x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The Assads play true to form by destabilising neighbours

Arabic-language newspapers comment on the Syrian civil war, distasteful triumphalism after the US storms and Netanyahu's attempts to steer the regional dialogue.

The Assad regime in Syria has always been the broker of civil wars in the Middle East

Throughout the history of the Middle East, no regime has been more adept at implementing the "divide and conquer" stratagem to spark civil wars than the Assad regime in Syria, said columnist Ali Hamadeh in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

This was the case during the Assad regime's heyday under president Hafez Al Assad and has continued under his son Bashar, with the country now on the brink of despair after 20 months.

What began as peaceful pro-reform protests in March 2011 soon turned into a destructive war that has left more than 35,000 people dead. Clashes between the regular army and the opposition forces have escalated to the point where, in the past few days, the authorities have again sent military aircraft to bomb the capital city of Damascus.

The writer suggested that the regime relies on a "sabotage policy ... to promote its role and its position as the strongest party among weak nations weighed down by conflicts".

Earlier this week, fighting erupted within the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus between groups sympathetic to the opposition and pro-Assad militants. The incident incited fear of similar clashes in all Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. At the same time, there has been growing concern about possible armed altercations between Kurdish parties. The Damascus regime succeeded in mobilising the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) against Turkey on one hand and against the Syrian Kurds siding with the opposition.

True to its divisive policies, Mr Al Assad's administration was able to incite some groups of Turkish Alawites in the southern part of Syria against the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his policies which support the Syrian revolution.

Jordan, too, has been dealing with Damascus's attempts to tamper with its internal stability by stoking strife related to demands for political reform.

"In this context, Lebanon remains the prime and ideal background for Syrian's interference, and the scene of choice for the execution of its conspiratory schemes," Hamadeh noted.

Last August, the information branch of the Lebanese internal security forces unveiled a scheme to incite sectarian strife and disseminate instability in Lebanon, in which were implicated prominent officials from both countries. Less than three months after the plot was exposed, General Wissam Al Hassan, the intelligence chief who brought the conspiracy to light, was assassinated in Beirut.

"Such are the schemes that provide the fodder for a civil war among the Lebanese," said the writer.

This is how the Syrian regime started the 1975 civil war in Lebanon after years of creating and entrenching divisions between the country's various factions, he noted.

Salafists' reactions to Sandy are 'pathetic'

"When I read the reactions of certain people gloating over Hurricane Sandy, particularly by the likes of [Salafist preacher] Wajdi Ghanim, who persisted in calling upon God to inflict doom on the US through the hurricane, one word sprung into my mind: 'pathetic'," wrote Egyptian journalist Nawara Negm in the Cairo-based paper Al Tahrir.

Pathetic is the word to describe those Salafists who affirmed that Sandy was God's punishment for an American producing the film insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, she said.

"How pathetic we are. We have become so desperate and impotent that our minds turned into darkness, unable to speak well of God, feel for others' misfortunes, ponder our situation and check whether there is still humanity inside us," she continued.

Schadenfreude is the attribute of sick and weak people. Gloating over the adversities of others is immoral and ignoble, no matter what the excuse. If one is wronged by some party, they should "fight for their rights like men", not wait for a disaster to befall the enemy and embark on gloating.

The US is unjust, tyrannical, occupying, a backer of dictators, exploiter of the poor and a self-aggrandiser - you name it.

But Sandy did not hit the Federal Reserve Bank or the Pentagon. Most of the victims were poor and innocent citizens, and there were Muslims as well, she noted.

Netanyahu cannot speak for Arab world

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call for early parliamentary elections next January means that he has put his plans to attack Iran on hold, at least during the transitory period leading up to the elections. Instead, it seems, he has decided to make the Iranian nuclear issue the feature topic in his electoral campaign, said the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial on Thursday.

"Mr Netanyahu is now using Iran's nuclear ambitions to speak in the name of Arabs. He is trying to present himself as keen on ensuring their interests and protecting their national security against the Iranian threat," explained the paper.

In an interview with the French magazine Paris Match, Mr Netanyahu suggested that the Arab world would be relieved if Israel strikes at Iranian nuclear plants. He went on to say that Iran isn't popular in the Arab world.

"We are unaware how Mr Netanyahu reached this conclusion. It is true that some Arab leaders, especially in the Gulf region, are weary of Iran's ambitions, but the same can't be said for the Arab Maghrib states, and many Arab Levant countries. In fact, these countries see Israel as their biggest enemy in view of its expansionist schemes and its substantial arsenal of nuclear warheads," noted the paper.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk