x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

US and Syria have own goals in closer ties

The announcement by the White House of the return to Damascus by a US ambassador was a new breakthrough in the stalemate in US-Syrian relations, wrote Zine al Shami in the Kuwaiti Arabic newspaper Al Rai.

The announcement by the White House of the return to Damascus by a US ambassador was a new breakthrough in the stalemate in US-Syrian relations, which were on the brink of a total rupture after the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, wrote Zine al Shami in the Kuwaiti Arabic newspaper Al Rai. The move was predictable after a series of encounters between Syrian and US officials in Damascus, the latest and the most important of which was the meeting between the US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and the Syrian president Bashar al Assad. It was also predictable in light of the new diplomatic approach adopted by the US administration, which privileges dialogue and the search for common ground.

Damascus was very happy with this long-awaited development in the two countries' relations, particularly after the shock it received two months ago when the White House decided to prolong some of the sanctions imposed on Syria because of its alleged help for fighters infiltrating Iraq. According to the columnist, Washington is no doubt seeking through the ongoing dialogue to bring Syria back to the international community, but it is also watching Damascus and hoping for a positive response, namely a break from its close alliance with Iran as well as with groups on the US terrorist list such as Hizbollah and Hamas.

The Jordanian daily Addustour ran an opinion piece under the title, "Has the world abandoned Israel?" by Hilmi al Asmar, who says that it is too early to answer this "serious question", but voices his belief that the international community has indeed started to distance itself from Israel. Signs showing that Israel is losing support first appeared after the fall of the Soviet Union's communist bloc and became clearer after the US invasion of Iraq. After Israel's defeat in its 2006 war against Hizbollah and recent aggression in Gaza, efforts at distancing became more urgent as it lost its status as the West's strategic "treasure" in the region.

However, the real blow that put the world's support to Israel into question was the astounding election result which gave the ultranationalist party led by Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu, 15 seats in the Knesset. This result pushed the US National Intelligence Council to order a study into the demographic structure of the Israel population. Accordingly to the study and figures from the Israeli census bureau, the US administration reached the belief that Israel will not be able to play the strategic role that serves the American interests after 2030 because the majority of the population, and consequently of voters, will be from the ultra-orthodox community, whose members do not serve in the army.

No one can ignore the difficulties Saad Hariri, the newly appointed prime minister in Lebanon, will face to form his new government given the complex political mosaic and the diversity of the country's demographic structure, wrote Sobhi Zuaiter in the Saudi Arabic daily Al Watan. Although the results of the June 7 legislative poll gave a clear advantage to the outgoing majority, represented by the March 14 coalition, with a fall in the popularity of the opposition, the latter still demands that the "blocking third" principle be maintained.

The opposition, which gathers in its ranks Hizbollah, Amal, the Baath party, the Syrian Social National party and Michel Aoun's reformist movement, argues that the weapons that allowed it to obtain the "blocking third" position during the Doha talks following Hizbollah's invasion of West Beirut in May 2008 are still in its possession. In the meantime, Hariri is talking about a national unity government, avoiding any reference to a consensus cabinet which would concede a blocking third. However, the opposition is not the only obstacle to the formation of the new Lebanese government, as the distribution of ministerial portfolios will not be an easy task. In this regard, notes the author, Hariri's allies may well prove to be more intransigent than his enemies. His past experience in this context and during the parliamentary elections was not encouraging.

The world financial crisis was fatal for a number of American enterprises, despite the country's volumes of literature, theory, guidelines and rules stocked in the libraries and universities, wrote Abdullah al Seliti in the Kuwaiti daily Al Raha.

Five US banks have been declared legally bankrupt lately, which raises the total number of financial institutions which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to 45.

However, bankruptcy in the US does not mean that depositors lose their assets as is the case in Arab countries, because the US has a deposit guarantee organisation. "We should draw lessons from the American banks to take whatever measures are needed to protect individual and companies' assets and deposits," the columnist wrote. He also recommended against any high risk investment or behaviour that was likely to undermine national banks operation or weaken them.

* Digest compiled by Mohamed Naji mnaji@thenationala.e