x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Syria's patience with protesters has run out

A round up of commentary in Arabic language newspapers.

Syria is currently facing a popular uprising that quickly spread from the southern town of Deraa to several other towns in the centre and the north. Protesters called for political reform and the government responded by opening fire and killing more than 40 people in one day, observed Abdulbari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab Al Quds al Arabi daily.

"For years, we have urged President Bashar al Assad to make good on his promises of reform, but to no avail. He may have been unable to do so, or perhaps he never believed that his people would rebel."

In response to the angry demonstrations, Mr al Assad's adviser, Dr Buthaina Shaaban, addressed Syrians at a press conference and spoke of new measures that the regime promised to undertake to address the people's demands. She promised that the regime is "looking into" a number of reforms.

"This is not the time to look into reforms," commented Atwan, "it is the time for immediate action to contain the people's anger and avoid the big explosion that would drown Syria in a bloodbath."

The people are fed up after years of waiting for the president's promises to see the light of day, Dr Shaaban never had a chance to sway a people who have decided on emancipation.


A new era of relations for Egypt and Israel

Had Egypt still been under the former Mubarak regime, and had the former foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheyt still been in office, we would never have heard Cairo warning Israel of waging military operations on Gaza, observed Mazen Hammad, a columnist with the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

But the current ruling regime in Egypt is the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the foreign minister is Nabil al Arabi, who is known for being pro-Arab.

This a positive adjustment and renewed bravery in the Egyptian attitude, something unfamiliar to Israel over the last three decades. The former president Hosni Mubarak was closer to an adviser than an ally for Israel, and it was in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh that conspiracies against Gaza were plotted.

Post-revolution Egypt wants to make it clear to Israel that it cannot assault Gaza at will. The revolution partly targeted the policy of compromise and appeasement that saw Mr Mubarak serving Israel's interests and his own at the detriment of Palestinian and Egyptian interests.

"We are certain that Egypt is looking forward to regaining its leading role in the Arab world. If Israel continues its oppression of Palestinians, it is highly likely that Cairo will freeze the Camp David agreement with Israel."


Palestinian unity as Israel prepares for war

In its Saturday editorial, the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan warned that a number of Israeli leaders are laying the groundwork, both internally and internationally, for yet another assault on the Gaza Strip. For several days, extreme-right voices in the government have been beating the drums of war.

It is time that the Palestinian leaders realise that the war that is in the works with Israel would cause human and material losses that go beyond those that the Palestinian people have been suffering for decades.

Worrying reports from Israel are saying that the next military operation would be bigger and more devastating than the 2008 operation that killed 1,400 Palestinians, whose misfortune was that their supposed leaders were split by divisions.

What is most worrisome in the Israeli reports is the convergence of political factions supporting the war, for opposition parties always reconcile when Israel's interests are at stake.

Will the Palestinian leaders in Gaza and the West Bank heed this threat and start drawing a roadmap to end the division? It is a most necessary step to promote the unity of the people and the prominence of their cause.


Saudi Arabia takes a firm security stance

In his opinion article in the Lebanese Annahar daily, the columnist Rajeh Khoury observed that the conflicting US positions towards events in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen have set a chill in the relationship between Riyadh and Washington, especially in the wake of the US secretary of state Hilary Clinton's criticism of the Peninsula Shield intervention in Bahrain.

The fear is that Iranian interference would not stop at Bahrain and would spread into neighbouring Saudi Arabia through the Shiites of the eastern region. Such a development would rattle the Saudi-Iranian relationship to a point that could turn into open confrontation.

The US defence secretary Robert Gates observed: "We are in a dark tunnel and no one knows what the outcome would be." In view of such an alarming comment from the US, the Saudi foreign minister's recent diplomatic efforts seeking a strategic balance in the region are important and necessary.

Through wide-ranging diplomatic efforts, Riyadh is keen on confirming that King Abdullah is adamant in defending the security and stability of all GCC states and will not allow any regional or international power to exploit the current situation.



* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem