x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Syrian crisis remains an Arab concern

The Arab League has less ability to influence events in Syria than many would like, an Arabic newspaper comments. Other Arabic papers comment on Israel and Egypt, and Yemen's instability.

Syrian crisis remains an Arab concern

Syria is now an item on the Arab agenda, said the columnist Satea Noureddine in the Lebanese Assafir daily.

"The measure is preliminary and a mere temporary formality. It fills a vacuum that threatens the international community and deters Turkey and Iran. It is also a new ultimatum to the Damascus regime that the majority of Arab states are prepared to condone a western intervention a la Libya should the bloodshed continue."

The Arab League had to attempt to influence the Syrian regime as all other mediation attempts so far have failed. "However, the 'arabisation' of the Syrian crisis is baseless since the Arabs don't form an influential political body. They are neither neutral nor qualified to attempt to modernise and reform Syria. Add to that, they cannot even communicate with the regime that hides behind a suicidal armed security clampdown or with the opposition that lacks any leadership."

The international community that urged the Arab League to issue their initiative wasn't necessarily requesting an Arab cover for military intervention in Syria. So far, it prefers to rely on the sanctions as a weapon as long as Syria doesn't give it further justification to use its other weapons.

The Arab League statement regarding Syria is an additional Arab blockade aimed to deter Iran, which has been dealing with the Syrian crisis as a matter of life and death for its power.

Arab initiative could be Syria's last resort

In comments to the recent statement by the Iranian foreign minister calling on president Bashar Al Assad to respect his people's legitimate demands, Adbdelbari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi said: "This is a highly significant message when it comes to its context and timing, especially that the statement expressed concern of an intervention by Nato."

The connection between the legitimate requests and the external interference is clear, as lack of the former would lead to the latter. And the Iranian warning is valid, for Syria isn't Libya and its regime isn't secluded from its surroundings. It is part of a system that includes Iran and its might on one hand and Hizbollah and its military arsenal on the other. This is in addition to the Syrian army itself and the regime-affiliated security apparatus that seem coherent so far.

The obvious question here is, how prepared is Iran to take part in a regional war should matters in Syria escalate to a degree that necessitates a western military intervention?

"It is hard to speculate, but what is confirmed is that the Iranian army never fought outside its territories in the last few decades unless it absolutely had to."

Governments move according to their interests rather than political courtesy. Now that the armed confrontation has proven unsuccessful, Syria's exit could be political and the Arab initiative could be its lifeline.

Israel manoeuvring to protect its security

Israel's position towards allowing Egypt to send additional forces to Sinai is still ambiguous, suggested the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial.

News reports revealed that Israel agreed to allow Egypt to send 2,000 additional troops along with tanks and armoured vehicles to the tension zones in Sinai. Israeli reports assured that it would be a temporary measure that shouldn't be misconstrued as a modification to the Camp David Agreements.

However, the Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak announced on Sunday that Israel has no intention of allowing additional Egyptian troops in Sinai, thus denying his own previous statements to this effect.

"This Israeli tone reflects a considerable regression on its part that could be due to fear of a palpable change in Egypt's relationship towards it."

However, fortifying the Egyptian military presence in Sinai would in fact benefit Israel more than it would Egypt, since the security chaos there allowed anonymous groups to attack the gas pipeline to Israel five times within a few months.

It is evident that Israel wants to exploit Cairo's desire to send more troops into Sinai for leverage. It is Israel that needs Egypt at the moment and not vice versa. It is attempting to manipulate the new Egyptian government into protecting its borders by making security a priority on the Egyptian agenda.

Gulf formula can save Yemen from civil war

The editorial of the Dubai-based Al Bayan daily shed light on the situation in Yemen where the political vacuum and the escalating crisis threaten to weaken the very core of the state.

"The Gulf initiative remains the ideal solution that could save Yemen from an impending civil war and maintain its unity."

Unless an agreement for a peaceful transition of power is reached soon, Yemen runs the risk of becoming another Somalia. As it is, a number of Yemeni districts have become semi-independent in the total absence of a central authority. This is in addition to the colossal problems that plague the country from poor economy and poverty, to illiteracy and religious extremism.

A weak structure and deficient economic resources coupled with overriding tribalism have contributed to the extreme political frailty in Yemen, which makes the threat of civil strife more omnipresent.

"The Yemenis must admit these facts and relinquish personal vendettas at the expense of the country. It's only through dialogue that Yemen and the future of its people can be protected."

Meanwhile, Yemen needs a different formula that takes into consideration that decentralisation is the only option that could provide a framework immune to civil war and de-fragmentation.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem

rmakarem@thenational.ae