x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Qaddafi family hubris should be a warning for Assad

Syria's president may regret giving the cold shoulder to diplomacy, an Arabic-language columnist writes. Other topics: a new emergency law for Egypt, and the pope's visit to Lebanon.

The delusions and hubris of Muammar Qaddafi carry a lesson that Bashar Al Assad should heed

It was about this time of year, recalled Abdul Rahman Al Rashed, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, when Saif Al Islam Qaddafi, son of the late Libyan dictator Col Muammar Qaddafi, invited a small group of international reporters into his 4x4 for a night ride around the capital, Tripoli.

At the time Saif Al Islam, with a big but clearly nervous grin, wanted to convince the world that the Libyan rebels had not yet laid their hands on the capital.

When a reporter asked him for his thoughts regarding the International Criminal Court's intention to bring him to justice, he retorted sardonically: "Screw the ICC!" About a day later, Tripoli fell apart, Al Rashed wrote.

Col Qaddafi, the father, was found in a drainage pipe and killed by a group of rebels. Saif Al Islam was arrested trying to flee to Niger.

Ironically, ever since his arrest last November, he has been "imploring the ICC to take up his case" to avoid standing trial in Libya, where he faces capital punishment, the columnist noted.

"Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, who is currently cornered in the capital Damascus, is acting a lot like Saif Al Islam these days. He belittles the mission of the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi … though it may well turn out to be his very last lifeline," the columnist went on to say.

In fact, the day will come when President Al Assad will "just wish that Mr Brahimi could intervene and offer him an exit plan".

Until now, though, Mr Al Assad has made sure that he scuttled all international efforts - even those working in his favour - to find a way out of the Syrian crisis and stop the bloodshed.

First, there was the Arab League observer mission led by Sudanese army commander Mohammed Al Dabi, who was much criticised for his perceived sympathy for the Syrian regime.

Then there was the six-point peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan in his capacity as special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League. That wasn't palatable enough for the Syrian regime, either.

And even now, after the appointment of the seasoned Arab diplomat Mr Brahimi, Mr Al Assad seems to be saying: "Screw Brahimi and the UN!"

It is in pre-emption of precisely this characteristic hubris that Mr Brahimi declared a few days ago that the success of his mission is "nearly impossible", the writer argued.

President Al Assad still feels somewhat confident, with his back being watched by the Russians and the Iranians.

"But that is such a grand illusion," the author said in conclusion.

"The Russians will eventually abandon him just like they did with Qaddafi … and the Brahimi option will be all that's left."

Will we have to say 'sorry' to Mubarak?

If Egypt's long-running old emergency law is reintroduced under the current regime, in any way, Egyptians will have to have the courage to apologise to former president Hosni Mubarak, wrote columnist Emad Eddine Hussein in the Cairo-based Al Shorouk.

"One of our key reasons to oppose Mr Mubarak was the emergency law that had been in place through his 30-year-long reign," the writer noted.

Mr Mubarak used to invent numerous pretexts in justifying his abuses under the state of emergency. In his last years in office, he tried to persuade Egyptians that the emergency law had been frozen except in countering terrorism and narcotics.

"But everyone in the opposition knew that the spectre of emergency was hanging over their heads, and that the threat emanated from the law simply existing, not in its being used."

"Now, something smells fishy in the air," the writer warned.

True, revolutionary forces welcomed Judge Ahmed Mekky as minister of justice, for his vocal criticism of the Mubarak regime and of the emergency law.

"But when Mr Mekky talks about a new emergency law, we have good reason to worry," the writer noted.

"We will not accept a new emergency law no matter what Mr Mekky might say to persuade us, and no matter what he does to hide 'the ugliness of this law in nice clothing'."

Pope's visit is historic and exceptional

Following much ado about a possible cancellation due to Lebanon's precarious situation, two weeks ago the Vatican confirmed that Pope Benedict's three-day trip to that country this month will go forward as planned.

It wouldn't be the first visit by a pontiff to the small Middle-Eastern country that has the largest proportion of Christians of any Arab country. The late Pope John Paul II went to Lebanon in 1997 in a visit that had a significant effect on the country.

"But Pope Benedict XVI's scheduled visit holds greater significance due to its timing and the circumstances surrounding it," said Nayla Tueini, MP and deputy general manager of the Lebanese daily Annahar.

In fact, Lebanon may be the pope's sole possible gateway to the Catholics of the Middle East and the Arab region in general.

Syria is undergoing a grinding civil war, and Jordan and Palestine don't have Christian demographics significant enough to make either of them a platform for his apostolic exhortations. Egypt is almost fully controlled by Islamists, and Iraq's Christians are quickly vanishing.

"His Holiness' visit to a region boiling with revolutions and civil wars goes to confirm his persistence to overcome any obstacles that may be put in his way," Tueini added.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk