x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

This means the end for Assad

General Al Hassan's assassination in Beirut signals the beginning of the end for the Assad regime, an Arabic-language columnist writes. Other topics in today's opinion roundup: the Arab Spring's aftermath and the Israel lobby in US politics.

General Al Hassan's assassination in Beirut signals beginning of the end for Assad regime

Lebanon is still reeling from Friday's deadly Beirut car bomb that targeted intelligence chief General Wissam Al Hassan, and from the outburst of sectarian violence that ensued across the country.

"Only a few hours after the assassination, high state officials were insinuating that the culprit was known," said columnist Ali Hamadeh in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

During a meeting with the cabinet - which includes a number of pro-Bashar Al Assad ministers - president Michel Suleiman said Gen Al Hassan was murdered because he had unveiled former minister Michel Samaha's conspiracy to execute bombings in the northern region of the country. Shortly after that, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who holds close political and personal relations with the Assads, reiterated the president's statements.

"These are two of the highest authorities in the Lebanese state who let down their reservations and issued what seems like an explicit accusation towards the Syrian regime in the murder of Wissam Al Hassan. This is an undeniable fact and a message to the Lebanese people intimating that their leaders are aware of the culprit's identity," the writer added.

It is indeed a reality that shouldn't be disregarded, for despite Mr Mikati's tight relationship with the Syrian president, he does seem deeply affected this week.

He finally understood that security can never be achieved in Lebanon as long as Bashar Al Assad is in office in Syria. Gen Al Hassan, who was responsible for the prime minister's security, was himself hit with relative ease in the heart of Beirut.

For his part, in a column in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, Saudi journalist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed said the assassination is likely to bring Mr Al Assad down.

"The assassination of the Lebanese intelligence chief who uncovered Syria's sabotage schemes in his country will convince many that Bashar Al Assad's remaining in power would mean more killings, terrorism and threats in the region. His ejection is essential for Syria's sake and for regional and international stability," he opined.

The crime and the way it was executed prove that the Assad regime, although wounded, is still dangerous. All the calamities that have fallen on the region recently - Gen Al Hassan's murder, the shelling of Turkey, the targeting Lebanese towns and the alarmingly growing role of Al Qaeda in Syria - can all be attributed to the delay in providing support to the Syrian revolution.

"The more sluggish the efforts to unseat Mr Al Assad are, the stronger his chances to somehow retain power, or part thereof, possibly in an independent statelet which would allow him to continue to terrorise the region and the world," added Al Rashed.


Side effects of Arab uprisings still play out

Each transformation has some side effects that must be fought and warned against, wrote Khairi Mansour in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

The uprisings that have swept several Arab countries have offered some samples of such side effects: looting of banks and museums, burning books and plunder of private and state properties, the writer noted.

But this is not new. Russia's transformation after 1905 offered a good example of these undesirable effects. One of the anarchists back then demanded that the Russian author Alexander Pushkin be tossed into the sea, and that the books of Russia's most outstanding authors be burnt.

Some people thought that names that have emerged on the sidelines of the Arab Spring, such as Shabiha and Baltagiya, are restricted to those people who have found in chaos a good opportunity to plunder. But there is much more to the concept than that.

There are those who have used the turmoil to destroy decades and centuries of cultural heritage that has nothing to do with changing political regimes, he went on. "Levelling false accusation against iconic figures from our civilisation has nothing to do with any transformation, or any spring," he observed.

When the side effects are worse than the disease itself, the treatment should be administered with caution and with possible complications in mind.

Will pro-Israel lobby win the US election?

Why has media mogul Rupert Murdoch accused the US president of being disloyal to Israel? Will such accusations affect the line of the pro-Israel lobby in the US and abroad? These are the main questions asked by Emil Amen in an article for the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan yesterday.

Two weeks ago, Mr Murdoch Tweeted that the re-election of Barack Obama would be a "nightmare for Israel," and accused Vice President Joe Biden of lying about his relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reported the writer.

During the US presidential campaign, a large section of American backers of Israel, such as billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has been openly trying to prevent the re-election of Mr Obama, supporting the Republican challenger Mitt Romney, he noted.

A recent opinion poll conducted by the Christian Science Monitor, showed that 59 per cent of the Jewish community supports Mr Obama, and 35 per cent are for Mr Romney. Mr Obama's 59 per cent is a clear decline from the 78 per cent support he had four years ago among the Jewish community, the writer observed.

Do these figures mean that lobbying in favour of the Republican challenger will have an effect on the result of the election November 6? Or will Mr Obama's eloquence help him?

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk