x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Solution to Sinai crisis must redress past injustices

Arab writers say the Egyptian government must improve the condition of the people in Sinai to solve the crisis in the region. Other Digest topics: Syria and cyberspace.

The recent kidnapping of seven Egyptian security personnel by militants on the Sinai peninsula has dominated the Egyptian press, which called for a tough response to this crisis. Calling it a crisis that posed a threat to the country's sovereignty, the writers argue that a complete solution must involve plans to make up for a legacy of neglect and persecution.

The abduction aimed at pressing the authorities to agree to a prisoner-exchange deal is neither the first, nor will it be the last, wrote Hassan Nafaa in an article in the Cairo-based Al Masry Al Youm newspaper.

This incident is no laughing matter. Nationally, it is a violation of Egypt's sovereignty considering that the hostages are members of security forces. Regionally, it can have wider implications for the US-sponsored peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the writer suggested.

The crisis must be approached from a purely national angle, away from partisan politics, he said. The detainees must be freed unharmed without any conditions, although a military operation in the badlands of Sinai will not be an easy task.

Once the hostages are released, a three-fold plan must be devised to tackle the mess in Sinai.

One is military-based and requires taking action to destroy the strongholds of terror and crime and track down criminals. Another is political, and involves building trust between Sinai's population and the state, and righting the wrongs of the old regime there. Yet another requires speeding up sustainable development, focusing mainly on unemployment among the youth of Sinai, Nafaa suggested.

In the same vein, Amr El Shobky wrote that for decades Hosni Mubarak's regime saw Sinai as "a set of tourist resorts surrounded by a bunch of bad guys and outlaws".

But it was the people of Sinai who fought for Egypt against the Israeli occupation; they endured ill treatment, especially after the 2004 Sinai bombings, and faced the biggest arrest campaign in the history of Sinai that resulted in the detention of 4,000 people. Many of them are still traumatised by the torture they suffered in the process.

The old regime had treated the people of Sinai as second-grade citizens. Their situation is no better under current Brotherhood-led government.

The deepening political polarisation and the Brotherhood's failure to introduce reforms have led to Sinai becoming a breeding ground for outlawed groups.

Before, the mess in Sinai was a result of an abusive crackdown that failed to end terror and instead further strained the relationship between the state and the people of the region.

Now the opposite is true, and the rulers seem to be tolerating hardliners who wreak havoc there. And Egyptians in Sinai and beyond are paying the price, the El Shobky said.

Iran and Hizbollah boosted Syrian troops

After a long period of retreat, Bashar Al Assad's regime has made progress in several regions of Syria over the past weeks. A few factors were behind this development, wrote Yasser Al Zaatra in the Jordan-based newspaper Addustour.

To be sure, Mr Al Assad's forces have gained momentum because of Iran's planning and support from Hizbollah. The regime's National Defence Force was trained by Iran and Hizbollah after the military became exhausted by the conflict.

Sectarian mobilisation has been widely used to recruit fighters among the Alawite community; the fighters are being convinced that it is a battle of life and death. Besides, Shiite troops are being recruited on sectarian grounds from outside of Syria to battle alongside the regime.

Iran is stepping up support for the Syrian regime for three reasons. First, with the presidential elections due next month, conservatives believe the Syrian crisis has a great influence at home, as reformers might use the deteriorating situation in Syria as a tool to mobilise the public against the conservatives' failing foreign policy.

Secondly, the Iranians and the Syrian regime know that any solution will be governed by the balance of power on the ground; so they are throwing their weight behind the regime to maximise its negotiating power. Finally, they will seek to allow for the possibility of an Alawite statelet.

Online offers best tool for intelligence

For the first time in human history, an individual has two addresses instead of one: a residential address and an online address, Faisal Al Qassem wrote in an article in the Qatar-based newspaper Al Sharq.

The electronic address, however, is more revealing than the home address. Pictures, clips, writings, quotes, comments and the like, displayed willingly online, cannot be found when calling on someone. Take a look at social networking sites.

For some people, this can be annoying. But for intelligence agencies, it's music to the ears. Spy agencies worldwide used to spend billions of dollars to keep track of people.

This had been the case in both democracies and dictatorships. Some democracies which talk big about freedom are in fact "police states, just like dictatorships but in smarter ways", the writer said.

In other words, even people's way of life is determined by the so-called democracies, never mind politics, as Edward Bernays argued in his famous book Propaganda (1928).

The social networking and communication websites are saving intelligence and governments of the world large amounts of money. Such sites are the best and cheapest means to monitor societies, Al Qassem wrote.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni

aezzouitni@thenational.ae