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Syria and the 'Innocence' protests

Despite uncertain consequences, weeding out bad regimes must always be the logical choice, an Arabic language columnist writes. Other topics in today's round up of regional opinion: protests in London and the Hamas-Fatah split.

Despite uncertain consequences, weeding out bad regimes must always be the logical choice

Following the tragic assaults against the US embassy in Benghazi last Tuesday, warning sirens have been set off in a number of powerful capitals around the world, said the columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

"Al Qaeda groups were revealed in Libya, jihadists in Sinai and armed Salafists in Tunisia. In the span of a week, it is as if extremists have escaped from their bottle and are set to bring the world to its heels," said the writer.

Russia, which was reticent to support the revolution in Libya and has been actively obstructing it in Syria, was quick to seize the occasion of last week's bloody incidents and reiterate its conviction that the uprisings are nothing more than the actions of terrorist Islamist groups. An analyst on the Russia Today channel went as far as saying that "the murder of the US ambassador to Libya was the fruit of US policies in Libya".

The accusation isn't new, but it has become a nagging issue on the minds of many world decision-makers following the shocking waves of anger that hit Benghazi and Tunis in recent days.

Media reports are now talking about President Barack Obama's confusion as he has to weigh in various possibilities now and that his administration is reviewing its policy towards the Syrian revolution.

"This is a matter of grave proportions. International support is of vital importance to the Syrian people at this phase. Without the backing of major countries, revolutionary organisations risk being classified as terrorist and, therefore, could be banned from operating in Turkey and Jordan. In addition to this, it would become impossible for them to raise material support from Kuwait, Saudi and Qatar. They would simply be stripped of their legitimacy," suggested the writer.

Admittedly, the Syrian revolution presents numerous problems and future risks that can't be disregarded once the Assad regime is ousted. But the West would be wrong to look at it only from the perspective of its fear of extreme radicalism. Syria can't be likened to Egypt and Mr Al Assad is no Hosni Mubarak.

Should the Syrian revolution fail, the consequences would be dire. Extremist Islamist groups would mushroom everywhere because they feed on state failure and chaos.

"Toppling the Assad regime is a priority of local and international importance. It is Iran's arm in the Arab region and, for the past four decades, it has been managing the majority of terrorist groups that staged attacks on regional and international states," added Al Rashed.

The volume of sympathy that the Syrian cause has attracted, especially in the Middle East region, is immense. The gruesomeness of the regime's crimes against its own people has turned the majority of Arabs against Iran and Russia. The West's neutrality is angering them.

Who is 'funding' those protests in Jordan?

About 5,000 demonstrations have taken place in two years in Jordan, which amounts to quite a few placards and banners produced every Friday, most of which are new each time to keep up with current developments, wrote Maher Abu Tair, a contributor to the Amman-based newspaper Addustour, in an opinion article yesterday.

"Nobody here is against the right to free speech and peaceful protest, or the right to stage a sit-in or a strike; all we want to do is get a sense of how much it must have cost to keep up those ongoing demonstrations [in Jordan] for the past two years," he said.

"Every placard costs about 20 to 30 dinars [Dh100 to Dh150], and there are thousands of those every time, most of them new, and some re-used," he noted.

Add to these costs, telecommunications to coordinate protesters, transportation, potential car-hire fees and so on.

"This indicates that these demonstrations must have cost the Islamic movement - and the various movements across the provinces - millions of dinars. But where do they get that kind of money from?"

This question is not intended as an implicit accusatory statement, the columnist added.

"All the same, we do not really believe that those millions of dinars pile up from tiny donations pitched in by activists prior to every protest."



Hamas-Fatah division is a pathetic saga

Palestinians have given the two warring factions that represent them - Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank - too many chances to mend fences and they blew every single one of them, wrote columnist Barakat Shlatweh in yesterday's edition of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

"Dozens, if not hundreds, of times, leaders of Fatah and Hamas have promised to achieve reconciliation and made statements about how strategically important it is to both of them," the columnist said.

Yet, the divide between the two is only deepening. The Hamas leadership has recently named several new local ministers and blocked the so-called "central elections commission", which was going to oversee forthcoming national elections, as per previous agreements.

Fatah, for its part, did not honour its pledge to form a new government to be tasked with, among other things, preparing for those elections and planning for the reconstruction of Gaza.

"Both sides of the conflict are responsible for the constant stalling and procrastination of reconciliation," the columnist noted.

Recent talk about a free trade zone between Gaza and Egypt only pushes the dream of a unified Palestine further away.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk


Updated: September 19, 2012 04:00 AM