x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

No hope for an end to Syria's agony

A military solution in Syria is just not possible, an Arab editor writes, and nobody believes in a political deal. Other comment topics: Ennahda's new PM and Abu Mus and the Tunbs.

Now neither arms nor diplomacy can resolve Syria's conflict: 'There is not a shimmer of hope'

Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria, says a "war crime" was committed by those responsible for a car bomb that killed more than 50 people, and injured about 200, last Thursday near the ruling Baath party's offices in central Damascus.

Commenting on this development over the weekend in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, editor-in-chief Abdel Bari Atwan noted that the UN Security Council had refrained from issuing a statement condemning the bombing, due to deep differences among its member states regarding the crisis in Syria.

"But the bombing is a war crime, no matter which party is responsible for it. The innocent victims hadn't done anything wrong; they were just regular folks working hard to put food on the table," Atwan wrote.

With a total death toll reaching something like 80,000 or more, it appears that the Syrian conflict has reached a point of no return, he added.

"Let us be frank, swallow our pain and admit it: There is not a shimmer of hope of getting out of this bloody logjam."

All parties involved are now convinced that it is impossible to solve the crisis militarily. So they are "pretending" these days to be considering a political solution through an internationally mediated dialogue. But that wouldn't work either, the editor observed.

"We don't know how many more thousands will have to perish before the parties involved accept the fact that even a political solution has become an impossibility. All talk about it is just for media consumption, while the killing machine and the wheel of destruction are not abating."

The direct parties to this conflict - the regime of President Bashar Al Assad and the opposition forces - are misleading themselves and others when they impose "crippling conditions that the other party will never accept", the author argued.

President Al Assad told a Jordanian delegation on a recent visit to Damascus that he intends to run for president again in the 2014 election.

For its part, the opposition coalition is saying that no dialogue is possible with the regime for as long as Mr Al Assad and his close associates are in power. "So what kind of political solution are they talking about?"

What is certain is that Thursday's bombing is going to leave a deep mark in the next phase of the crisis, Atwan said, and no one can tell for how long similar bombings will continue to plague Syria.

Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army is expanding its area of operation: it has now launched attacks against Hizbollah's bases in border villages, as a response to the southern Lebanese militia's support for the Syrian regime. This could trigger a sectarian war in the entire region.

"It's a dark picture from whichever angle you see it."

Ennahda needs to change more than PM

Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party leading the ruling coalition in Tunisia, must change the way it is running the country, and not simply replace one prime minister by another, the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej said in its editorial yesterday.

The prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, stepped down after he became convinced that the political, economic and security situation in post-revolution Tunisia under his party, Ennahda, had become intolerable, the newspaper said.

Mr Jebali had offered to form a new, smaller cabinet of technocrats to steer the country away from further crises, a proposal that his party rejected.

On Friday the interior minister, Ali Larayedh, was named prime minister by Ennahda and was appointed to that post by the president, Moncef Marzouki.

"It seems that the Ennahda movement wants a prime minister who does not cross the line - one who does not challenge [party] authority or take initiatives that may go against [its] volition," the newspaper noted.

"But replacing Mr Jebali is not really the solution. The politics and behaviour of Ennahda as a whole must change. The movement has to approach Tunisia as a nation and a people, not as a backyard … where it seeks to attain absolute power."

Until that happens, the new prime minister is going to make little difference in how Tunisians feel about their government.

Iranian visits to UAE's islands are just a ploy

Every time top Iranian officials pay a visit to the UAE's three islands - Abu Musa and the Lesser and Greater Tunbs - their aim is to create a hubbub to distract the Iranian people from their most immediate struggles, Abdullah Jumaa Al Haj wrote in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian president, visited the islands in the 1990s. He was accompanied by a "huge delegation of senior officials, as if on a visit to a world superpower."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent president, paid a visit to the islands in 2012 and delivered "a woolly speech" nobody could really understand. Then, over the past few weeks, it has been reported that a large Iranian parliamentary delegation is planning to visit the islands.

Why does Iran keep provoking the UAE, which lays a legitimate, historical claim to the territories?

"Iran thinks that these provocations are going to give the Iranian people the impression that their government is achieving something at the level of foreign policy," the author argued.

As a "never-ending series of internal crises" take their toll on Tehran - from a flagging economy to schisms within the the-political elite - the breather for this struggling government becomes acts of belligerence.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi