x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Western media focus on jihadism sidelines the fight for democracy in Syria

Militant Islamists in Syria have sidelined the real issue of the Syrians seeking to regain their freedom, writes Walid Abi Murshed in Asharq Al Awsat. Other views: Samih Saab (Annahar) on Israel and Al Khaleej 's editorial on the peace negotiations.

Three years have passed since the Syrian people took to the streets to clamour for their stolen freedoms and democratic rights, said the columnist Walid Abi Murshed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

And yet, Bashar Al Assad’s regime continues to hold onto ­autocratic power despite the deaths of more than 130,000 people and with millions more displaced internally or in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

Syria’s infrastructure has been devastated and its economy has collapsed but the overriding issue in the western media coverage of developments in the crisis is the ongoing senseless struggle between extremist Islamist groups and their “emirs” on Syrian soil.

“It is noteworthy to remember that parasitical factions that seek to take advantage of security failures to roll out their self-advancement plans are a phenomenon that has always accompanied popular revolutions, but in most cases, failed to distort their objectives,” the writer said.

But he said the real question to be raised here is: does the rise of extremist groups on the sidelines of the popular revolution cancel out the core issue, the basic liberties of the Syrian people?

It is no secret that foreign “volunteers” have joined the ranks of warring factions on both sides of the military confrontation in Syria.

But side altercations between these infiltrators, namely the ­Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and Jabhat Annusra, have all but eclipsed news of the real revolution. Western media has been eager to cover the bloody liquidation battles between extremist militants, turning the extremist wars into a political gain for the West.

“Meanwhile, western media continue to ignore the political circumstances that facilitated, and most probably orchestrated, the immersion of takfiri factions into a popular uprising in which they have no claim,” Saghiya said.

“The political ‘pardon’ the Syrian regime issued shortly after the outbreak of the uprising allowed hundreds of radicals and extremists to regain freedom and reorganise and arm their factions,” he explained.

The international media’s focus on this phenomenon suggests an attempt to justify the democratic world’s failure to champion the pro-democracy revolution in Syria, especially as extremists succeeded in transforming it into a regional conflict and gave President Assad a convenient excuse to continue his brutal aggression against the terrorism that these factions represent.

Democratic liberties and political rights are no longer the main cause in Syria.

The Assad regime skilfully morphed the cause into a universal war on extremism and terrorism, especially when the US couldn’t find any strategic value in staging a military intervention in the war-torn country, he wrote.

Will Israel help resolve the conflict in Syria?

Other than the Palestinian cause, what would possibly draw Israel directly into the Syrian conflict? That was the question posed by columnist Samih Saab in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

“Israel finds the region’s situation most favourable for playing the role that the Arab countries and Turkey have long been demanding the US and Nato assume in Syria – striking the Syrian regime forces to allow Jabhat Annusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and what is left of the Free Syrian Army to move forward to Damascus and other Syrian cities that are still in the grip of the Syrian government,” he said.

“But three years into the Syrian conflict, it has become obvious that the Jihadists alone are unable to topple the Syrian regime. In the meantime, the regime’s allies in Moscow are not planning to turn against Mr Al Assad and Iran is adamant in supporting Damascus. Hence, Israel is left as the only recourse for a solution.”

Israel and the Arab states unanimously agree that such a quest today threatens to open the gates of hell in the region.

“However, Israel’s price is exorbitant: the Arab states’ blessing to terminate the Palestinian cause once and for all,” the writer opined.

“Exorbitant, yes, but not out of the question as these countries seem willing to go to any length to get rid of the Syrian regime and reduce Iran’s clout in the region.”

More talks help Israel but hurt Palestinians

The US Secretary of State John Kerry is leaning towards extending the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations for another nine months without offering any explanation for his decision, said the Sharjah-based daily Al Khaleej.

“Mr Kerry failed to mention that during the past nine months of talks that began in July and were supposed to reach a final settlement, Israel intentionally sabotaged the talks and exploited them to further the settlement and Judaisation operations in various parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem,” the paper’s editorial noted.

Mr Kerry is aware Israel only wants a resolution that serves its interests, turning Palestinians into scattered groups living in isolated areas that would be collectively recognised as a state but devoid of any form of sovereignty and freedom. He aims to buy Israel more time to finalise its expansionism while the Palestinian Authority remains in limbo.

With much of the Arab World in a state of division and weakness, the Palestinians find themselves forced to acquiesce and wait.

But investing in further negotiations would be costly for the Palestinians, the paper opined.

“The PA must acquiesce to the will of its people. Only they can decide what form the struggle should take, for they are neither weary nor bored yet.”

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem