x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

New insights into President Bashar Al Assad’s mind

An Arabic press columnist discusses the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s latest TV interview. Other topic: Israel and the international role of the US.

The Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, has been offering interviews by the dozen in recent weeks, often giving the same answers to repeated questions, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the news website Rai Al Youm, on Monday.

But a recent, two-hour interview with the Arabic satellite news channel, Al Mayadeen, has shed light on previously underreported aspects of the Syrian regime’s stance on regional players.

“He spoke comfortably about nearly all issues, and in a manner that was different from all previous interviews. He spoke about the causes of discord with Qatar, about the role of Saudi Arabia in the current war in Syria and about his regime’s position regarding reconciliation with Hamas, while he also expounded on his perspective on the Geneva 2 conference,” he wrote.

Specifically, Mr Al Assad also took the time to “pour all his anger” on the Muslim Brotherhood, criticising the role the organisation has played – and still does – in inciting opposition to the Syrian regime.

“For the first time, President Al Assad was on the offensive when talking about his opponents, sounding more assertive as he laid down his conditions for reconciliation, and confident that the facts on the battlefield favour him and his forces,” he noted.

“He also stressed the fight against terrorism, at one point even implying his readiness to coordinate with the United States in the war on Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, as he once did after the September 11 attacks.”

On Hamas, his previous Palestinian allies, Mr Al Assad articulated a new stance during the interview. “He shut down all prospects for the Islamic resistance group, or its leaders, to come back to Syria.”

After the Syrian regime’s crackdown on the uprising became markedly more bloody, Hamas leaders, who have called Damascus home for years, decided to distance themselves and leave the country, in a move that was seen as a desertion of a long-time ally,” the editor said.

Mr Al Assad “was unforgiving, describing the group as opportunistic and prioritising of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology over the principle of resistance”, he added. “This means that all previous extrapolation about a probable reconciliation with Hamas has been unfounded.”

Clearly, the Assad regime’s new strategy to resolve its dragging and deadly conflict with the rebels is to turn westward and take the side of all the Western powers that now consider the elimination of jihadist groups – which have become rife in various parts of Syria since the beginning of the conflict – as their first priority, Atwan noted.

Unfortunately, he wrote in conclusion, none of this is going to stop the daily bloodshed or otherwise bring the Syrian conflict to an end.

Turnaround migration is worrying Israel

About two years ago, “turnaround immigration” started from Palestine and the Israeli occupation had to cover it by bringing Jews in large numbers from Russia and Eastern Europe, after what was called a terrestrial paradise turned out to be a terrestrial hell, wrote Khairi Mansour in an article in yesterday’s edition of the Sharjah-based Al Khaleej.

The Washington Post has highlighted this issue after two Jews born in Palestine won the Noble Prize and refused to return to the “Promised Land”.

This is different to what happened before. When writer Yosef Agnon received a Noble Prize, he chose to settle in Jerusalem.

This reversal came in parallel with other phenomena among Jewish people, including conscription evasion, grievances of Sephardic Jews against Ashkenazi Jews, as well as complaints of discrimination by the Falasha Jews, the writer said.

The sufferings of Eastern Jews have turned the utopia into a dystopia because, as some writer said, life is unbearable if it is in barracks all the time.

There are other issues that cause great concern in Zionist circles, such as the so called “demographic time-bomb” among Palestinians who are going to outnumber Jews within two decades, according to the writer.

And then there is the fertility rate for Jewish women which is less than half that of Palestinian women.

Waning influence of US leaves allies powerless

While questions about America’s shrinking influence are on the rise abroad, so are doubts over the US democracy at home, especially following the recent budget crisis that saw government bodies shut down and the world’s greatest nation at risk of failing to pay its debts, remarked Abdel Wahab Badrakhan in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Despite the agreement passed by Congress, the crisis is likely to arise again next year. President Obama has won this standoff but his victory will last only for a short time. His rivals have sought to question his leadership and will certainly continue the campaign.

Yet, the American democracy does not seem to be at stake; it is rather going through a stage where the role of radicals grows at the expense of moderates.

Other parts of the world, however, did not need this crisis to boost their doubt over America’s role around the world. For the first time, an Arab official said that friends and allies of the US feel abandoned and left to their fate.

The US under Mr Obama has shifted its focus from the Middle East, where many mistakes were committed, to the Asia Pacific, which the US had also escaped before due to accumulated mistakes, but was now forced to return because of China’s rise.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk