Many other top Syrian officials are just waiting for the chance to defect, but their families are held hostage by the regime's thugs, he said.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk