x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

That was a war council in Damascus

The three-party meeting of the Syrian and Iranian presidents and the Hizbollah chief on Fridat was to devise counter-attack plans and assign tasks in the event of an Israeli offensive on one or all parties, wrote Abdelbari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi.

The three-party meeting that took place in Damascus on Friday gathering the Syrian president Bashar al Assad, the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah was a war council to devise counterattack plans and assign tasks in the event of an Israeli offensive on one or all parties, wrote Abdelbari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi. "The timing of the meeting, the way it was undertaken and the ensuing press conference that was held at its conclusion, all point to a strategic coalition being reinforced. This is the build-up of a new front that will spearhead the confrontation with the US-Israeli alliance and whichever Arab countries that may, expressly or implicitly, be affiliated with it."

The Iranian president said he expects war to break out somewhere between spring and summer of this year. Meanwhile, the Hizbollah chief vowed to strike the Israeli capital, its airports and power stations if Israel dared to attack Beirut's critical infrastructure. "Indeed, we are being exposed to a new discourse here, an unprecedented sense of self-confidence and an unheard-of preparedness for retaliation." For its part, the Syrian leadership appears to have made up its mind to close off the US administration's "trite and cheap" flirtation with Damascus and opted for bolstering its tactical partnership with Tehran.

It is a matter of several days before the Iraqi people go to the polls and have their say on their country's political future. These national elections may bring Iraq great opportunities to thrive and develop, but they may also be the country's last elections, commented Abdul Rahman al Rashed in the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat. "The clatter we're hearing and the heated media battles and polemics currently happening in Iraq in the lead-up to the elections prefigure a decisive outcome of the ballot polls. I don't think that the past four years, during which an elected government was in power under Nouri al Maliki, will be reduplicated even if Mr al Maliki himself is reappointed prime minister."

That's because a number of factors on the ground will be changing as of next year. Most important of all, US troops will pull out of the country. And the US presence, besides the protection it offers to the opponents of the post-occupation regime, has had a political influence balancing out the competing forces.   "Doubtless, the new foundations that were laid after the fall of Saddam's regime won't be easy to preserve in the absence of a US umbrella." Still, whichever leadership ends up with the majority of the votes, the upcoming elections carry the hope that the rocking Iraqi ship will finally berth safely.

Two months ago, Christians from Jerusalem, mostly clergymen from various sects, issued a statement about the dreadful conditions that Jerusalem and all Palestinian territories are facing under the Israeli occupation, wrote Redwan al Sayid, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Lebanon, in the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad.

Another statement then came from the Vatican diagnosing the status of "Eastern Christians", as it labelled them, according to four main factors: the declining numbers of Christians in the Levant region due to intensive immigration; pressure Christians are subjected to in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Iraq; marginalisation and violence they are facing in other Arab states due to the rise of fundamentalist ideologies; and major schisms within the Arab Christian community resulting from the indifference of Christians of the western world.

A one-day conference was then convened under the theme of "Living Together: Christians and Muslims in the Middle East." "I noted that Christians and Muslims in the Levant suffer from three main issues: the rise of fundamentalism, the perpetuity of the totalitarian state and the dreadfulness of the Zionist regime." True, Israeli occupation has oppressed and humiliated Muslims and Christians alike, but Christians felt it most, precisely because they are a minority.

"Israel holds in captivity more than 10,000 Palestinians as part of a scheme that no imperial power has undertaken before," wrote Rimonda Hawa al Taweel in the comment pages of the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds. Locking up such a large number of Palestinians has multifarious implications. First, it bespeaks Israel's ill will regarding any peace initiative.

"It seems that Israel wants to make peace with itself rather than with its 'enemies'. For peace would cost it the critical foe that unifies it internally." Second, with so many of their loved ones in jail, Palestinians will quite naturally never stop their resistance or relinquish their struggle for freedom. Israel wrongly thinks those 10,000 Palestinians are "hostages" that will dishearten the resistance, but the exact opposite is true.

These inhumane incarcerations rather sow the seeds of a deeper hatred for Israel in the next generations. If Israel doesn't care about love because, as it claims, it can always command respect through intimidation, it can never root out abhorrence. "Let's open the Palestinian prisoner files to the whole world, so it may read, learn and then decide." * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi @Email:aelbahi@thenational.ae