x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

UN mission is useless

The UN observers and Kofi Annan might as well just leave Syria, an Arabic-language commentator says. Two other pieces covered today deal with Egypt's election.

Inept UN observer mission must leave Syria and make way for realistic action to protect lives

Last week's massacre of 108 people, almost half of them children, in the Syrian village of Houla should leave no doubt in the minds of Arab and western diplomats that the Syrian regime couldn't care less about a political resolution to 15 months of turmoil and bloodshed, Emirati journalist Mohammed Al Hammadi wrote in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad yesterday.

Everyone involved now has come to the same conclusion, which is that the regime of President Bashar Al Assad has no plans to stop the killing machine, the writer said.

"In fact, the regime now casually slays civilians inside their own homes or in front of international observers, making the very presence of those observers a real source of shame for the United Nations and the international community at large."

If the UN observers can't even inhibit full-scale massacres like the one perpetrated in Houla, the writer went on, it would be better for them to return where they came from.

"We were expecting that the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, would make some attempt to save face and preserve what remains of his institution's charisma," Al Hammadi wrote.

Instead, Mr Ban simply re-dispatch Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, to express yet again his "shock" and to sit with the Syrian foreign minister, Walid Al Muallem, and ask him about how it all happened and who might have done it.

"We were really expecting Mr Ban to, first, recall the Syrian observer mission immediately after seeing the victims of the massacre and, second, start to consider more realistic ways to ensure the protection of Syrian children and other civilians," the writer said.

The Syrian regime has been trying for months, without any success, to make the world believe that it is innocent of all the killings involving civilians, which it prefers to blame on "terrorists" and "thugs".

The regime has also been trying to show, through state-controlled media, that the Syrian people are fine, going to work in the morning and dining out at night.

Meanwhile, the international community is still desperately hanging on to Mr Annan's six-point peace plan, for fear that its failure will unleash a full-blown civil war between the pro-Assad forces and the Free Syrian Army, the opposition guerrillas. But is this sound thinking?

"What would you call what's already unfolding in Syria? How would you describe a situation where close to 30 Syrian citizens are murdered every day? Well, an accurate way to describe it is: a state of war … It may be an uneven war, but a war all the same."

And what the Syrian people need to survive this war is not "observer missions", but rather concrete civilian protection plans, the writer concluded.

Old regime must not be allowed to return

By the revolutionary yardstick, wrote columnist Wael Kandil in the Egyptian daily Al Shorouk,

you have to take Ahmed Shafiq out of the equation.

Mr Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak's crony, was the mastermind of the notorious "battle of the camel", in which Mr Mubarak's goons on camels and horseback attacked protesters in Tahrir Square.

After that, the writer said, Egypt's election is a matter of give and take. "You can seek legally-binding guarantees from the Muslim Brotherhood candidate … and obtain clear-cut answers on daunting questions, including the constitution."

At the present moment, true sacrifices are required from all who believe in the revolution, so as not to "wake up to a nightmare of the Mubarak regime being reproduced."

The spontaneous demonstrations that erupted in the Egyptian governorates, right after the final result of presidential election's first round was announced, sent a clear message that Egypt would not return to normality unless the revolution achieves all its major objectives.

"Needless to say, the number one goal [of the revolution] has been, and will always be, to clean the country of the Mubarak regime's corruption," the writer observed.

"And put a permanent stop on the old regime along with its figures and values, because of which the country has bottomed out in every sphere."

Egyptians not to blame for the election result

Blame for the Egyptian presidential election result should be put not on the Egyptian people, but on the revolutionary forces that turned a blind eye to all calls for union in the lead-up to election, argued Emad Eddin Hussein in the Egyptian paper Al Shorouk.

Some pompous voices on social network websites have accused the people of betraying the revolution and its martyrs by voting for the presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq.

This accusation is not true, the writer asserts. "The vast majority of Egyptian people voted for revolution and not for the counter-revolution, as the naive imagine."

If we combine the votes earned by the candidates who took part in or backed the revolution, the result is 75 per cent - an overwhelming majority. Even if we don't deem Amr Mousa to be pro-revolution, the percentage is still above two-thirds.

Under other circumstances, candidates Aboul Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabahi could have made it to the run-off, or one of them might even have won final victory in the first round.

The Egyptian people were widely divided.

"We are all to blame for not expending enough efforts to convince those who voted for Mr Shafiqthat he was not an appropriate candidate."


* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni