x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Nobel Peace Prize win is good for Yemen

An Iranian news report about a Syrian threat to set the region on fire in six hours is a warning to all, an Arabic observer writes. Other items in today's round-up: The Nobel Peace Prize;

A female Yemeni political activist has never before won the Nobel Peace Prize. So now that the highly-regarded honour has indeed been granted to a Yemeni woman - shared with two female Liberian reformers - the strong role that Arab women have played in the Arab Spring needs no further substantiation, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi said editorially on the weekend.

Tawwakol Karman, 32, mother of three, has been a model of peaceful political activism in her country.

And she was right when she said her award was a triumph for all Yemen's women and youth who have sat in the nation's main city squares for months calling for democratic reform.

"The Yemeni people have reason to double-celebrate this historic precedent: first because it amounts to international recognition of the legitimacy of their revolution … and second because it has put their country on the media map - and by extension on the political scene - after decades of absence and isolation."

For the past several years, Yemen was more associated with violence, terrorism, insecurity, abductions and internal strife than with such an honourable, civilised cause as peace.

"Now that a Yemeni woman has won the most celebrated prize in the world, this perception is bound to change," the newspaper noted.


Syria and Iran send a message to the region

The Iranian news agency Fars reported last week that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad had warned Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu that Syria is capable of setting the Middle East on fire in a matter of six hours.

Despite Syria's denial of the Fars report, the "joint Syrian-Iranian message" between the lines must have reached its intended regional and western recipients, commented Tariq Al Homayed, the editor of the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"The goal of this message is to warn everyone against getting involved in the overthrow of Al Assad's regime," the editor suggested.

"Note that the news was not reported by a western or an Arab news organisation, even though the main quoted source was 'a senior Arab official'."

According to the Fars report, as quoted by Asharq Al Awsat's editor, President Al Assad told the Turkish foreign minister that "it wouldn't take me more than six hours to get hundreds of missiles moving to the Golan Heights and fired at Tel Aviv. At the same time, we will ask Hizbollah in Lebanon to open fire …

"That's just in the first three hours. In the remaining three hours, Iran will start hitting US aircraft carriers docked in the Gulf, while Khaleeji Shiites will move to strike major western targets."




For Bahrain, there's no option but dialogue

"The rulings handed down last week by a Bahraini martial court against a group of doctors and medics were too severe and unpalatable, and they caused Bahrain unnecessary embarrassment," columnist Saad Al Ajami wrote in the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad yesterday.

This view was shared by a large number of observers, and by the country's top leadership too.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said in a speech in August that the accused in last spring's violent events in Manama must be referred to a civilian court. He also announced that a committee of international experts would be formed to look into the aggression to which some political activists and members of the Bahraini opposition have allegedly been subjected.

With the case now referred to a civilian court, the road is cleared for a resumption of national dialogue, the columnist said.

Anyone who wishes Bahrain well and wants its two main sects - the Sunnis and the Shiites - to coexist in harmony once again knows that dialogue is "the only way out of a tunnel of division and sectarianism".

"Sectarianism-mongers on both sides have succeeded in driving a wedge deep into the bond between Shiites and the Sunnis," the columnist said.

Talk about dialogue is not an exercise in "intellectual luxury", he noted. Dialogue can bridge that rift.

Syria: National Council is a complex thing

Soon after protests erupted in Syria, the Syrian opposition abroad sought recognition as "the sole representative" of the protesters and the Syrian people at large, columnist Mostapha Zein wrote in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat yesterday.

But cracks started to appear within the opposition abroad, with one faction all for foreign military intervention and another against it. And the home-grown opposition started to feel that it was being pushed to the side.

Now the opposition abroad has managed to unify its ranks. It established a Syrian National Council" in Istanbul. According to its spokesman Burhan Ghalioun, "the tougher part" is done.

Indeed, the columnist said, what comes next for the SNC is easier: securing international recognition.

"Recognition would be a no-brainer … Washington, Paris, Ankara and other capitals have publicly stood against the Syrian regime and exerted a lot of pressure on the leaders of the Syrian opposition abroad to get them to unify their ranks."

But it's not as seamless as that. The opposition on the ground in Damascus, which categorically rejects any form of international intervention, sees its counterpart abroad as too subservient to Turkey and Nato. On that basis, it won't cooperate.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi