x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Syria's ominous message

Syria's action of shooting down a Turkish fighter is a signal that regional war is closer, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: Egypt and Sudan.

Syria's downing of Turkish fighter sends a signal and regional conflict is now closer than ever

Turkish-Syrian relationships have known their ups and downs throughout the past four decades, but not once have they reached the point of shooting down planes, said Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

On Friday, a Turkish Phantom F-4 jet was directly hit by Syrian anti-air defences on the claim that it had violated air space over Syrian territorial waters. The jet's pilots are still missing.

"This means, we may be on the verge of a regional war," commented the writer.

The Syrian command may have used the incident to address strong messages to more than one party and demonstrate its power and preparedness for war.

The targeting of the jet serves indeed as a warning to the Turkish authorities, and indeed any other countries that champion the revolution, against offering further support to the Syrian opposition and especially against allowing extremist Islamic militants to cross into Syria territories.

The attack, from Syria's point of view, could also be used as a deterrent for Nato and especially the US. It confirms that Syria isn't weak and that any use of force against it would be risky.

The incident came at an opportune time for Damascus, which has been searching for a development to downplay the momentum the opposition gained last week when a pilot defected to Jordan with his MiG 21 jet.

"Surely, the Syrian command didn't commit such an escalatory action without prior consultation with its Russian allies," said Atwan. "Less than a week before the decisive Friends of Syria meeting in Paris, the Syrian regime is purposefully pestering Turkey, the former ally that would spearhead any foreign military intervention to bring down the regime."

But will Damascus succeed in pulling Ankara, and consequently Washington, into a pre-emptive war at this critical time? That remains to be seen.

The Turkish response to the affront was blurred, just as it was to the intensified Syrian support for the Kurdish Labour Party that has been increasing its attacks on Turkish forces recently.

"The Syrian regime is currently behaving like a cornered cat. By downing the Turkish jet, it may have intended to export its mounting crises as a way to relieve pressure internally," opined the writer.

Mr Assad's grip on security in his country is gradually waning as the uprising continues to spread and has reached the heart of Damascus, the political capital, and Aleppo, the commercial capital.

In light of the collapse of Kofi Annan's plan that failed to put a stop to military operations, and the disintegration of the international monitors' mission, regional conflict is closer than ever. In fact, it may have already begun. Syria is witnessing a proxy war between the US and its allies on one hand and Russia and its allies on the other.

United front in Egypt is light at end of tunnel

Finally, there is some light at the end of the tunnel in Egypt, with a united front formed against the ruling military council's power grab, wrote Fahmi Huwaidi in the Cairo-based daily Al Shorouk.

For the front of national forces to recognise the importance of unity at this critical time, to face the counter-revolution, is of paramount importance.

"Egypt can never get off the ground, nor can the revolution achieve its objectives, unless all honourable citizens join forces … to save the country from militarisation," the writer noted.

No faction had to cede its political platform, but all parties agreed on postponing their issues and found a common ground on combating the old regime's return "in disguise".

Now the confusion is cleared up, and no one will be excused to stand on the fence. This is "not about a power struggle between the military council and the Brotherhood … but about a pitched battle between the revolution and the counter-revolution".

"If you sill doubt that it is literally about a pitched battle, then keep track of the remnants-run media, and of how fiercely and wickedly they fought the battle to achieve their goals of morally assassinating the general staff of the revolutionary camp."

The national front has succeeded in rising above mistakes and differences, and rally around a goal, but it has to step up efforts to accomplish its ambitions.

Sudan, too, is moving into an 'Arab Autumn'

What is unfolding these days in Sudan means that another country is en route to an "Arab Autumn", wrote columnist Hashim Abduh Hashim in yesterday's edition of Saudi newspaper Okaz.

"The problem of the Sudanese can be summed up in poverty," the writer said.

But this plague finds its sources in several other issues. Parties and political alliances have failed, since independence in 1956, to work for the people.

Successive governments have taken advantage of the people, and failed to use the country's resources and strategic location to seal good transactions with other countries.

Also detrimental is the plague of infighting that is still on the rise, not only between governments but also among political parties and ideological alliances.

For their part, the Arab states did little to help Sudan get out of trouble and use its resources.

"I recall my meeting with former president Gaafar Nimeiry in 1982. 'You are sitting on a treasure chest while the Sudanese suffer,' I said. 'Arabs are right there,' he guffawed.

"Today, I hope that the situation which has already reached a tipping point won't get worse," the writer continued. "Political forces have no choice other than to join efforts to serve the interests of the Sudanese people."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk