x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Syria war can escalate into a regional conflict

We are standing at the doorstep of a regional or, perhaps, a global war as the Syrian unrest escalates. Other topics: Egypt, Morocco.

US and UK officials' statements on chemical weapons use in Syria can begin regional war

The statements by the US and UK officials on the use of chemical weapons in Syria preludes a regional, or perhaps a global, war, wrote Abdel Al Bari Atwan, the editor-in chief of the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, in a column.

Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary, has been touring Gulf countries in an effort to sell them advanced weapons, including jets and missiles, to face any Iranian threat, the writer reported.

Mr Hagel said on Thursday that the US "intelligence community assessed with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically sarin".

A few minutes after Mr Hagel's statement, the UK Foreign Office said it had information on chemical weapons use in Syria, and called on President Bashar Al Assad to cooperate with international bodies to prove that he did not sanction their use.

"These statements were carefully coordinated; there is no coincidence," the writer said. "These two nations played a pivotal part in the last three wars waged by the West, Nato in particular, to change regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya."

The US President, Barack Obama, has warned that chemical weapons use would mean crossing a 'red line' that would prompt a major US military response. Now this line has been crossed, according to US and UK intelligence.

Calls to refrain from weapons of mass destruction used in Iraq are now being repeated. Soon, Arab and world media outlets will begin to propagate a state of emergency and hold interviews with pundits who would assert the use of chemical weapons and urge an immediate military intervention.

"Today we stand on the doorstep of a regional, and perhaps a global, war," Atwan wrote.

Operations rooms in the US and UK might already be aware of the timings, and they could be waiting only for the zero hour.

No wonder, the White House has recently been a destination for several Arab leaders. These visits are a "council of war" meetings to allocate tasks and funds and share military and political plans, the writer argued.

The escalating Syrian conflict is a cause for concern for Washington and its allies. This is particularly true amid reports of hard-line militant groups gaining ground, increased despair among the moderate opposition, and Israel's growing fears of chemical weapons getting into the hands of extremists.

How the action will be to topple the Syrian regime is still unknown. This is a military secret. But, he added: "We know that when it comes to causes and excuses for invading an Arab or Islamic nation, reports of western intelligence are always false, and it is painful that we realise that only after the target country is destroyed - ask our fellow Iraqis".

Most of Morsi critics do not back Mubarak

When someone criticises particular policies of President Mohammed Morsi or his Muslim Brotherhood, he does not necessarily want Hosni Mubarak to return, or his holdovers to be reinstated, as some Islamists propagate, noted Emad Eddine Hussein in the Cairo-based newspaper Al Shorouk.

Unfortunately, Islamist leaders are disseminating this notion among their supporters, with some of them saying that Mohamed El Baradei, Hamdeen Sabahi and other leaders of the National Salvation Front want the Mubarak regime back in power, the writer said.

Those who enjoyed privilege under the Mubarak regime might wish he, or one of his cronies like Ahmed Shafiq, came back to office. But how could some Islamists dare level such an accusation at leaders who helped to overthrow the regime?

Mr El Baradei played a leading role in toppling Mr Mubarak. Mr Sabahi was jailed, beaten and persecuted under Mr Mubarak.

However, for the sake of argument, suppose they were Mr Mubarak's men, does Dr Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh also want Mr Mubarak back to power?

Mr Aboul Fotouh was a senior leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, and now he criticises Mr Morsi and his organisation.

The Brotherhood must stop thinking that everyone who opposes Mr Morsi nurtures such a mentality, the writer remarked.

Morocco must revisit its policies on Sahara

The US dropped a bombshell over Morocco following its proposal to expand Minuroso's mandate to include human rights monitoring in Western Sahara, wrote Taoufik Bouachrine in the Morocco-based daily Akhbra Al Youm.

This should prompt the kingdom to conduct a revision of its policies regarding the most critical issue on its agendas.

A post-mortem of this diplomatic failure is necessary even if Morocco managed to convince the US to withdraw its draft resolution, or convince France to use its veto against it.

"Yes, our relationship with the US over the past 14 years has not worsened. But it has not acquired a new dimension either," the writer remarked.

The kingdom used to play three cards with Washington: being part of the western camp; being supportive of a non-military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and counting on a Jewish lobby in the US that helped the kingdom to gain access to the US administration.

"Now, these cards have almost expired. The ice of the Cold War has melted, with Algeria becoming the number-one US business partner in North Africa," he said.

Morocco must find new cards to make its voice heard. Because the US has no friends, it has only enemies and interests.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni