Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 April 2012
Issue No. 1092
Press review
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Gamal Nkrumah

Permanent scowl

Gamal Nkrumah lists those talking too much about Syria without doing anything about it

The time has come to admit that there is such a thing as too much hypocrisy both among Arabs and in international relations. It is no surprise that this was the overwhelming theme of commentaries this week, and especially concerning Syria.

There is too much noise over Syria but too little practical support from Arabs and the international community alike to resolve the country's crisis. This was the conclusion of commentators across the Arab world. Worse, Arab and international meddling in Syrian affairs has proven to be pernicious, the pundits point out.

'Does the world trust the Syrian people?' was the provocative title of a commentary by the Saudi writer Abdel-Nasser Al-Oteibi in the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat. "I write this article before the convening of the Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul. As the international media purports, the conference is aimed at garnering world support for the plight of the Syrian people and stepping up international support for their struggle to overthrow the government," Al-Oteibi observes.

The Saudi commentator was clearly skeptical of the plan of former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Anan to save Syria from civil war. "What dictator will not take kindly to such a plan?" Al-Oteibi asked.

"What tyrant cannot calculate the political costs and turn down such a plan? This is such a generous offer. Anan's plan is a triumph for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his regime. It is a catastrophe as far as the rebellious Syrians are concerned," Al-Oteibi concludes.

Editor-in-Chief of Syria's ruling Baath Party's mouthpiece Al-Thawra Ali Kassem was dismissive of the Istanbul conference. In an op-ed entitled 'Anan knows his adversaries', Kassem questioned the real motives of those who convened the gathering. "Attempts to thwart and ensure the failure of the Special International Envoy to Syria Kofi Anan are not hidden from anyone," insisted Kassem.

"These depraved designs and sinister plots were all too apparent in the 'Enemies of Syria' conference in Istanbul," wrote Kassem. He vowed that machinations aimed at encouraging a "war of attrition" in Syria were doomed to fail.

The Iraqi writer Abdel-Amir Al-Rokabi takes an equally gloomy view of the Arab Spring. "We are awaiting a revolution of thought and ideas in the aftermath of the people's uprisings in the Arab world," Al-Rokabi surmises the current situation in the Arab countries that have undergone revolution and regime change.

Elias Harfoush writing in Al-Hayat adopts a rather cynical perspective of the direction intra-Arab political infighting is taking. Sectarian considerations and confessional strife is taking precedence over pertinent social and economic issues.

"The fervent reception of Iraqi Deputy President Tarek Al-Hashemi in the Qatari capital Doha, and perhaps after that he would be receiving an equally warm red carpet treatment in other Arab capitals, is a dangerous precedent. It has become abundantly clear that Al-Hashemi's political disagreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has charted a new and dangerous path. After Al-Hashemi's visit to Qatar a new mode of conduct will develop, one in which the power struggles between Kurds, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims will predominate and intensify," extrapolates Harfoush.

It is no coincidence that Al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, has taken refuge in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan where he is out of the clutches of Al-Maliki. The Kurds, of course, are Sunni Muslims.

"This incident reflects the manner in which predominantly Shia political establishment of Iraq has become isolated from the Arab fold. Even if Baghdad hosted the Arab summit, it is far from friendly with its Arab neighbours. A summit in which far fewer than a third of Arab leaders showed up."

"What I find particularly puzzling," Harfoush concedes, is that "Al-Maliki inherits a government that was similar in its grossness and cruelty with the Syrian regime. I find it astounding that Al-Maliki can bring himself to defend the Syrian regime."

Why the double standards? That seems to be a complex question that other commentators note. They come to the conclusion that it is not only Arab regimes that are hypocritical, but also Western governments.

On an international note, the Egyptian writer Salah Salem wonders whether United States President Barack Obama will betray his mission as a maker of history for the sake of securing a second term in office. "Barack Obama has succeeded over the past three years of his first term in office. He has reinforced and regained many of the positive values in the proper conduct of international relations. Among the most important are dialogue, temperance and moderation, as well as the prioritisation of diplomacy over violence and war. His charismatic personality and eloquence have put him in good stead. And so have his high political flexibility and his unusual capacity to listen intently to the opposing side," Salem observes.

Pundits were also preoccupied with the internecine convulsions that have swept across the Arab world since the eruption of the Arab Spring. Arab politics is in flux. But it is for aspiring politicians and statesmen who are jostling for positions of power as the old dictators of yesteryear are banished, butchered and incarcerated, and not the international community, to deal with these confusing and confounding issues.

In the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat we also come across equally ingenious and engrossing articles. Bilal Al-Hassan's 'Permanent scowl' derides the recent Arab summit that was convened in Iraq. "So, yet another Arab summit was convoked, and its final communiqués issued and that was thatâê¦ What we really need at the moment is a permanent Arab scowl," Al-Hassan so aptly summed up.

In another article in Asharq Al-Awsat, an acknowledgment that there have been many unexpected developments on the Syrian political front was emphasised. 'Religion is for God, and the nation is for allâê¦ from a statement of the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria' was the unwieldy title of Akram Al-Bunni's op-ed in Asharq Al-Awsat. He scrutinised the historic document recently released by Syria's Muslim Brotherhood that pledged that when the regime of Al-Assad is toppled the democratic system of government and multi-party pluralism would be the most convenient form of running the country. The movement the document stated categorically is committed to a democratic state.

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