x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Regime's confidence slows Syrian solution

Backed by a loyal military Syria's Bashar Al Assad seems confident he can survive the popular unrest that has engulfed his country, an Arabic language editorialist writes. Other topics in today's round-up: Palestinian statehood, FNC elections and Sudan's time bomb.

"Reports from Damascus reveal that the Syrian high command is confident in its ability to deal with the popular uprising and what it describes as US-Israeli-backed saboteurs aiming to weaken the last bastion of rejectionism in the Arab World," columnist Sarkis Naoum wrote in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

In fact, despite isolated cases if desertion, the Syrian army is still solid and unconditionally loyal to the regime. It is ready as always to deal with any security problems.

President Bashar Al Assad seems to be convinced that the protests are decreasing in number and size. His administration is far from nervous, as evidenced by its attitude towards the last Arab League statement. Damascus blatantly rejected the Arab League call for a more peaceful interaction between the government and protesters, and continues to slight the Arab body by undermining the secretary-general's planned visit to Syria this week.

"The Damascus command is relatively comfortable," the writer said. "It is aware that the West realises that Syria and Libya are different. International military action against the regime is out of the question at the moment, especially because the US, despite recently having asked Al Assad to step down, is apprehensive of the alternative, in light of the surge of extremist Islamists in Syria and throughout the Arab World."

Abbas must not buckle under US pressure

David Hale, US special envoy to the Middle East, arrived in Ramallah to persuade the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, not to go ahead with the bid for statehood at the UN, the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi noted in its editorial.

This was, the paper said, a last-minute attempt to breathe life into the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

"Washington is highly reserved about the ideas Hale is delivering, but they most likely involve Israeli propositions for new talks, plus threats to cut the PA's financing," the editorial said.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is well aware that he will lose at the UN, where 125 states have already expressed their support for the Palestinian project. This explains Mr Netanyahu's inclination for peace.

But no matter what happens Israel will lose. If the PA goes to the UN Security Council, the US will veto its motion at the request of Israel; the US would then have to deal with ever-increasing Arab animosity towards everything American. But if the Palestinians decide to seek recognition from the UN General Assembly, the move would emphasise American and Israeli isolation in this international forum.

"Mr Abbas is under tremendous pressure … We hope he doesn't succumb to the US envoy's promises or threats. If he does, he would lose the last remaining shred of credibility he and his authority still have."

FNC candidates need realistic agendas

Candidates running this month for seats on the UAE's Federal National Council (FNC) must revisit their electoral programmes, because many of them seem to be oblivious to the particular nature of the FNC as an advisory body, Mohammed Al Hammadi wrote in the comment section of the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

"Most of the campaign programmes were rather idealistic, and confused the role of the FNC with that of the government and its ministries, due to a lack of understanding among some candidates about the role of the FNC," the writer said.

An ambitious electoral agenda is normally presented by someone running for executive office, say, a party leader running for premier; someone who will eventually have the power to honour promises made during the campaign, the writer went on.

"But in our case, candidates represent only themselves. That is, their effect on the FNC will be personal. And if we agree that our FNC has no powers, what is the purpose of a campaign agenda in the first place?"

This said, if voters insist that candidates have programmes, let these be more practical, the writer said.

"Here's one candidate declaring that he will secure employment for all nationals, and there's another promising to solve debt issues of all Emiratis … None of this is rational."

Sudan's time bombs are starting to go off

It appears that Sudan will never know peace under President Omar Al Bashir, Othman Mirghani commented in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Barely two months after the secession of South Sudan, new wars have broken out in other regions of Sudan, jumbling prospects for stability in what was once the largest country in Africa.

When South Sudan seceded in July, Mr Al Bashir's government said that was the ultimate price to pay for the restoration of peace and order. Now armed clashes have erupted in Blue Nile province, showing just how flawed Khartoum's calculation has been. And separate skirmishes have also taken place in Kordofan, Abyei and Darfur.

"The thing is, predicting any of these wars did not require any analytical genius," the writer said. Many commentators saw clearly Khartoum's "lame handling" of the situation in the country and warned of the many flaws in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached in 2005 to end the decades-long civil war in Sudan.

Could it be that the Sudanese government - with its many negotiators and advisers - did not see these time bombs coming?

They had six years to address lingering security issues and make compromises with all the stakeholders.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk