x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Syria will remain in stalemate

An Arabic-language columnist says the situation in Syria will not change until the rebels are armed. Other topics: the Muslim Brotherhood and the silence of intellectuals.

Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, backed by Iran and Hizbollah, is racing against time to take advantage of the Arab and international communities' preoccupation with the ongoing turmoil in Egypt.

His aim is to achieve military gains on the ground.

On the other hand, the Syrian National Coalition, under the stewardship of its new leader Ahmed Al Jarba, is also using this period to build a strong base for the coalition among Arab countries and at an international level while the Free Army continues to wage the battle to depose the Assad regime.

"This is the actual scene in Syria today," said Tariq Al Homayed, a contributing columnist with the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

"All parties involved are resorting to manoeuvres of their own because steps leading to resolution of the situation in Syria, mainly on the part of the US and the international community, remain immobilised," the writer added.

Some observers suggest that an international plan for a solution is being forged, which explains Al Jarba's numerous visits to Arab and international capitals in an effort to reassure decision-makers that the Syrian opposition is reorganising itself in a way that weeds out extremists.

"This is good, but can't be achieved solely by way of Mr Al Jarba's political and diplomatic efforts," Al Homayed wrote.

"More is needed."

For the Syrian coalition and the Free Syrian Army to succeed in reorganising their ranks and filter out radical elements, the free army, the opposition's main military force, must receive quality military support that allows it to impose its power and control over opposition forces on the ground.

This suggestion isn't new.

It has been the core demand of the Syrian opposition for two years but it continues to be ignored, even with the blatant interference of Iran and Hizbollah in battle alongside regime forces.

Hence, the current status quo in Syria, despite the Assad regime's affected smugness, doesn't necessarily mean that Mr Al Assad's forces are progressing.

Rather it means he is capable of maintaining the balances of power unchanged, thanks to the support of Hizbollah.

While the Shiite forces mount attacks and fight under the regime's air cover, the free army struggles to preserve their gains, at the same time costing their opponents as many losses as possible.

It is a war of attrition and it is all about manoeuvres - both on the battleground and in diplomatic alleys.

By the time the US and the West make the final decision to provide the opposition with the weapons they need, Syria would have completely disintegrated, the writer concluded.

Hard to find moderate Brotherhood voices

One of the major threats to the viability of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is the absence of moderate and wise figures capable of defusing the escalating crisis, wrote Emad Eddine Hussein, editor-in-chief of the Cairo-based newspaper Al Shorouk.

The developments in Egypt have unveiled the myth of a moderate trend existing in the Muslin Brotherhood. Evidence has hitherto shown that there is no difference between figures deemed hardliners, such as Mahmoud Ezzat, and other leaders described as moderates, such as Essam Al Arian and Mohamed Beltagy, the writer observed.

The Brotherhood say that what happened shattered any hope for moderation to exist in the organisation; any figure displaying flexibility towards the June 30 events will instantly be slammed as a traitor. The emergence of moderate voices at this point is therefore highly unlikely.

"A Brotherhood leader told me that moderate thinking now is a crime. Even if some leaders think about it, they will find it difficult to promote among the organisation's young rebels," he said.

Most of these young rebels are quite confident about the return of Mr Morsi, with many of them willing to resort to extremism and violence until that happens.

While one might understand these indoctrinated supporters' extremism at seeing their leaders behind bars, the dangerous thing is the way the leaders are handling the crisis.

Arab intellectuals and the disturbing silence

Intellectuals are often criticised for sitting in their ivory towers away from "the scene", with their silence attributed to opportunism, Abd Al Salam Bin Abd Al Ali wrote in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

This moral approach, however, pays little attention to the nature and significance of silence, the writer said, even though this silence is disturbing for many.

Like Aristotle's nature, the establishment fears a vacuum, as it is not pleased with those who retreat into silence. It probably does not care about intellectuals being for or against it as much as about the absence of any talk, criticism or support.

It is precisely this "voluntary strike" to refrain from any form of expression that is most disconcerting for the establishment, which sees "talk boycott" more powerful than any talk.

The establishment is cognisant of the fact that this silence is most often not a prearranged collective act by intellectuals; it knows that the status quo can cripple the mind and kill sentiments and eventually muzzle mouths. Yet it sees such silence as an implicit accusation of it being behind this status quo.

This is not a call for intellectuals to sit on the fence or to say that silence always speaks louder than words, but sometimes "painful silence" is what they are left with.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae