Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1134, 7 - 13 February 2013
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1134, 7 - 13 February 2013

Ahram Weekly

Arab Spring’s summer’s cloud

Arab Spring’s summer’s cloud
Arab Spring’s summer’s cloud
Al-Ahram Weekly

February promises to be an onerous month both for Syria and the other Arab Spring nations, concluded most Arab commentators. The hard truth is that change is invariably a challenge. The time for revolutionaries’ remorse over the excesses that led to the triumphal hijacking of the Islamists of the Arab Spring revolutions is far from over.

Revolution is both a valuable exercise and a dangerous one, the pundits concurred. Increasing freedom has not coincided with rising prosperity and pervasive peace and security. On the contrary, living standards have plummeted and violence and political tensions have escalated sharply. In Syria, a country ghettoised by partisan and sectarian affiliations, a passion for anti-Zionism is one of the few sensibilities shared across the divide. The civil war in Syria dominated political deliberations in the media throughout the Arab world. However, developments in Egypt and Iraq also had their fair share of grabbing the newspaper headlines.

Editor-in-chief of the London-based pan-Arab daily, Al-Hayat, Ghassan Charbel likened the Arab Spring malaise to a diseased patient who insists that the crisis is merely a summer’s cloud. His prognosis was eerily unsettling, and the pathos of the patient was pathetic. He proffered no prescription. “Most probably we do not really know the true nature of our countries. We are unaware of how deep the diseases that plague them are. A citizen’s attachment to his country prevents closer insight and security. He does not want to conclude that he comes from an ailing country with deeply rooted diseases. He does not want to accept that the problem is one of culture before being one of politics, and that the ailment had started even before the country fell into the hands of the tyrant who only made these illnesses worse,” Charbel professed.

“The citizen wants to retain hope and keep the window open. For this reason, he prefers to believe that the crisis is a summer’s cloud,” he poetically sums it up. Charbel believes that the real litmus test of the success of the Arab Spring would be Egypt. “The big test is unfolding in Egypt and not in Syria, where the spring is coming under intense bombardment from the regime’s air force,” Charbel concludes. In other words, he spotlights the dramatic dynamics of the post-revolution political processes.

Syria did, however, hit the headlines as it did in the past year or so. In an article in Al-Hayat entitled “Syria an arena for proxy wars and international trade-offs”, Raghda Dergham highlighted the Syrian dilemma, military stalemate between government and armed opposition and political impasse.

“In-depth analysis of the interview given by Lakhdar Brahimi, joint United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria, to Al-Hayat indicates that the only means to save Syria from the wound festering as well as from fragmentation and disintegration resides in an American-Russian agreement that would lead to consensus at the UN Security Council over the means of salvation,” wrote Dergham.

She pointed out that it was no coincidence that US Vice President Joe Biden met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Munich, while US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon heads to Moscow to discuss the issue of starting a new round of negotiations over the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), with the aim of embarking on a “new beginning” to renew START.

“It is clear that Lakhdar Brahimi, entrusted by the international community and the Arabs to look for political solutions to the Syrian predicament, has reached the conclusion that neither regional powers nor Syrian parties have the ability to settle the Syrian crisis one way or another, neither militarily nor politically,” lamented Dergham.

The writer examines the part played by the great powers in fomenting trouble and exacerbating the problems of Syria. Dergham delves into the intricacies of a conspiratorial scheme devised by the powers that be. Her contention that Machiavellian machinations are at work is plausible.

“The question that is being raised at international forums goes into the core of the role played by the United States and Russia in the fate of the de-facto fragmentation and disintegration of Syria, either because they are both, in effect, adopting a policy of attrition and exhaustion (Moscow towards Jihadists, and Washington towards the regime in Damascus and those who support it in addition to Jihadists) or as a result of them holding Syria hostage to their bilateral relationship until further notice,” concluded Dergham in Al-Hayat.

Also writing in Al-Hayat, and on the subject of Syria, Elias Harfoush tackled the Syrian conundrum, but from a different perspective focusing on the power play between the Syrian government and opposition forces. “Damascus did not delay in responding to the statement by Sheikh Moez Al-Khatib, the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, who wrote on his Facebook page that he was ready to ‘sit down directly with representatives of the regime’. This stance was completely ignored by Syrian officials, and the response came indirectly, through the pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan, which called Al-Khatib’s statements a sign of the ‘disintegration and fragmentation of the Syrian opposition abroad and its inability to take a unified decision on the Syrian crisis and ways to solve it’,” noted Harfoush in Al-Hayat.

“[Al-Watan] also issued a direct insult to the national coalition headed by Al-Khatib, saying that it expected ‘the emergence of a new gathering whose goal would not be to make Arab and Western money, but work to see Syria exit its crisis,’” Harfoush quoted the pro-Syrian government newspaper Al-Watan. “In conclusion, the Syrian opposition has been unlucky to be cursed with this regime, while the Syrian regime has been lucky to have such an opposition,” observed Harfoush, tongue-in-cheek.

In much the same vein, the general manager of Al-Arabiya, the Dubai-based Saudi-owned pan-Arabist television satellite broadcast and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat Abdel-Rahman Al-Rashid, queried in an article entitled “Why did Al-Khatib sell out the opposition?” the motives of national coalition leader Al-Khatib.

“Al-Khatib must know that dialogue with Al-Assad now is too little too late no matter what concession the embattled [Syrian] president offers,” Al-Rashid admonished in the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat. “The Syrian people will not exchange the blood of their fallen comrades except for the collapse of Al-Assad’s regime and the pursuit of its pillars,” Al-Rashid extrapolated.

On a different note, but also concerning Syria, another former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat Tarek Al-Homayed writes in the paper an article entitled “Al-Assad and the Israeli air raid”, questioning the curious timing of the Israeli strike on Syrian targets in the past week. “Israel’s air raid on Syria cannot be considered surprising, particularly as the Al-Assad regime has done the impossible to drag Israel into the crisis... Therefore, the questions that must be asked here are: Why now? And, what are the implications of this?” After delving into the reasons for the curious timing of the Israeli strike on Syria, Al-Homayed examines Israel’s real motives and the possible ramifications.

“Another consequence of this air raid is that it has revealed that Israel is monitoring the course of events on the ground in Syria. And, that Israel is acting according to specific goals, unless Al-Assad breaks the rules of the game. This means that it is acceptable for him to kill his people and destroy Syria, and this represents a strategic gain for Israel,” Al-Homayed sums up. Yet the timing and the manner of the Israeli strike on Syria still looks like a hardball tactic.

Among the more intriguing commentaries on the ramifications of the Israeli air raid on Syria is the allegation by Helmi Moussa in the Lebanese daily As-Safir that Syria retaliated by interfering in the smooth functioning of the Israeli mobile phone network Belfon. “Israel was propelled into a state of shock when one of its main mobile phone networks Belfon was rendered dysfunctional affecting some three million users,” claimed Moussa in As-Safir. Whether Syria is capable of such a feat is questionable. What is more certain is that proposals for civil marriage in Lebanon received stiff opposition from religious authorities in the country. “It is impossible and unacceptable to fathom how intellectuals can so easily discard their wisdom to kowtow to confessionalism and religious zealots with inflammable discourses that serve the enemies of the state,” warned Al-Fadl Shalaq in As-Safir. “We are faced with a situation where the state is not infringing on the rights of Muslims, but rather the Islamists are affronting the duties and responsibilities of the state,” declared an outraged Shalaq.

Last, but not least, Egyptian novelist Alaa Al-Aswani writing in As-Safir in conjunction with the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, claimed that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is guilty of the same crimes of his predecessor and that he will in all probability face a similar fate. “President Morsi cannot pretend that all those millions of Egyptians who demand his ouster are renegades of the Mubarak regime or leftists and liberals who oppose political Islam,” Al-Aswani addressed President Morsi. “Your departure will happen sooner than you imagine. Democracy is the solution,” admonished Al-Aswani.

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