x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Western states finally expel Syrian envoys, but too little, too late

The West's expulsion of Syrian envoys is too little, too late, an Arabic language columnist writes in today's Arabic news digest. Other topics: Egypt's next president and the Flame malware virus.

In recent days a wave of expulsions have targeted the ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives of Syria's Al Assad regime in a number of western countries, noted Tareq Al Homayed, the editor of the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.

If this had all happened eight months ago, the writer observed, then it would have carried some meaning, and its repercussions would have been felt by the regime.

"But to expel all those Assad ambassadors and diplomats from western capitals at this time, 14 months into the Syrian revolution, and after more than 13,000 people have been killed, is simply useless," he went on to argue.

In diplomatic protocol, the expulsion of diplomats and ambassadors is a step aimed at isolating a regime, especially a dictatorship, and marking it as illegitimate.

In the case of Syria, the Gulf states and some other Arab countries took just this step some months ago.

Even the Arab League, despite all of its shortcomings, managed to suspend Syria's membership.

For the western world and Turkey to take action only this week. therefore, is indeed to no avail and too late.

In fact, some pundits argue that the western decision this week to dismiss the Damascus regime's diplomats also implies that the international community, despite the successive massacres, is still not ready to begin taking any really serious actions against the tyrant in Damascus and his regime.

As a matter of fact, only a few days after the appalling images of the Houla massacre shook the world, another gruesome slaughter took place in Syria as the bodies of 13 people who were shot in the head with their hands tied were discovered.

The international community seems unwilling to take, or incapable of taking, real military action to stop Mr Al Assad, especially considering that the US president, Barack Obama, is preoccupied with his re-election campaign.

Therefore it becomes imperative for the Arab and western worlds to at least address firmly the Russian support of the regime.

"Mr Al Assad isn't the only one to blame for what is going on in his country. Moscow bears a big part of the responsibility too," added the writer.

"Their unwavering support to the regime has crossed all limits.

"They are well aware of it, and their diplomatic rhetoric to defend their ally is growing weaker," the writer went on to say.

Therefore, if the world is unable to take military action or to impose buffer zones within Syria to protect deserting officers and officials, the international community as well as the Arabs must take any form of action that could result in weakening the regime.

Egypt's next president 'is just a cupboard'

Asked by a friend if he is fearful about the result of the run-off election this month, journalist Omar Taher, in a satirical column in the Egyptian daily Al Tahrir, recalled the time he took part in a storytelling workshop for children.

A mother elected to narrate the story Fizou in the Cupboard, about a boy who, having decided to fool with his peers at his birthday party, hid in a cupboard.

When he was found, his mother explained to him that his behaviour was dangerous. But he did not see why.

"How would you breath if the door got closed tight, Fizou?" she asked. He answered that he would have made an air hole.

"OK, how about the dark?" she asked. "I would illuminate with my mobile," he replied.

"Listen nobody gets in the cupboard, are you a pair of trousers?" "Yes I am," he exclaimed. "So you won't be scared?" "Why should I? This is just a cupboard."

This was an instructive evening for me, the writer said. "If Mr Shafiq tries to lock us in, we would open a hole to breath through … if the Brotherhood brings darkness, we would illuminate with our mobiles … if mobiles go dead, we are trousers unhurt by the dark."

"You mean you are not scared of the next president," Taher's friend asked.

"Why should I? It is just a cupboard," Taher answered.

'Flame' attack reveals evils of technology

The Flame malware virus strikingly reveals that technology has become a curse fraught with danger, wrote Satei Noureddine in the Lebanese paper Al Safeer.

Flame was disclosed by a Russian company after it struck critical targets in Iran, and earlier infiltrated computer systems in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Sudan and others. The damage done is still mainly unknown, the writer noted.

The virus attack - for which Israel stopped short of claiming responsibility - was meant to infiltrate key Iranian computers.

But this attack "will not be a one-off strike in the cyber warfare raging on many regional fronts."

In all likelihood, reprisals will not be restricted to the lethal weaponry modern technology has brought, and made famous by nations as an alternative to conventional warfare.

The virus, as reported by the Russians and admitted by the Israelis, is unprecedented: "It bears no resemblance to any of the famous viruses known before that would at best penetrate and break down hostile targets.

"If this story is true, which is most likely, it reveals an evil mind and absolute evil of the modern communication networks that have utterly abolished the notion of privacy and confidentiality," the writer noted.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk