A compromise solution needed in Syria
Any solution for the Syrian crisis must grant a safe way out for civilians and for Al Assad too
The Arab initiative and the various projects that the Arab League proposed to the Security Council regarding Syria are faced with numerous political hurdles.
This translates into more bloodshed as a new phase of escalated violence on both sides of the conflict has been announced in Syria, where the authorities claim that the aggressive clampdown "is a public demand" and the opposition pretends that its armed response qualifies as "self-defense", said the columnist Rajeh Al Khouri in the Lebanese daily Annahar.
As the popular protests in Syria started gaining in frequency and influence, Russia, the Syrian regime's fervent ally, proposed a solution for the crisis by offering to mediate in negotiations between the authorities and the opposition in Moscow. But, the situation has exacerbated to such unexpected levels and the death tally has risen so much in the recent weeks that Moscow's proposal has become unlikely to be adopted. In response to the widespread bloodshed, the Syrian opposition is more adamant than ever on bringing down the regime.
At the same time, the initiative the Arab League is pushing for is facing a number of obstacles, namely the Russian veto at the Security Council.
Modifications are required to both the Arab and the Russian proposals in a way that provides for the necessary safe passages. The opposition needs to find safe passages to protect civilians. The Arab initiative and the Russian project are also required to provide for such safe exists.
"In clearer terms, the initiative for Yemen gave president Saleh and his entourage a safe exit, whereas no such exit has been granted to Bashar Al Assad and his suite although it would have helped in weakening him even among his own people," the writer suggested. "Russia is fiercely defending Mr Al Assad and his regime not out of affection for them, but because it has yet to guarantee a safe gateway to ensure the per petuation of its interests in Syria and in the region."
Moscow doesn't want to repeat the foolish faux pas it made in Libya, but it is using the blood of Syrians to solicit offers in the political bazaar that the crisis in Syria has produced. It is aware that the Assad regime cannot possibly last, but it doesn't want to let go of its last strategic bastion in the Middle East without some consolation reward that would help Mr Putin in persuading his constituency in the near future that Russia is still a major power.
"In light of all this, there is no way of knowing whether diplomatic efforts would yield a special initiative, a blend of the Arab and Russian proposals, in order to find an acceptable way out for Mr Al Assad and sway Russia away from its vetoing right," he concluded.
Water abuse in the UAE is no small issue
"I see no tenable reason why we should be topping the list of countries with the highest per-capita water consumption other than that we are good at wasting and abusing such a precious commodity," wrote Ahmed Mansour, an Emirati writer, in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad yesterday.
Various authorities involved in the water sector across the nation confirm that the average amount of water consumed by each person living in the UAE is around 500 litres a day, the writer said.
The figure is alarming. Needless to say, the UAE has a serious problem with scarce drinking water resources due to its desert climate and negligible rainfall.
The UAE is also the world's second largest generator of desalinated water, 70 per cent of which is apportioned to farming, and the rest goes to household and industrial uses. That also takes a toll on the power bill and on the environment.
During the past decades, the UAE has undergone a large-scale "landscaping renaissance," turning the desert into a more hospitable place to live. But valuable groundwater reserves suffer in the process.
"According to estimates, we are on course to use up in a few decades the water that was absorbed under the ground over hundreds of years," the writer said. "It is our national duty to start handling water as a strategic commodity."
Egypt: debate about next presidency is on
The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mohammed Badie, "fired the first real gunshot" declaring the early start of the presidential race when he said last week that the Brotherhood is looking forward to "an accepted-by-all presidential candidate," as opposed to a purely Islamist one, wrote columnist Ali Ibrahim in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat yesterday.
Campaigning for the presidential office is supposed to start in April, but the Brotherhood, which is represented in parliament by the moderate Islamist Freedom and Justice Party, is already sending out signals.
The Brotherhood is telling Egypt and the outside world that "it is not keen on hogging all power," especially after achieving a comfortable majority in parliament with its Salafi allies.
"Mr Badie's statement is more like wishful thinking, and it does not necessarily represent the final stance of the Brotherhood … yet it managed to irk some, especially the Salafis," he said.
Al Nour Party, the main political arm of Egypt's Salafi movement, came in second in the elections that followed the departure of President Hosni Mubarak. One of its figures recently said that Islamists have "a historic opportunity" to access power - and that they should not miss it.
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk
Published: February 1, 2012 04:00 AM