Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Pre-Geneva jitters

Al-Ahram Weekly

“President Barack Obama has returned to his pattern of dithering and backtracking, after appearing on the verge of being firm for a moment, making the majority around the world wonder which Obama are they dealing with exactly, with certainty replaced with speculation,” postulates Raghida Dergham in the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat.

“Obama’s mercurialness has turned the compass needle for this week towards making a deal and evading a military strike. The speech of contradictions the US president delivered was lost between trying to convince the American public of the morality of not burying the collective head in the sand over the use of chemical weapons — which he said he was certain the Syrian regime had deployed against its own people — and between trying to make it clear to the American people that he too did not want military action in Syria, and would prefer to avoid it through an understanding with Russia, which would see placing the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal under international supervision. But the speech of contradictions failed to mention any specific timeframe for chemical diplomacy,” concludes Dergham.

In much the same vein, Walid Choucair, also writing in Al-Hayat, notes that the vast majority of Americans do not want yet another war in the Middle East. Choucair contends that Americans prefer to focus on economic and social issues at home, rather than adventures abroad.

“It’s the economy. US public opinion does not want to hear about a new war after America’s failures in Iraq and Afghanistan caused a slowdown in the US economy. This was behind Obama’s hesitation — he fears that a military strike will have a negative impact on the economic situation, and on his promises to Americans that the economy will recover. And the economy is equally important for Russia and Iran. The economic situation in both countries is not enviable. If they move in the direction of any kind of military confrontation with the US if it carries out a strike, whether directly or indirectly, their economic difficulties will become even greater, compared to the cost of their moving towards any compromise. The likely economic cost is what prompted China’s president, Xi Jinping, at the G20 Summit one week ago, to warn about the negative impact of any war,” Choucair observes.

Taking a slightly different perspective, with the onus on Vladimir Putin, Zuheir Kseibati said in Al-Hayat: “The master of the Kremlin, the new Caesar who hijacked the Security Council more than two years ago, can brag in front of American President Obama about the fact that his last minute initiative saved the master of the White House from a major setback inside congress, as the latter does not favour the strike against Syria. In reality, Putin is saving the Syrian regime, by practically trading its stay in power with its chemical fangs. On the other hand, Moscow’s guarantees for Damascus’ respect of its acceptance of international control over its chemical weapons might feature measures, maneouvring and stalling, which would make the American threat to resort to the military option a forgotten card,” Kseibati contends.

The growing power of Putin and the determination to have a say in international affairs signals a new era in global politics. “Putin saved face for Obama but he undermined the American-French military option and the Syrian opposition’s hopes of seeing an imminent decisive chapter in the war with a regime that still possesses enough rockets, warplanes and explosive barrels to proceed with its plans and eliminate the revolution, or the ‘terrorists’ as per the Russian-Iranian definition,” Kseibati concludes.

In an exclusive interview with the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, the head of Egypt’s 50-member constitutional drafting committee, former Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa outlined Egypt’s determination to implement a new democratic dispensation. “The roadmap’s implementation began with the constitution that was drafted by the 10-member constitutional committee and the subsequent start of the deliberations of the 50-member committee. Therefore, we have seen the implementation of a major and vital feature of the roadmap, in addition to the role being played by the interim president and the work of the government,” Moussa was quoted as saying.

Moussa indicated that the youth of Egypt are destined to play a particularly important role in the new democracy in the making. And, Moussa also emphasised the importance of women taking part in the decision-making process. “A number of youth will be appointed in assistant ministerial positions in all ministries. I also suggest that they have a role and position in the governorates and municipalities. During my presidential campaign, I suggested that the municipalities should be for the youth, in addition to women, in order to build democracy on the grass-roots level,” Moussa stressed.

Also in Asharq Al-Awsat, Tarek Al-Homayed pontificated about the agreement between Russia and the US over Syria. “The Americans and the Russians have agreed to destroy the Al-Assad regime’s arsenal of chemical weapons after three days of negotiations in Geneva. The agreement could be described as akin to buying fish in the sea, and it is difficult to believe it would succeed, or that it would be taken seriously by Bashar Al-Assad.

“I say this agreement is like buying fish in the sea for a number of reasons. The first is because US Secretary of State John Kerry says that according to the agreement, Al-Assad must provide a complete list of his stockpile of chemical weapons within a week, and that inspectors would be on the ground no later than November. Kerry says that the aim is to completely destroy Al-Assad’s chemical weapons by mid-2014, which is the date of the presidential elections in Syria, in which Al-Assad has announced he intends to run,” Al-Homayed elaborated in Asharq Al-Awsat.

Al-Homayed ended on a rather pessimistic note. “What is even more dangerous is that the Americans and the Russians have not reached a clear agreement on the number of chemical weapons storage facilities. The reason is clear: if Russia declared the number of chemical weapons stockpiles and their sites, this would automatically attribute responsibility for the chemical massacre on 21 August in Eastern Al-Ghouta to Al-Assad. That would make it easier to take him to the International Criminal Court should the international community decide to — especially after the secretary-general of the UN said Al-Assad had committed crimes against humanity throughout the revolution which the Russians want to avoid,” Al-Homayed concluded.

Abdel-Rahman Al-Rashed, writing in Asharq Al-Awsat, tackled the issue from a slightly different perspective. “The Syrian crisis is getting more complicated and, as it is said, it must get worse before it gets better. The situation in Syria is complicated on several levels. It is complicated on the level of relations between politicians and the diplomats with several roles, Russian and American, and the American president and congress. There is also the problematic public opinion in Europe, particularly in Britain, rejecting any military operation. There are also Arab pressures. A third Arab effective front has been born out of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates and its officials have been back and forth from Moscow to Paris to London. Let us not forget that Obama has seemingly “woken up” and promised to resort to using his power for the first time since he assumed the presidency. Then Russia surprised us with its proposal that Al-Assad give up his massive stores of chemicals — the same arsenal Al-Assad has denied possessing,” Al-Rashed extrapolated.

 

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