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MIDEAST MIRROR 03.06.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-‘The wars of others’

2-Syria, the day after

3-FIFA fiasco

 

1-‘The wars of others’

 

The Paris conference’s call (that was adopted by Qatar) to launch an urgent political process in Syria is both important and imperative. There is need to reach a political solution, end the war, and protect civilians. It has become necessary for the international community to consider the nature of the transitional phase in Syria very seriously and to enable the Syrian people to determine their own future. It should offer them every means of support to enable them to protect themselves, with the resolutions of first [2012] Geneva Conference providing the terms of reference for a political process leading to a free Syria without Assad--Qatari Asharq

 

The [Syrian] regime has all but turned into an administrative and military faction led by Tehran with Moscow behind it. As for the opposition, it is the voice or echo of voices that have abandoned military action and made way for extremist organizations that have nothing to do with the Syrian people and their political, social, economic, and cultural demands. The regime in Syria is impossible, and the opposition is equally impossible. The fact is that Syria is suffering from wars fought by others on its soil and at the expense of its lost and displaced people. 'The wars of others' is an expression that the Lebanese used to shirk their responsibility for their own homeland's destruction, and the Syrians may follow in their footsteps--Mohammad Ali in pan-Arab al-Hayat

 

The international anti-ISIS coalition's meeting in Paris to review its strategy should pave the way for more serious policies in Syria and Iraq, insists the editorial in a Qatari daily. In Syria, these policies should lead to a political process that gets rid of the Assad regime, while in Iraq national reconciliation should be pursued without excluding any Iraqi constituent. The Paris conference seems to have ignored Iran's decision to 'unite' the Syrian and Iraqi fronts by allowing the movement of pro-regime forces between the two countries, claims a Lebanese commentator in a Saudi-owned daily. Meanwhile, the Syrian people are paying the price for the proxy war being fought by regional powers on their soil.

 

THE GREATEST CHALLENGES: "The Syrian and Iraqi crises represent the two greatest challenges to the international community that affect international peace and security," writes the editorial in Wednesday's Qatari daily Asharq.

They have produced a humanitarian crisis that requires urgent action to protect civilians and provide humanitarian aid. The violence has left victims and refugees behind, and it has become necessary for the UN to act.

The Paris conference’s call (that was adopted by Qatar) to launch an urgent political process in Syria is both important and imperative. There is need to reach a political solution, end the war, and protect civilians. It has become necessary for the international community to consider the nature of the transitional phase in Syria very seriously and to enable the Syrian people to determine their own future. It should offer them every means of support to enable them to protect themselves, with the resolutions of first [2012] Geneva Conference providing the terms of reference for a political process leading to a free Syria without Assad.

For its part Iraq, needs to consolidate the process of national reconciliation, pursue its reforms, avoid the exclusion of any Iraqi constituent, strengthen the rule of law, respect human rights, and ensure that everyone is treated equally without discrimination.

Iraq has a chance to return to the Arab lap and its Gulf neighborhood. Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled bin Mohammad al-'Atiyyah’s visit to Baghdad is a step in this direction. Reopening the Qatari Embassy in Baghdad is another step in the right direction, deepening relations between the two countries and safeguarding Iraq's security, unity and sovereignty, while working together in order to achieve genuine national reconciliation.

Terrorism in all its forms should be denounced. And Qatar is a member of many international forums dedicated to fighting terrorism. Its advice is to deal with the causes of terrorism in order to pull it out by the roots. It is necessary to pursue a realistic policy that produces effective remedies for conflicts and fulfils the aspirations of nations for security, peace, and stability in a manner that safeguards their unity and sovereignty.

"A mission awaits the UN that is not easy, either in its political or its humanitarian dimensions. There is no alternative to the international community’s determination to resolve these crises, even if this calls for measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and appropriate resolutions," concludes the daily.

End…

 

REVIEWING THE BATTLE: "The anti-ISIS international coalition met in Paris to review the battle with this extremist organization and to regain control of al-Ramadi at the very least," notes Mohammad Ali Farhat in Wednesday's Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.

Although the coalition is striking at ISIS in a number of Syrian areas while it waits for a few thousand moderate Syrian opposition fighters to be trained, it is also focusing on Iraq since the government there enjoys universal recognition. By contrast, the Syrian regime has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the leading regional and international capitals and it is impossible to cooperate with it against ISIS or any other terrorist organization.

The Iraqi government has not publicly announced before the international coalition that it has revoked its reservations towards unifying the Iraqi and Syrian fronts against ISIS and the other armed opposition groups. But the truth is that Baghdad has complied with Tehran's wishes to unite both fronts, it allowed thousands of [largely Shiite] Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) volunteers to head to Syria to fight alongside with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Lebanese Hizbollah over the past few days, with unprecedented coordination with the Syrian army. In fact, supporters of the [Iran/Syria/Hizbollah] 'resistance axis' expect a counter-attack on the Jayshul Fateh (which includes the Nusra Front) to regain Idlib, Jisr ash-Shughour, and Ariha and reverse the shift in the military balance between the regime and armed opposition.

The anticipation of a counteroffensive has silenced the 'resistance axis's supporters’ complaints against Iranian and Russian policies towards the Syrian crisis. They had previously described these policies as negative and had cast doubt on Tehran and Moscow's stance on the Syrian regime's future, specifically, the fate of its president, Bashar al-Assad.

Baghdad's consent to unite the battlefronts against the armed extremist opposition in Iraq and Syria can be seen as the first test of the post-nuclear-agreement era between the West and Iran. For it is highly unlikely that the ruling Da'wa Party in Iraq will rebel against the U.S. which has installed it in power and has used it to forge a delicate balance with Tehran that paves the way to either future coordination or collision with it should the nuclear agreement falters in its last stages.

The Syrian regime's opponents, as well as Iran and its supporters, are unanimous in portraying Syria and Iraq’s armed and extremist opposition as a dangerous tool in the hands of regional and international powers. Smoke bombs are being set off to obstruct the real vista. Thus we hear every camp attributing ISIS to its enemies. The organization is portrayed either as a tool of Tehran or Ankara or Washington or Damascus, depending on who is making the accusation. But what is strange is that this organization, which has occupied large areas of Iraq and Syria, is still being dismissed as a mere tool of other powers.

As we wait for the promised counteroffensive by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Iraqi PMU, Lebanese Hizbollah and the Syrian army to regain Idlib Province, Syria's image today is taking shape as the land of conflict between two forces that cannot meet: the regime and the opposition. The regime has all but turned into an administrative and military faction led by Tehran with Moscow behind it. As for the opposition, it is the voice or echo of voices that have abandoned military action and made way for extremist organizations that have nothing to do with the Syrian people and their political, social, economic, and cultural demands.

The regime in Syria is impossible, and the opposition is equally impossible. The fact is that Syria is suffering from wars fought by others on its soil and at the expense of its lost and displaced people. 'The wars of others' is an expression that the Lebanese used to shirk their responsibility for their own homeland's destruction, and the Syrians may follow in their footsteps.

"This will happen when they are brought to a regional or international conference in Ta'if or some another city to sign an agreement to end the war, achieve reconciliation, renew the regime, and issue a general amnesty for all local criminals, together with the 'guests' who have infiltrated Syria to kill its people and destroy its civilization in the regime's or the opposition's slogans, or in the name of the promise of a holy state that has never existed and never will," concludes Farhat.

Ends…

 

 

2-Syria, the day after

 

There are many indications that the rapid collapse of the [Syrian] regime's forces in Idlib and elsewhere were the result of its inability to replace the causalities it has been suffering. And as Iran decides to fill the vacuum with Shiite fighters, Washington is implicitly colluding with it by clinging to its strategy of avoiding any strikes against the regime in its controversial training program for the [‘moderate’] opposition --Mona-Lisa Freiha in Lebanese an-Nahar

 

Three years ago, at the height of speculation and wagers on NATO aerial strikes against regime targets in Syria, we said that the first American air raid would target fundamentalist forces in the opposition's camp, not the regime; and this is what actually happened. Today, at the peak of speculation regarding who will rule Syria after Assad, we say that the 'moderate opposition' will fall before the Assad regime and that the legacy left by it and the regime will be shared by the two 'brotherly' organizations [ISIS and the Nusra], before one of them succeeds in liquidating the other--'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Jordanian ad-Dustour

 

The Syrian regime seems unable to replace its human losses that are leading to its rapid collapse on a number of fronts, but Iran has rushed to fill the vacuum with Shiite fighters drawn from around the region, claims a Lebanese commentator. Meanwhile, the U.S. is implicitly colluding with Iran by refraining from any strikes against the regime and its allies. Even though the regime’s collapse is not imminent despite losing a number of battles, ISIS and the Nusra Front would inevitably fill the vacuum created by its fall before one of them liquidates the other, maintains a leading Jordanian commentator. All other assessments suggesting that 'moderate' forces could fill that vacuum are no more than wishful thinking.

 

LAME AMERICAN STRATEGY: "America’s lame strategy against ISIS is facing a new setback," writes Mona-Lisa Freiha in Wednesday's Beirut daily an-Nahar.

The training program for moderate Syrian fighters that began in Turkey is threatened with collapse. A leading opposition figure has threatened to withdraw from the program together with a thousand of his men in protest against the U.S. administration's insistence on avoiding any strikes against the Syrian regime and its allies from Hizbollah and the other militias, restricting the confrontation to ISIS.

This program has been controversial from the very start. The repeated postponements of its launch have fuelled doubts about its seriousness. The latest reports that it is faltering come at a time when the need for an effective third force seems more urgent than at any time before. Having fortified its position in Homs, ISIS is now advancing towards Aleppo and expanding its battlefronts against both the regime and opposition forces simultaneously. It now controls over half of Syria's total area. Meanwhile, having invaded Idlib after achieving gains on the southern front, the [Qa’ida affiliated] Nusra Front is expanding northwards.

While the world hesitates to draft an effective strategy that would prevent Syria from falling into extremist hands and revive some hope for its future, Iran is throwing a lifeline to Assad in an attempt to help him regain the initiative and compensate for its severe losses suffered this spring when a large section of the Iraqi Shiite fighters trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard withdrew from Syria to confront ISIS's growing threats in Iraq. But numerous reports indicates that these militias have recently returned and are assuming additional tasks on numerous Syrian fronts over and above their previous ones, despite the fact that Iraq’s battlefronts with ISIS have heated up again.

Philip Smith, a researcher on Shiite jihadi affairs, has written that the Dhulfiqar Brigade, which is part of the Abulfadl al-Abbas Brigade, was deployed to the Latakia area sometime between February and early March 2015. Since this Brigade has taken part in the battles in the Damascus area and its environs since 2013, the new front points to the haemorrhage of fighters in the regime's ranks, and highlights the fact that Iran is rushing to pump new blood into its veins so as to repel any potential attacks by the Islamist fighters.

In the areas in which Hizbollah is deployed in large numbers – specifically along the Lebanese/Syrian borders – Smith says that some Dhulfiqar forces were deployed there in mid-April. The two had fought side-by-side in the first attack in the Qalamoun last year. This is in addition to claims by fighters from that same Brigade that they moved to Idlib on May 24th to help 'liberate' the regime's forces that were besieged in the Jisr ash-Shughour Hospital.

"There are many indications that the rapid collapse of the regime's forces in Idlib and elsewhere were the result of its inability to replace the causalities it has been suffering. And as Iran decides to fill the vacuum with Shiite fighters, Washington is implicitly colluding with it by clinging to its strategy of avoiding any strikes against the regime in its controversial training program for the opposition," concludes Freiha.

End…

 

OVER OPTIMISTIC WAVE: "There has been a notable increase in competing reports and analyses that draw the main scenario for the day after the fall of President Bashar al-Assad's regime," writes 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in the Jordanian daily ad-Dustour.

But the problem with this over-optimistic wave of propagandistic clamor consists of the fact that much of it is drawn from assessments based on wishful thinking that lack seriousness, depth, and caution and is part of the psychological war that is being waged on the regime and its allies with the active participation of the Turkish/Saudi/Qatari axis’ media. Most such analyses also ignore the most likely scenario if predictions regarding the regime's fall prove to be correct, specifically that in which ISIS and the Nusra Front take control of the country.

The regime is on the retreat militarily and on the ground. This is an indisputable truth, especially over the past three or four months. But the loss of one or many battles does not mean it will lose the war. In fact, there are credible reports that the regime has decided to move to Plan-B and focus on the center/coastline axis that stretches from Latakia to Damascus via Homs, Hama, and the Qalamoun, where over half of Syria's population lives. This means that the regime's loss of one or more provinces will take the war raging in Syria to a new level, but without putting an end to it.

Another scenario is sometimes mentioned in serious Western circles, namely that of the regime's 'sudden collapse.' But there are many obstacles that prevent this from happening, most importantly, the fact that the majority of those who have been fighting on the regime's side believe they are waging a life-or-death battle and that their options have become very limited.

But let us take those analyses that deal with the 'day after' Assad's fall seriously. Here, it should be stressed that the sole organized forces that are likely to fill the vacuum left by the regime are the jihadi/Qa'ida/ISIS forces. No force in the opposition camp classified as ‘moderate’ has the ability to fill that vacuum. We would thus be facing a dangerous race between the various shades of the jihadi spectrum to reach the heart of the capital and rule Syria from there. All other scenarios and alternatives are mere figments of the imagination or an expression of ignorance and 'denial,' or perhaps an attempt to market the slogan of toppling the regime, regardless of what may happen afterwards.

This prospect is causing the West, especially the U.S., serious concern and it does not concern Russia, Iran, and Hizbollah alone. Meanwhile, the Arab/regional axis that is opposed to Assad and his allies seems to be indifferent to what happens or who will rule Syria after him. The important thing is that Assad should leave, that Iran should be de-fanged and that [the Saudi-led Yemeni] Operation Decisive Storm should continue, this time on Syrian soil and airspace.

These fears are what brought U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to the resort in Sochi [Russia] and that have led the two superpowers to initiate a dialogue at the level of experts and second-tier figures regarding Syria. It may also be what has led the Russian foreign minister to say that Moscow and Washington share a common view regarding what is happening Syria but without revealing its nature and limits.

I believe that the coming days will witness a feverish race between military escalation and diplomatic initiatives especially if an international agreement is reached with Iran over its nuclear file.

This is not a matter of looking into a crystal ball and predicting the unknown. For what is happening in northern Syria represents a rehearsal for what the situation may be like the day after the regime's fall. The violent battles between ISIS and the Shamiyya Front are just a trial run for the subsequent battles that will break out in Syria's northwest between ISIS and the Nusra Front, which heads Jayshul Fateh.

A bloody and feverish race is underway to fill the vacuum left by the regime in northern Syria, which also includes the areas under Kurdish control. Reports indicate that ISIS is advancing on two fronts, with the [Kurdish] Popular Protection Units (YPG) in the one case, and the Islamist groups fighting under the Shamiyya Front's banner in the other. On the first front, it is benefiting from the Kurds' ethnic cleansing of Syrian Arabs and their expulsion from their areas; and on the second front, ISIS is exploiting the various opposition groups' endless fears, divisions, and rivalry to decide the situation in its favor.

Three years ago, at the height of speculation and wagers on NATO aerial strikes against regime targets in Syria, we said that the first American air raid would target fundamentalist forces in the opposition's camp, not the regime; and this is what actually happened. Today, at the peak of speculation regarding who will rule Syria after Assad, we say that the 'moderate opposition' will fall before the Assad regime and that the legacy left by it and the regime will be shared by the two 'brotherly' organizations [ISIS and the Nusra], before one of them succeeds in liquidating the other.

"In light of such a situation, we still believe (or hope) that the 'international community' has not yet totally divorced its reason and interests, and that it will intervene with an initiative for a political solution for the Syrian crisis before it is too late now that the Syrians have lost their ability to take such initiatives, hold dialogues, produce solutions, and safeguard their independent decision," concludes Rintawi.

Ends…

 

 

3-FIFA fiasco

 

The Palestinian motion to expel Israel from FIFA has ended in a fiasco for which those responsible must be brought to account, says Hani al-Masri in Palestinian al-Ayyam

 

The Palestinian motion to freeze Israel's membership in the international soccer federation (FIFA) and its subsequent withdrawal, were nothing short of a fiasco, maintains a leading Palestinian commentator. But that is the result of much deeper and more serious ailments afflicting the entire Palestinian political regime and its decision-making process, which will eventually lead to a total catastrophe.

 

NO RIGHT TO DECIDE: "To being with, neither [Palestinian Football Association head] Jibril Rajoub nor anyone else no matter how high his rank – even if president – has the right to decide to enter a major battle such as filing a motion to expel or suspend Israel's membership in FIFA and then withdraw or postpone it," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

Such important issues, which will have major consequences in case of either victory or defeat, should be studied within the proper national and institutional frameworks before the appropriate decision is taken. This is essential if the national collective and its institutions are to assume responsibility for these consequences, whether positive or negative. After all, one person’s decision can be influenced or totally determined by their personal assessments and interests. As for decisions taken by national institutions, they reflect collective assessments and express the national interest.

But the main catastrophe is that, for a long time now, the Palestinians no longer have one collective national institution or a single national program, or even a single decision or leadership. The [Fateh/Hamas] split has persisted and has deepened vertically and horizontally, affecting everything. We now have various leaderships and authorities, and the result is that every Palestinian group now seeks its own salvation by itself.

There are a million questions regarding how Palestinian decisions are taken and how the authority to take these decisions has been transformed more and more into the president's prerogative alone in the absence of any effective role for PLO institutions – the Executive Committee, the Central Council, and the National Council that were formed a long time ago without elections and without renewal by accord.

At the same time, the various executive, judicial, and legislative powers have been concentrated and monopolized in the hands of a single person [the president] driving the Palestinian political regime further and further towards a one-man-rule regime without any participation, checks, or accountability.

This pattern is reproducing itself at every level and in all positions. A single person is in charge of what happens in the sports domain; another in the security domain; a third in the economic sphere, a fourth in education, and so on. This is because Palestinian politics do not deal with institutions but with issues each with one person in charge, while the final authority belongs to the president alone with the help of some figures who do not constitute an institution or even a 'kitchen-cabinet'.

This is the context in which to place and best understand Rajoub’s unilateral decision to request to freeze Israel's membership in FIFA raising expectations so high as to speak of the possibility of securing 160 votes out of the total of 209, which is more than the number needed for the motion’s success. It is in this context as well that we can best explain the subsequent 180 degrees U-turn and the claim/excuse that insisting on the motion would not have secured the required number of votes, or that a prior vote would have blocked the Palestinian motion since it politicizes sports, which is inconsistent with FIFA's role.

In both cases, a major mistake was committed and the person responsible must bear responsibility for it. The person responsible for this mistaken assessment – that the Palestinian motion could proceed and reach the voting phase, or that it would not proceed and would be blocked, or would be defeated if a vote were cast – must be held accountable for this mistake. He must be held accountable instead of transforming defeat into victory, as the Arabs are famously wont. For calling for the motion was presented as securing the formation of a FIFA committee as proposed by Israeli PM Netanyahu to [then FIFA head] Blatter during his latest visit, and whose job would be to monitor any Israeli racist violations and any restrictions on the movement of players; as for the issue of the Israeli settler teams, that is not part of FIFA's areas of expertise.

Yes, the battle with the racist, Zionist, settlement occupation is an open battle in FIFA and everywhere else. And losing this round does not mean the end of the war. It requires more work on expelling Israel from FIFA and from all international institutions, on prosecuting it legally and on imposing isolation, boycott, and sanctions on it for the crimes it has committed in the past, and its ongoing crimes such as settlement activities.

But this requires reviving the Palestinian leadership's credibility which has been badly eroded because of the failure to persevere with the policy of gathering the means of influence and power with the aim of adjusting the balance of power and reaching a moment when the occupation and the entire Israeli colonial project become more costly for Israel and those who back it than whatever benefits they may accumulate from them.

Henceforth, it will be more difficult to convince states to back any new Palestinian effort because many of them will view such efforts as no more than a ploy whose aim is to exert pressure with the aim of returning to the bilateral negotiations under American – or merely formal international – sponsorship. After all, the [2009 Gaza] Goldstone Report was postponed and when that postponement was retracted, the report's findings were not implemented. We have also obtained The Hague's Court's legal fatwa [condemning the Israeli West Bank Separation Wall], which is a legal and political treasure that granted the Palestinians more than they had asked for-- but they did nothing with this achievement. Instead, the court’s judgment was shelved, and construction of the Separation Wall continues. In fact, I fear that the time may come when we may lose the majority in the various international institutions because of the lack of faith in the Palestinian performance.

Another issue has accompanied the withdrawal of the Palestinian request and aggravated the situation further. This is the Palestinian’s ambiguous attitude towards the competition between Blatter and [Jordan’s] Prince Ali bin Hussein over FIFA's presidency. It seemed that the Palestinian position leaned in favor of Blatter and that the decision to vote in the prince's favor was taken at the very last moment. In fact, Rajoub admitted that he was late in taking that decision.

And the question here is this: Why hesitate in choosing between an Arab and another candidate? If Blatter is better for the Palestinians, then this should be made clear. And if there are personal calculations or mistaken assessments at work, then those who brought them to the table should be held accountable.

Of course, this gives no one in Jordan or anywhere else the right to speak badly of the Palestinians or harm the relationship between the Palestinian and Jordanian peoples. That relationship has been at its best for some time and this must be built upon rather than undermined.

"And why have we not seen campaigns against Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, and the other Arab countries that voted in Blatter's favor? This further indicates that conditions are continuing to deteriorate to such an extent that unless an Arab project emerges that responds to Arab rights and interests and lifts up the Arab peoples, we will all be facing a catastrophe in the full sense of the word," concludes Masri.

Ends…

 

 

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