x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Syria's fallout, Turkey's tactics

Syria's attack on Turkey is a tactic to drag it into a war, but Turkey will not fall into the trap, an Arabic language columnist writes. Other topics in today's Arabic opinion roundup: Egypt's constitution and the decline of the written word.

Syria's attack on Turkey is a tactic to drag it into a war, but Turkey will not fall into the trap

The current tension on the Syria-Turkey border that has left casualties on both sides is an exchange of "bloody messages" between Ankara and Damascus, opined Abdel Bari Atwan in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

Some might see the attack by Syrian troops on a Turkish town that killed five people as a misstep but "in my view, it could be a carefully calculated step aiming at dragging Turkey into bloody clashes, or even at igniting an all-out regional war", he said.

The Syrian regime is very cognizant of the fact that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is averting a war for its potential damage on his future plans such as making Turkey the world 10th most powerful economy, up from 17th currently.

Mr Erdogan fired mortar shells into Syrian targets in retaliation but this was only meant to mollify public opinion and to avoid involvement in a war.

"In contrast, the Syrian regime has nothing to lose, for it is already in a state of war, facing a crashing siege and a 20-month-long armed revolution that wants it down."

"It is a Syrian tactical gambit that has succeeded ... in confusing the Turkish government," he noted. "But this does not mean it will not backfire eventually, particularly if the Turkish opposition decides to stand by Mr Erdogan."

The mortar shells on the Turkish border town of Akcakala are an "official outcry of pain" from the Syrian regime against the Turkish role in backing Syria's armed opposition, and a warning against supplying it with advanced weaponry that may help it impose a no-fly zone.

"Analyse the reactions of the West and Turkey to this Syrian 'suicide operation' - so described by some, and you will come up with an impression that they are all calling on, both the Turkish and Syrian parties, to excercise self-control and avoid widening the conflict," he added.

Western countries merely condemned the attack; Syria merely apologised, and Turkey accepted the apology, but Turkey gets the Syrian message loud and clear, and the message is, "You want to overthrow us, okay … but we will surely not fall alone, and this fall shall come at a huge cost".

Mr Erdogan faces a strong opposition at home, and a fragile sectarian fabric, the writer said, adding that the Turkish parliament authorising, by majority, military operations in Syria was striking.

But Turkey's response is not likely to fall into the Syrian trap that aims at getting it entangled in a long regional war, added to a recently erupted conflict with the Syrian-backed Kurdistan Workers' Party.

It is an arm-twisting game that is happening now between Turkey and Syria, but the Turkish arms are definitely stronger than the Syrian arms, worn-out from a 20-months war, he asserted.

Brotherhood proving smart on constitution

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will probably agree on a new constitution in coming weeks despite opposition from some Salafists, who want a Taliban-style constitution, and some secularists who seek a Swedish-syle constitution, commented Emad Eddine Hussein, a columnist with the Cairo-based paper Al Shorouk.

"The final outcome will ultimately be some sort of a reproduction of the 1971 constitution without faulty items," he said.

This prospective consensus over the seven articles, disputed by the Brotherhood, does not signify that these "have become democrats or advocates of civil state all of a sudden". It is about sacrificing small things to maintain the bigger ones.

Despite the hullabaloo over the constitution, not many expected the Brotherhood to lose civil forces at this time for several reasons.

First, a withdrawal of secularists from the Constituent Assembly would send a message to Egyptians and the outside world that the new constitution is a purely "Brotherhood-Salafist product", with no secular flavour, which could ruin President Morsi's image outside.

Second, the Brotherhood has no desire to grant its rivals the excuse that the Brotherhood has "Brotherhoodised and Salafisised" the constitution.

Third, the moment for an Islamic constitution has not come yet, and it is of no use entering a losing battle, he said.

The word fails to save humans from abyss

Words seem to have become the most powerless tool to pull the world through the hateful quagmire in which it has fallen, wrote the Yemeni poet Abdul Aziz Al Maqaleh in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej yesterday.

"After being misused, the word has become unable to even act as the straw at which a drowning man clutches," the writer said.

The word has turned into a curse and a disgrace on languages when it slid into disseminating hatred, sectarianism and racism, he went on.

How has the human role of the word disappeared? How has it become unable to guide and save people from their current danger? How has the language become blurred, confused and scared of telling the facts as they are?

The word has lost its essence, and the role it is assuming now is only informative: imparting news and inundating people with more chagrin, by depicting every killing and destruction out there, the writer observed.

"The word can no longer talk about the sentiments of love, courage, and human sympathy, and present beautiful models of life that we want to lead and enjoy".

Today, the word is locked in a trap, of which the only salvation is a sweeping revolution against all means of manipulation.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni