x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Situation in Yemen more volatile as the US dispatches counter-terrorism

The arrival of US military trainers in Yemen heralds further foreign involvement in the fragile country, writes a columnist in Al Hayat. Plus other stories from the Arabic press.

Washington has recently announced that a plot, hatched by the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to blow up a US-bound civilian aircraft, has been foiled.

"This announcement portends several possibilities, notably a US large-scale military action in this divided and vulnerable country," commented Hasaan Haydar in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

This is grounded in the fact that the announcement coincided with the Pentagon's decision to send military trainers back to Yemeni counterterrorism forces.

The US declaration also stressed the bomb was highly sophisticated and hard-to-detect, which enabled the double agent to leave Yemen with the device and delivered it to the American intelligence service.

A few days ago, on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death, President Barack Obama declared the US had succeeded in expelling the terrorist organisation from Afghanistan and denied it the chance to rebuild.

Nevertheless, "the emphasis on the increasing danger posed by Al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen to the American security suggests that the US forces in Afghanistan whose mission is about to end may soon find another goal in a nearby place," he said.

This likelihood rings true particularly "amid failure of the Yemeni authorities to prevent the expansion of Al Qaeda in southern and eastern provinces, where Al Qaeda has struck painful and repeated attacks on the army."

The Yemeni army seems always "surprised" at the well-organised attacks of the terrorists who have found in Yemen a favourable environment.

However, this is not caused by a lack of military capabilities only, but it is also a natural consequence of the political polarisation and multiple allegiances, which are still wrecking Yemeni leadership and weakening the country's unity and alertness.

Furthermore, it is a result of the procrastination in implementing the political and military decisions on the unification of the country due to the complicated crisis that has paralysed the country over more than a year, showing no sign of abating even with a new president taking office or senior officers changing positions, the writer added.

Up till now, fighting Al Qaeda has been a mission assigned to the locally deployed forces, while the elites are deployed in the capital and itssuburbs.

Each party seeks to drive its adversary to a battle in the south in a bid to weaken it, as happened in the war against the Houthis; and no indication as yet that the institutions will soon be reunified.

"This is why Americans have been increasingly reliant on drones to strike Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, but these can only go so far unless coupled with a military action on the ground, a move the Yemeni army is unable to undertake," he said.

A fresh opportunity for peace for Netanyahu

Kadima party's adherence to Benjamin Netanyahu's government didn't only eliminate the need for the early elections that were slated for next September, it also granted the Prime Minister an exceptionally wide margin for action without fear of his partners in authority, opined the columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

Mr Netanyahu is now the leader of a wide coalition that includes a parliamentary majority of 94 members of the Knesset. This allows him vast freedoms during the remaining term of the parliament. Also, it makes it difficult for any of the groups included in the coalition to threaten to cast a vote of no confidence against the Netanyahu cabinet.

It is now up to Mr Netanyahu to decide how he will spend the remainder of his term in office. Will he continue with his provocative procedures or will he work at fulfilling a promise he made in 2009 about reaching an agreement with the Palestinians and defining the final borders of the state of Israel?

"Optimists and pessimists alike all agree that the Netanyahu government never sought to move the peace process with the Palestinians forward," said the writer. "On the contrary, it focused on expanding settlements and went into conflicts with the US administration, which added to its own isolation."

However, he still has 18 months to get the peace process moving again.

New Syrian parliament may lead in the future

The transitional Syrian Parliament that was announced on legislative elections day last Monday in Syria wasn't taken seriously, although it could become serious and even a centre of strength for the Syrian opposition that has yet to be united or understood, said the columnist Satea Noureddine in the Lebanese daily Assafir..

The parliament is said to include 120 members and it reflects a feeling that the opposition could afford more committees and formations that are expected to lead the public.

"Syria has so far broken the record in terms of the number of the opposition organisations that the 14-month struggle has yielded and in the number of organisations that the regime itself established," added the writer. "It seems as if every town has its own party and political council that discuss matters from the constitution to foreign politics."

At first glance, the transitional parliament suggests that it is a mere addition to the opposition crowd. But its formation within Syria gives the impression that a serious problem is festering inside the Syrian opposition camp.

What this parliament and its timing suggest is a group of the Syrian opposition announcing its separation from the Islamists that have been gaining in organisation and power and from the dissident military formations.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk