x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Why did the Syrians do it?

An Arabic-language commentator wonders why that Turkish fighter was really shot down. Other topics today: The "beer red line" in Egypt, and optimism about Egypt.

If the Syrians knew of Nato's collective-security rule, why did they shoot down that Turkish jet?

In its editorial yesterday the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi commented on the meeting in Luxembourg yesterday of envoys from Nato states.

The meeting was convened at the request of Turkey, after Syria downed a Turkish reconnaissance jet that allegedly penetrated Syrian air space last Friday.

Ankara maintains that Syria intentionally shot down the jet in international airspace, and that it had strayed only momentarily into Syria's territory. But as the diplomats assembled, Nato states seemed to want to adopt a calming rhetoric and avoiding escalation, at least in public, the paper said. "For the Turkish authorities to admit that the downed plane did indeed penetrate Syrian airspace before it fell in regional waters is in itself an indication that tends to contain the matter," opined the paper.

Of course Syria fears that the Nato meeting could lead to a military intervention decision, since Article 5 of Nato's founding treaty provides for immediate retaliation in case of any aggressive actions against any member state. Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Al Makdissi warned that any attack on his country would be firmly countered.

It is still unclear whether the self-restraint policy on the Turkish side is carefully calculated to avoid getting dragged into a Syrian trap of military escalation. Turkey is either reticent to get involved in an untimely war or is covering up an imminent attack agreed upon among Nato members, the paper said.

International legal experts suggest that the incident could be the perfect alibi for a Nato-led attack on Syria without recourse to the UN Security Council.

Meanwhile, officials in Ankara reported that Syrian forces had fired on a second Turkish plane that was searching for the wreckage of the jet that had been downed on Friday.

Surely Syrian legal experts are aware that the attack on the Turkish plane could be viewed as an attack on the Nato alliance as a whole. They must have explained the situation to the decision-makers in Damascus.

"Therefore, the question to be asked here is what are the motives behind the Syrian leadership's decision to down a Turkish plane, knowing that it didn't resort to such actions when Israeli aircraft penetrated Syrian airspace on more than one occasion in the past, and even targeted a number of locations in Syrian territories," the paper said.

The Syrian leadership has been increasingly irritated by Turkey's increasing support for the Free Syrian Army and may have decided to drag its one-time ally into a military confrontation.

It is a step that could shift the pressure off the Assad regime internally by signalling that the country has come under external attack, a development which would shift public attention away from the badly divided internal scene.

"Beer militants" silly opposition to Morsi

Just as there are people who hold bigoted and shallow opinions in the name of religion, so there are others who express trivial ideas under the banner of democracy and liberalism, columnist Wael Kandil argued in the Egypt-based daily Al Shorouk.

"Certain people tend to reduce freedom to extremely superficial aspects, and gauge it by silly yardsticks," the writer said.

A stark example comes from those who have called, through social networking websites, for a protest march against the new president under the slogan "beer is a red line".

The same goes for the often-stated reasons for opposing Mohammed Morsi: that bikinis would be banned on beaches, and shops and hotels would be prohibited from selling alcohol.

"As if the 25 January revolution erupted merely to achieve these ridiculous demands."

Curiously enough, no such militancy from the "beer and bikini advocates" was seen when the real revolutionaries were impressively holding their ground, before the military prosecutor, in defence of detainees' freedoms.

If these people find such issues pivotal at this historic moment, nobody would "deny them the right to set their priorities as they please".

No doubt opposing and supervising a president is an obligation, and everyone will rise against him if he threatens basic rights, but to lower opposition to this level is counterproductive.

Sceptics should give president a chance

Unlike all his predecessors, Mohammed Morsi was democratically elected. This historic milestone must be recognised in spite of all reservations, columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed wrote in the pan-Arab paper Asharq Al Awsat yesterday.

There is some concern about the rise of Islamists to power in the largest Arab country. But "who knows, the rise of the Brotherhood might turn to be a good thing," the writer noted.

Many Islamists have already started to speak a new political language.

They tend to be more practical on political issues, to ensure Egypt has a stable environment in which they can work with other political players.

"Is this is merely lip service or a real paradigm shift? Only time can answer," he said.

But pessimists should give the new president a chance. In his first address to the nation after his victory, he pledged to respect international treaties and seek peace, which is "a very significant statement he was not obliged to make, having already won the election".

Being democratically elected, the Brotherhood has more chance to establish real peace with Israel, and to work toward boosting Egypt's economy and improving Egyptians' life.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk