x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Time to think about the worst-case scenario

As things keep getting worse in Arab Spring countries, an Arabic-language columnist says, optimism is evaporating. Other topics today: Africa being exploited, and the problem of Syria.

In Egypt as in Syria, it is time to ponder the worst-case scenarios of the Arab Spring fallout

These are frustrating and disappointing times for everyone who wagered on the street's momentum and the revolutionary spirit in the Arab world, ever since the popular uprising in Tunisia put an end to Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's rule, wrote columnist Iyad Abou Chakra in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"More than a year into what we called the Arab Spring, here we find ourselves like a cheated husband … even worse, like a husband who cheated himself," he said. "What we are witnessing nowadays tacross the Arab Spring map is close to a worst-case scenario," he added.

The region is divided between two options: on the one hand political Islam that hijacked the outcomes of the revolutions and is trying to monopolise power, on one hand, and on the other hand states that succeeded, Egypt for instance, in bending with the winds of change, so that inexperienced and greedy Islamists led themselves into the traps of politics.

In the case of Egypt, regardless of the final outcome of the second round of presidential elections, the writer said, the prospects are dim.

It is appalling that Egyptian citizens, who believe they had made their revolution, would have to choose between a candidate of the Mubarak regime and a candidate of the Islamist movement seeking to implement an Islamic system in a country that is home to 10 million Christians.

"In Egypt, it is safe to say that any hope in a swift delivery of the civil state is quickly fading," suggested the writer.

"The situation promises to become worse in the future, as the Copts can be expected to strongly back the old regime's candidate - and reasonably so - simply because he is the alternative to the Islamic project."

Moving along the Arab Spring map to Syria, where the international monitoring team has decided to stop monitoring to protect its members, the disaster is bordering on farce.

The UN team was formed in the first place to ensure Damascus's adherence to the Kofi Annan initiative that provides, among other things, for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of the army from the streets and the start of political negotiations for a transition of power.

"As usual, Damascus agreed to the plan with the sole intention of aborting and circumventing it," the writer added.

This was precisely what happened. Since the team began its mission, more than 3,000 have fallen in Syria. The massacres throughout various parts of the country have taken on the new form of sectarian genocide.

The Assad regime's atrocities seem to give weight to the argument that the regime is in fact spearheading the Iranian sectarian project, aiming to segment the Middle East region into religious and sectarian cantons.


Africa suffers as West fails to fulfil promises

For centuries the West has been talking big about developing Africa, but poverty and misery are still on the rise there, wrote the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial yesterday.

Two day ago, the US president Barack Obama announced "a new-old strategy" for developing the African continent, the writer said. "What is novel in this declaration is the timing, while the knowable is the repeated broken promises to Africans."

This announcement comes following China's increasing interest in the African continent, which is only natural. China is an emerging economic power in need of large amounts of raw materials. However, competing nations seek by any means to maintain their sphere of influence.

But China expected such resistance, and in a bid to avoid a costly conflict of interest, it sought appeasement by announcing cooperation with the US in Africa.

"Investment is not the yardstick for development [in Africa]. It is the nature of investment which tells theft from development," the writer observed. In the past, colonising countries did invest a lot of money in the continent, but this was meant to improve infrastructure to help in exporting raw materials.

"The litmus test for any strategy in Africa is quite easy," he said. "It is to build manufacturing industries that can allow Africans to use their own resources while exporting a certain amount to other economies."

Mission halt in Syria a blow to peace effort

The suspension last week of the international observer mission in Syria "is a hard blow for the months-long effort to negotiate a peaceful solution that would spare the country a crushing civil war", wrote columnist Mazen Hammad in yesterday's edition of the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

The suspension might also be a prelude to the West's declaration of failure to make a diplomatic breakthrough in the country, the columnist said.

In turn, he went on, this would bring to an end the pressure that has been exerted so far on the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, to leave power.

What about next steps? Experts are warning that the use of military force against the Syrian army - an option that the West and Nato have consistently shunned - would lead to a civilian disaster.

With that option off the table, there is basically no foreseeable backup plan to resolve the long-running crisis.

"Washington's main fear is that direct intervention in the Syrian crisis, which has turned out to be the bloodiest of the Arab Spring, might lead to a spillover into other nations in the Middle East."

Meanwhile, the Russians are still blocking any UN Security Council action, citing Nato's exploitation of international resolutions on Libya last year.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk