x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Mixed messages in Syria

The Arab League's observer mission in Syria has been widely criticised, but it has forced all sides to search for a collective solution, one Arabic language editorialist writes. Other topics in today's round-up: Yemen's transition, and Tunisia's challenges.

The Arab mission in Syria, hopeless from the beginning, will continue to bolster the regime

The Arab monitors cannot be held solely accountable for the failure or success of the supposed Arab solution to the Syrian crisis, wrote the columnist Satea Noureddine in an article for the Lebanese newspaper Assafir.

"Originally, the allegation that the Arab states, individually and as a whole, were capable of executing such a feat was more of a joke or wishful thinking at best," he opined.

The fact is that there was a need to buy time for all parties concerned: time for the regime to find a way out of its conundrum; time for the opposition to organise; time for Arabs to determine where Syria fit on their list of priorities; and finally time for the international community to distance itself from a troublesome situation in times of dire economic, political and military straits.

The Arab mission may have seemed modest, but it actually was quite sophisticated since it sought to express a collective dilemma and to find a collective solution that exempted everyone from accountability and put the entire weight on Syrians.

"Their civil strife didn't come about by coincidence or by conspiracy. It is the product of a continuous collapse of the state and of the Syrian society that started four decades ago," the writer added.

The mission, as it was put forward, was impossible, but there has not been any alternative offered so far. Neither the Damascus regime nor the opposition can go back.

As for the Arab states, since they have no idea of what can be done to put an end to the bloodshed in Syria, they came up with a proposition to send Arab forces to Syria, which was merely a means of exerting psychological pressure.

"The decision to extend the Arab mission doesn't reflect impotence or failure on the part of the Arab League. It is in the first place the Arab states' expression of their readiness to coexist with the ongoing and indefinite Syrian massacre," the writer suggested. "All talk about the near collapse of the regime is but a call on the Syrian people to show forbearance for their plight and to avoid blaming anyone ... specific."

Additional violence on both sides of the conflict is to be expected during the extended term of the Arab mission in Syria, violence that could even target the monitors themselves as their presence have become burdensome for both sides.

Soon enough, the regime, on one hand, will realise that it has ultimate freedom within its borders, and the opposition, on the other hand, will realise that the borders are closed to any foreign intervention.

"The powerful part in the struggle will benefit the most from this one-month extension, but the criteria of power will differ from now on," the writer concluded.

Elections are the only way out for Yemen

"Saleh is now history and the people of Yemen have renewed prospects for the future under the amazed and anxious gaze of the entire world," commented the Saudi columnist Abdelrahman Al Rashid in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

"How can the Yemenis manage their country after 33 years of individual rule?" asked the writer. "Will it be difficult to rule Yemen, as Saleh used to say?"

Despite all of the outgoing president's vices and mistakes, President Ali Abdullah Saleh did leave Yemen with partisan bases, political experience and dialogue that trudged for years. Therefore, Yemen won't be starting from square one. Once the promised elections project is activated, powers will be transferred to elected representatives.

"The people of Yemen hold their fate in their hands today," the writer said. "They can elect an alternative president and turn the page on a bad era."

The opposition isn't ready, the southern powers may boycott the elections, the youth movements may insist on having their demands fulfilled in their entirety. But in the end, Yemen cannot be ruled without a legitimate president that all Yemenis approve of.

The ballot box is the safest way to reach the transitional leadership required in the next phase, to avoid bloody clashes between various parties and, most importantly, a return of Mr Saleh to the country's political arena.


Tunisians must unite behind economics

A few days ago Tunisians celebrated the first anniversary of the revolution that toppled the regime of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and paved the way to the first bases of democracy in Tunisia, said the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial.

Many challenges, internal and external, confront Tunisia. Job opportunities must be created, citizens' living conditions must be improved, freedoms must be ensured and relationships with the rest of the world must be redefined.

Before the revolution, the Tunisian people were fixated on political demands, as they'd had enough of two decades under an authoritarian regime.

But now, their main focus has shifted to finding solutions to the economic and social crisis that is leaving a heavy toll on their daily existence especially that many foreign investors escaped Tunisia during the past year in fear of the rise of Islamic parties to power.

However, it appears as if the country's new leaders are ready to tackle these challenges head on. Just recently, president Moncef Marzouki announced that his country has begun implementing a policy of political and economic openness towards all Arab countries and that pending issues are on their way to resolution.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem