x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

The international community must focus on Syria's chemical weapons

The world must focus on the use of chemical weapons on civilians and not distractions about strikes on Syria. Other views: Egypt's economy is paramount and why cannot the Arab world find lasting peace.

President Barack Obama's decision to consult Congress before launching any military strikes on Syria for the Assad regime's suspected chemical attack on an eastern suburb of Damascus on August 21 shifts focus away from the broad fundamental issue to the secondary minute detail, opined the columnist Abdullah Iskandar in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

The fundamental issue is that a political group, the Syrian regime, has used chemical weapons against its people. The secondary detail is how the decision for military action is made in the US.

Last week, the UK got lost in the detail as the House of Commons shot down a motion by prime minister David Cameron to take part in the strike against Syria.

"It was an unprecedented moral digression from the fundamental issue," the writer said.

"Justifications for the need to strike or not to strike overshadowed the main issue that gave rise to the idea of the strike: the use of chemical weapons against civilians."

France too seems to have become caught up in the detail as controversy rages on in Paris about the legitimacy of president Francois Hollande's individual decision to participate in an attack on Bashar Al Assad and whether he is required to get the approval of the parliament prior to any such military action.

"The issue at hand isn't how decisions are made in western countries that abide by different democratic systems.

"The real issue is how the international community as a whole would deal with the use of weapons of mass destruction by a regime against its people, regardless of the circumstances or the justifications for such action," the columnist noted.

Irrespective of governments' positions regarding the western military strike against the Syrian regime, the fact remains that use of chemical weapons, whether against civilian or military targets, is classified as a crime against humanity and genocide.

The United Nations and other relevant international bodies should deal with Al Ghouta massacre on this basis and punish those who ordered and carried out the massacre.

"This isn't in any way an instigation to the West to hit the regime in Syria, especially that it is likely that, lest it breaks its back once and for all, the strike would embolden the regime.

"At the same time, no one is looking to get involved in a new and costly war in Syria.

"However, it is essential not to lose sight of the nature of the crime and the nature of the regime that ordered it," the writer explained.

What is required is a far-reaching political response that contributes to eventually end all forms of dictatorships that lead to similar crimes.

Start with security to fix Egypt's economy

Egypt is slowly heading towards relative stability after nearly three years of political and security chaos, but the economy will not yet get the strong boost it needs if workers and business owners still do not feel it is safe enough to go out, the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram said in an editorial yesterday.

"It goes without saying that security and political stability are the drivers of economic growth, and so the administration of Dr Hazem Al Beblawi has to concentrate its efforts on achieving peace and security on Egyptian streets … and to make more efforts in collecting weapons that have, legally or not, ended up in the hands of civilians," the newspaper said.

Most of those weapons have been smuggled in from neighbouring Libya or Sudan, or through the underground tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, the editorial stated.

"The Egyptian economy will not recover until the worker feels it is safe to go to the factory again, and the same applies to the businessman who imports and exports goods, to the foreign investor who would like to come to Egypt and start a new venture, and to the lorry driver who transports supplies from the port to the city, or between provinces - all of them need to feel safe if they are to play their part properly," it concluded.

Why can't Arabs get one full year of peace?

"Why can't the Arab world enjoy lasting peace? Why is it that a decade, or even half of it, never goes by without political conflicts, violent revolutions or coups, economic disasters, border clashes, or all of the above piled up together?" columnist Saleh Abdelazim, of the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan, rhetorically asked yesterday.

"Why is our news - which usually consists of bloody explosions, suicide attacks, house demolitions and killings of unarmed individuals - always front-page material at home and abroad? Why don't we ever make for good, cheerful news? Why are we not contributing to the march of humanity quietly, without too much row and fuss, like other peoples do around the world, in Asia, Latin America and Africa? Why are we boring ourselves and others senseless?"

There is a variety of reasons for what the Arabs have come to, including the long and painful history of colonisation and, more specifically, the Arab-Israeli conflict over Palestine, he wrote.

But the sad thing is that Arabs have tied their whole destiny to the outcome of the Arab-Israeli conflict without developing their assets - economically, militarily or technologically - to have an edge in that conflict. And to this day they haven't, he concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk