x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Time for intervention in Syria has come

The next step in the struggle for Syria is to get the Americans, Europeans and Friends of the Syrian People to help finish it, a commentator says. Other topics: Sharia law and Iranian cinema in Egypt.

The new Syrian coalition truly represents the people, so the time for intervention has come

The agreement that led to the birth of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, reached on Monday in Doha, stipulated that no negotiations be held with the Assad regime, columnist Rajeh Al Khouri noted in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

It also included a pledge to work towards bringing down the regime and dismantling its structure, he went on.

The language of this agreement makes it clear that any talk about a Russian-US plan to reach a political solution with the regime will not be considered.

Further evidence of this is that previous talk of a transitional government in Damascus has been completely forsaken and replaced by a decision to form a provisional government, that will have its headquarters in the liberated zones of Syria.

"Everything that Qatar had offered to the Syrian opposition in the past is dwarfed in comparison with what it has achieved in collaboration with the Saudis, the Americans and the Turks," said the writer.

The unification of the ranks of the opposition opens up a more acceptable political prospect, one that could be a good basis for more serious support for the opposition.

This is why Qatar was keen to host the conference and used all possible means of persuasion, and even pressure, to put an end, at last, to the division that has so far prevented full-scale international intervention in support of the revolution.

As soon as formation of the coalition, and the appointment of Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib at its helm, were announced, acknowledgement from most Arab and international powers poured in, the columnist noted.

Nonetheless, the Arab League fell short of a unanimous vote of confidence, as some Arab nations are reluctant to support the revolution.

The next step now is to get the Americans, Europeans and the Friends of the Syrian People - governments whose envoys will be convening in Tokyo at the end of this month - to offer the new coalition adequate assistance to finish the struggle.

Following the announcement the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, stated that no one could delay action any longer on the basis that opposition is divided.

But in any case, the whole process will hinge on what the international community is willing to put forward, which remains to be seen, considering the positions of Russia, China and Iran.

"The Doha agreement presents a political body for a Syrian opposition, one the world can accept and deal with.

"But it is also expected to generate an escalation of violence on the part of the regime," added the writer.

Mr Al Assad isn't remotely ready to step down. He made that clear last week.

Pro-Sharia protesters are a danger to Sharia

Many and forceful as they are, anti-Sharia advocates are not the real threat to Sharia law, Fahmi Huwaidi argued in the Doha-based newspaper Al Sharq.

Rather, it is some champions of Sharia who pose the threat to it.

Last Monday, while several thousand men and women rallied in Cairo's Tahrir Square demanding that Sharia law be introduced in Egypt, Al Ahram newspaper carried a story entitled 40 million Egyptians in danger.

The story said half of Egypt's villages have no sewerage system. People eat produce and drink water polluted with sewage residues and beset by lethal diseases.

The story said it will take a very large sum of money and from 10 to 15 years to solve this problem.

The people who took to Tahrir Square turned their back on Egypt's serious woes, having a one-track mind: implementing God's law. That has been their "magic bullet" solution.

That might have been understandable had their words been put into action to alleviate some of the people's sufferings.

But all they have sought to implement of God's law is to get it laid down more explicitly in the constitution, as though this were "a matter of a literary or rhetorical nature, whose drafting makes the difference, and has no bearing on reality and history".

These newcomers to Egypt's arena have been so isolated from reality that their understanding of Islam has been reduced to appearances.

Egypt must be open to Iran's acclaimed films

Iranian cinema has earned audiences and honours worldwide, and giving Egyptians a look at these films would greatly help to melt away the international discord created by politicians, Egyptian film critic Tarek El Shenawi argued in the Cairo-based paper Al Tahrir.

"Today I joined the Egyptian delegation, the largest ever to visit Iran after years of coldness between the two countries at all levels. Culture, notably cinema, has paid the price of this alienation," he wrote.

The late screenwriter Saad Eldin Wahba, chairman of the Cairo Festival 20 years ago, came under withering criticism when he offered a panorama of Iranian cinema. That move was deemed a challenge to political authority.

Yet he was the only one who sought to give Egyptian audiences an insight into a cinema that had impressed the world.

The time is ripe to defuse the political tension with Iran. When it comes to art, the true value lies in the thoughts of the mind and the feelings of the heart; it is not just a matter of attire and headscarf, as some short-sighted critics think.

Iranian filmmaking has won acclaim and prizes on a global scale thanks to the "thoughts inside the heads, not the scarves around the heads".


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk