x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

World powers play waiting game on Syria

The West is waiting for the Assad regime to kill "extremist" rebels, an Arabic-language columnist says. Other topics: Hizbollah and Turkey.

World powers wait for the Syrian regime to kill 'extremist rebels' before taking concrete action

No one tried to stop the Syrian regime when its forces, assisted by 2,000 Hizbollah fighters, besieged the town of Qusayr and recaptured it from the rebels after nearly three weeks of fierce fighting, according to Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

Nor will anyone try to stop the bloodshed when the regime of president Bashar Al Assad launches its next offensive to recapture Aleppo, again with the involvement of Hizbollah, the editor wrote yesterday in a front-page column titled Qusair is not Benghazi.

"The heart-rending wails and calls for help that we once heard regularly on satellite news channels have all but disappeared, because the majority of these channels are implicated in one way or another in this conspiracy," Atwan wrote.

The Russians and the Americans have a deal to allow jihadist factions fighting in Qusayr and other places in Syria to be "physically eliminated" before the Geneva 2 conference is held - which explains the deliberate delays by the US and the EU in supplying the Syrian opposition with weapons.

"In plain words, Qusayr is not Benghazi [in Libya], because the fighters in Qusayr are members of jihadist factions including Al Nusra Front, Ahrar Al Sham, Jaysh Al Mujahideen and Soqoor Al Sham," the editor said.

In Benghazi, the situation was different when international powers decided to move in and help the rebels topple the regime of Muammar Qaddafi. To begin with, Libya is rich in oil, and the rebel movement there was comparatively feeble, fighting an incompetent regime.

"For Nato forces, a casualty-free victory was guaranteed. But more importantly, Libya is far away from Palestine, and it did not really matter who was going to rule it when the regime falls, so long as the oil kept flowing into European refineries," Atwan wrote.

"That isn't the case in Syria, where the Assad regime is not weak and enjoys the support of the army and regional powers - like Iran, Hizbollah, Iraq and Russia - that have emphasised time and again that they will never let the regime fall."

The political settlement that is hoped to come out of the Geneva 2 conference will "have to trample on the bodies of Islamist fighters, regardless of the party that will do the killing", he said.

In the meantime, international and regional powers have been "playing" with the Syrian armed opposition, and it seems that some opposition figures have "taken the bait", gullibly trusting western and Arab promises that the regime's downfall could be achieved in a matter of weeks or several months.

In fact, the opposition and the world must know that "a political settlement is the only way to save Syria, or what is left of it", Atwan argued.

Iran agenda stretches Hizbollah too thinly

It seems hard to imagine that Iran, which is vying to acquire a competitive edge in the warfare industry and nuclear energy production, hasn't give sufficient consideration to the level of exhaustion to which it is subjecting its military arm, Hizbollah, by involving it in the conflict in Syria, observed Nabil Abu Monsef in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

"Hizbollah has never been stretched thinner or on so many fronts. In parallel to its heavy engagement in battle in Syria, it continues to extensively mobilise its forces in the south of Lebanon. At the same time, it has to deal with the repercussions from its involvement, reflected in the form of a horrifying escalation of sectarian and security tensions," the writer noted.

It is clear that the militant group's priorities, which only recently had it in a state of alert to defend the Iranian nuclear programme against a possible Israeli strike, have shifted radically to protecting the Al Assad regime from collapse.

But for how long can Iran afford to drag Hizbollah into a power-depleting confrontation that may or may not serve its purpose?

On Monday, the Gulf Cooperation Council decided to adopt several measures against Hizbollah members in the council's member states.

"It is feared that eventually, it would be the Shia Lebanese citizens in GCC states that pay the price for the Iranian-GCC conflict," the writer warned.

Erdogan walks in the footsteps of dictators

The reactions of the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the ongoing demonstrations in major Turkish cities are reminiscent of many a fallen Arab leader, said Faysal Jalloul, a contributing columnist with the Sharjah-based paper Al Khaleej.

"Just like them, he refuses to acknowledge any legitimacy for the demands of the thousands of citizens who took to the streets clamouring for his resignation," noted the writer. "Like Arab dictators, he blames the popular outrage on an 'internal and external conspiracy', and just like them, he threatens his opponents with counter-demonstrations."

Mr Erdogan bases his actions on legitimacy that he deems eternal just because it came out of the ballot boxes. He indignantly challenges US and European criticism and advice to acquiesce to the people's demands.

The angry public is apprehensive of a potential Islamification of their cherished republic. They fear the loss of achievements they won through years of struggle. Mr Erdogan seems to have fallen for the temptations of political Islam that imply adopting a condescending rhetoric and fiercely resisting any dissent.

The protests may not depose Mr Erdogan's government, but they have certainly created a strong opposition wave that will swell bigger before the next elections.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk