x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Photo of boy fighter in Syria will not help anyone

If Syrian rebels hoped to win support via a much-reprinted photo of an 8-year-old with a rifle, they were wrong, an Arabic editorial says. Other topics: Turkey-Israel, and Egypt's economy.

Kalashnikov-wielding child a shocking reminder of how bad the situation in Syria has become

The photo of an 8-year-old Syrian boy wielding a Kalashnikov and smoking a cigarette has been seen all around the world, via news and other media, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi remarked in an editorial yesterday.

Some people have made sympathetic comments about the picture, while others have seen it in a bad light - as a testament to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria, the paper observed.

According to the stories accompanying the picture, Ahmed, the child, lost his parents in the war, and later joined rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army alongside his uncle, the newspaper noted.

The Al Assad regime bears the biggest responsibility for resorting to so much brutality to quell the revolt against it, the newspaper said.

Whether one approves of the revolution or the regime, or even if one is neutral, there can be no support for the involvement of children in the bloody conflict.

This only promotes an image of Arabs and Muslims as hard-hearted, the editorial argued.

To be sure, the child was used as a means to create a psychological effect on the regime by attracting further condemnation towards it and promoting the idea that everyone, even children, is fighting against the government forces.

Yet hopes for propaganda gains for the rebels through this photo are ill-conceived, the paper argued, and the image will not serve the goals the people behind it sought to achieve, especially with regard to its effect on the public in western countries, the editorial said.

Some may argue that air strikes by the Syrian military on neighbourhoods and areas where opposition troops are stationed have killed hundreds of children. In fact, no one in his right mind can deny this.

Yet the opposition must steer clear of involving children in the war, the editorial stressed.

It is painful to see Syria turning into a jungle of guns and a killing field. This pain is aggravated by widening sectarian divisions that portend deep wounds that will take decades to heal, the editorial observed.

There is no political solutions in sight. The mission of the United Nations and Arab League envoy, Akhdar Al Ibrahimi, is obviously failing.

And there is declining international interest in the Syrian conflict, as attention turns to new crises that may be more dangerous, namely the looming war between North Korea and South Korea.

So the future for Syria looks extremely bleak.

The photograph of the gun-toting child was badly planned. It will linger in the minds of people for many years as a heart-wrenching image of the Syrian crisis and of the absence of humanitarian concerns on all sides there, the newspaper concluded.


Turkey and Israel never severed ties

Israel's apology to Turkey last month over the notorious MV Mavi Marmara case is not going to change much in the relations between the two countries, since their ties have never been seriously damaged, columnist Fayez Rashid wrote in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

In May 2010, Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound humanitarian ship and killed nine Turkish activists on board, following which Turkey demanded an apology that never came. Since then, Ankara recalled its ambassador and it was understood that it had frozen its relations with Israel.

Rashid argued that despite the much-publicised fallout, trade between the two countries was up - from $3 billion (Dh11bn) in 2009 to $5 billion in 2011 - and technological as well as security and military cooperation never stopped since 2010.

"Turkish-Israeli relations suffered a little bit after the brutal assault on MV Mavi Marmara … but they were never severed," he wrote. "For instance, Israel continued to supply the Turkish air force with electronic equipment, which several military observers confirm."

Also, Israel has not complied with a Turkish demand to lift the blockade on Gaza before ties could be restored, he noted.

So, a headline such as "Israel brought to its knees", which appeared in a pro-government Turkish newspaper after Ankara announced Israel's apology, is hyperbole, the author said.


Egypt is deep in an 'economic sinkhole'

Egypt's political divisions are increasingly being overshadowed by its collapsing economy and shrinking commodities market, while a tantalising $5 billion (Dh18.3bn) lifeline from the International Monetary Fund is still beyond Cairo's reach, columnist Mazen Hammad wrote in yesterday's edition of the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

"Egypt is deep into an economic sinkhole, and getting out of it will require a joint effort by the government, the opposition establishments and the common people - plus some flexible foreign assistance," the writer observed.

To maintain a level of stability, Egypt needs that financial help from the IMF, he added. But the government and the international body have so far failed to reach a loan deal.

Egypt's most pressing issue is that it does not have enough hard currency to buy adequate supplies of oil and wheat on international markets. These are essential commodities, and supply failures could bring the country to a standstill, the author said.

"The petrol shortage has sent food prices through the roof, power outages have started ahead of the summer season, while queues for gas cylinders keep getting longer," Hammad noted.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk