x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Strikes in Syria pose serious questions for the Gulf

The Gulf states face a plethora of urgent questions as plans simmer for an American strike on Syria, one Arabic newspaper said. Other topics include Turkish reaction to Morsi removal

As the prospect of a US-led air strike on Syria looms heavy over the region, Arab Gulf nations have plenty of security-related questions to contemplate, including whether they will stand on the same ground when such a strike unfolds, columnist Shamlan Yussef Al Essa wrote in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

"We don't know at this time, as these lines are written down, when exactly the strike against the Al Assad regime will hit," the columnist said. "But, putting the less important question of timing aside, we fear that Gulf nations might lack a unified stance on how to deal with the repercussions and aftermath of that strike on Syria's neighbours and, by extension, on the Arab Gulf nations themselves."

On Saturday, President Barack Obama said he would wait for congressional approval before giving the order to launch a limited-scope strike on Syria. Congress is not due to reconvene until September 9. The US leader said his military chiefs advised him that the planned strike would be equally effective whether undertaken today, in a week or in a month.

In his column yesterday titled The Gulf after the strike, Al Essa asked a series of questions: "Are Gulf countries prepared? Are they ready for the post-strike phase? Will the Syrian regime and its allies make good on their previous threats of setting the whole region on fire? How will Gulf countries react if the temerity of the regime in Damascus goes as far as launching missiles towards friendly and brotherly nations like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey?

"And what will Gulf nations do when thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Syrian refugees start pouring into Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq?"

Note that the Iranians have warned western countries of the illegality of such an air strike and vowed that Tehran will not sit back and watch in the face of aggression.

Russia and China have also expressed their disapproval and called on the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and members of the Security Council to work on a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict, the writer noted.

Other questions will need answers should the western strike hasten the collapse of the Syrian regime or, indeed, fail to provoke its unseating, the columnist went on. "Whether the Syrian regime falls or survives, GCC states will be faced with a fresh problem: how to deal with GCC jihadists involved in the war in Syria?"

Further questions will need joint deliberation among members of the GCC if they are to pre-empt any actions by domestic sleeper cells.

"How will Gulf countries react if Hizbollah starts acting up in Lebanon? Will its supporters in the Gulf stay put if Israel gets involved?"

Turkish provocation could prove costly

In all fairness, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the founder of a new, advanced and democratic Turkey. With his moderate Justice and Development Party, he was able to free the country from military rule and place it at the threshold of the advanced world, said the Saudi daily Al Riyadh in its editorial yesterday.

Engrossed with his success, Mr Erdogan seemed to harbour dreams of reviving the old Ottoman Empire. "He misinterpreted the moment and forgot that the era of empires ended long ago."

The Arab Spring presented the Turkish prime minister with a new opportunity, especially with Muslim Brotherhood-led Tunisia and Egypt, to transform Turkey into a leading model of moderate Islam based on respect of democracy and human rights. But his reading of the facts was unrealistic: he dealt with the Brotherhood in Egypt as if they precluded returning to military governments.

Mr Erdogan was shocked to see his new allies in Egypt so swiftly collapse. His reactions were extreme and unexpected from a wise statesman. In one fiery statement after the other he went so far as verbally attacking the sheikh of Al Azhar and classified all those who sided with the Egyptian people, including Gulf states, as enemies.

"But it is in the best interest of Arabs and Turkey to maintain relationships based on mutual interests," the paper observed.

Intervention in Syria should not be limited

The worst possible scenario for the US-led military intervention in Syria would be a limited "disciplinary" strike. It would give Syrian president Bashar Al Assad the opportunity to come out the next day claiming triumph and it would grant him moral, political and military momentum to improve his situation on the ground, suggested the columnist Ali Hamade in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

A strike that doesn't break the regime's back in Syria will strengthen Mr Al Assad's negotiation capabilities ahead of the second Geneva conference.

The best scenario is that the US offensive shakes the regime in Damascus to the core. This, in turn would allow revolutionary forces to advance and establish their presence in Damascus.

"The attack must be sufficiently powerful to ensure the defeat of Iran and Hizbollah on the battlefield in Syria at any cost. Otherwise, the war in Syria will trudge along for years to come," he opined.

The likely strike against the regime is a golden opportunity for the revolutionary forces. They must benefit from it to bring down the regime once and for all. This should be the primary responsibility of the Free Syrian Army and all countries that support the revolution.

 

 

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae