x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Syrian pilot who flew fighter to Jordan deals blow to Syrian regime

Editorials comment on defected Syrian pilot, political uncertainty in Egypt and chaos in Libya.

The defection of a Syrian fighter pilot to Jordan with his Russian-made MiG-21 warplane returned the Syrian crisis to the spotlight after a week-long preoccupation with Egypt's presidential election, said the Pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial.

"But pilot defections are not uncommon in Syria," the writer noted. "Several Syrian aviators did fly their aircraft seeking asylum in Israel before.

But this is the first time a Syrian pilot landed with his fighter jet in Jordan upon refusing to take part in shelling against the opposition strongholds in the border province of Daraa."

The Syrian pilot who flew to Israel a few years ago provided significant intelligence to the US because of his advanced MiG 29 warplane, but Col Hassan Mirei Al Hamadeh had an outdated Russian-made MiG-21. However, the "intelligence value in this case may be in the pilot himself".

Col Hassan will be interrogated by western intelligence seeking unknown information on the Syrian air force, particularly because a western military intervention to end the crisis in Syria has not been ruled out.

No doubt, this dissent deals a painful blow to the Syrian regime. Pilots are selected according to strict measures at the top of which lies allegiance to the regime. Arab regimes, the Syrian in particular, see the air force as the greatest threat to them, being the spine of any successful coup.

The timing of this desertion is highly critical, the writer observed. Intense talks are being held between Russia on the one hand and the US with other western nations on the other hand, with the aim of finding a Yemen-style way out to the Syrian crisis.

In fact, the UK has offered an enticing proposal to President Bashar Al Assad to participate in a conference later this month in Geneva and vowed to guarantee him a safe passage.

Syria has issued no official response to this proposal, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that any peace plan for Syria that calls on Mr Al Assad to step down was infeasible.

"Russia throws its weights behind the Syrian regime … while the US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford urges Syrian officers to defect the regime, and airman Mirei asylum in Jordan might be considered a response to this call."

The Syrian regime's grip on security is reportedly loosening, amid mounting assaults by the Free Syrian Army and more advanced weaponry pouring in across the Turkish borders.

The desertion of Mr Mirei will likely be used to boost the morale of the Free Army, and dispel the notion of the regime being strong.

"The Syrian issue is heating up," the writer said. "And it is prone to intense horse-trading among major powers, particularly the US and Russia that are in a proxy war on the Syrian soil."

New president and old problems in Egypt

The main challenge facing Egypt in these hard times is not the person who will be the president of the republic, but rather preventing the seeds of discord and sedition to spread, argued columnist Emad Eddine Hussein in the Cairo-based Al Shorouk.

Whether the new president for Egypt is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood or to the remnants of the old regime is no longer the real crux, the writer said.

The writer noted he was thunderstruck by an opinion poll posted on MSN website that read: Do you expect a civil war in Egypt?

There is no solution to this horrible scenario other than a real compromise between all major forces of society. This can first be reached by respecting the will of the people, expressed at the ballot box in a free and imperial election.

"It does not matter whether Shafiq or Morsi becomes president as long as we are able to crystallise a real and efficient political system that allow us to change the president through peaceful democratic means …and the best way to this is a democratic civil constitution expressive of all sections of society."

"But why have we failed to agree on this for more a year and a half?"

Because all political forces "look no further than their feet", the write concluded, and the Islamist trend is to blame in this regard for trying to monopolise everything.

Democracy is the only solution in Libya

With the fall of the Qaddafi regime, Libyans should have united to prevent fragmentation, especially given that the national transitional council had no magic bullet. Instead, power was split between tribes and militias of different allegiances, wrote the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial yesterday.

Following the overthrow of the dictatorial regime in Libya, it was clear that failing to rally around a compromise would plunge the country into chaos. The quick fix solutions by the council or by the ensuing government fell flat. Now Libya is conflicts and "a war of interests raging on its soil."

True, Libya has gotten rid of a tyrannical regime, but all attempts at setting up a democratic alternative have become a farce.

The country has fallen prey to infighting, and it is likely to escalate, as the government proves hitherto unable to find a real solution to the crisis.

"Is the ongoing unrest in Libya part of the huge price of the sought change? Only the Libyans can answer this question."

But the long-waited nation Libyans sought can be established only through dialogue and compromise, under a participatory democracy, in a unified sovereign country that has no room for tribalism and fragmentation, the editorial concluded.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni