A controversial Syrian peace proposal

The initiative that the head of the Syrian National Coalition, Moaz Al Khatib, proposed for a peaceful solution to the crisis in his country, and which included direct dialogue with representatives of the Assad regime, was controversial to say the least, wrote the columnist, Eyad Abu Shakra, in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Reactions varied between rejection and appreciation. Some saw it as an intentional test balloon, while others dismissed it as evidence of Mr Al Khatib's lack of political acumen.

The first semi-official response to the initiative was negative, but Mr Al Khatib didn't stop at that. He relinquished some of his original preconditions, such as the release of female prisoners and holding talks outside the Syrian territories, and came up with a modified, less radical proposal, "which indicates that the proposal was indeed a test balloon that wasn't necessarily devised by [Mr] Al Khatib himself" ,said the writer.

Following that, news outlets remained busy last week with reports about a plan being devised to restructure the Syrian state. President Obama's State of the Union speech then confirmed that he had no intention to offer any material support to the Syrian opposition, claiming that it would constitute a risk to Israel's security. In the meantime, reports from Washington revealed that the new US secretary of state John Kerry saw Moscow as the key to the Syrian dilemma. He is wagering on Moscow's ability to persuade the Syrian president to step down to conserve the structure of the state, or what remains thereof, along with figures of his own entourage. "This means an agreement to preserve Russia's interests in Syria while purging it of its personal and sectarian aspects," the writer added.

In parallel to the sudden US openness to a Russian role in the projected settlement, there has been an increase in reports about the essential role that jihadist groups are playing in the Syrian revolution, which provides even more justification for withholding weapons from opposition factions.

"It would be difficult to imagine a US-Russian deal on Syria that excludes Iran and Israel," said the writer. "Major powers are well aware that the issue isn't about Bashar Al Assad or his regime anymore."

In addition to that, after years of futile negotiations, it has become evident that the international community, especially the US, has no problem whatsoever with coexisting with a nuclear Iran.

"We are now going through a phase where the borders and limitations of power and authority are being agreed between Iran and Israel. Therefore, the general picture suggests that Syria, with or without Al Assad, along with Lebanon, would remain an Iranian reserve with US-Russian-Israeli blessing," the writer concluded.

Islamists labelled as revolution hijackers

Two years on, Islamists have ended up being accused of hijacking and aborting Arab revolutions, Abdul Wahhab Badrakhan wrote in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

Islamists have alienated people to such an extent that they are now being labelled as "enemies of the people" by many writers and social media activists. Even Morocco's Islamist prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, denied links with the Muslim Brotherhood, saying: "We are not part of the Muslim Brotherhood".

There is growing sentiment in Egypt and Tunisia that the revolution is over and there must be another one to topple the other face of the old regime that turned out to be worse. The old regime at least ensured some stability despite assaults on freedom, but its successors swiftly convinced people that they care neither about stability nor about freedom, he wrote.

Some might argue that Islamists were persecuted, and that criticising them at this point is hasty and unfair, because even their predecessors who made graver mistakes were not attacked so fiercely. Hence, they must be given a chance.

Yet Arab societies have changed. This is what Islamists must recognise. They are no longer willing to be treated in the same old way.

Islamists better not seek to monopolise power. Consensus and power-sharing are paramount during this transitional period.

Meetings signal some settlement is possible

Finally, a settlement has kicked off between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, wrote Emad Eddine Hussein in an article in the Cairo-based Al Shorouk newspaper.

"We hope this is a prelude to a real settlement, and not just an attempt to buy time," the writer noted.

The Freedom and Justice Party chairman, Saad El Katatni, met opposition leaders Mohamed El Baradei and El Sayed El Badawi on Saturday to start negotiations to ease tensions.

This was not the first such meeting between the Brotherhood and the opposition. Some secret meetings were held before. The last one took place last week, as Amr Moussa revealed. But all those attempts failed due to mistrust and failure of both parties to make concessions, the writer said.

The meeting that was held at Dr El Baradei's home does not indicate that the problem is solved. But chances are greater this time around that there will be a partial settlement between the Brotherhood and some segments of the National Salvation Front.

The Brotherhood will use a carrot or stick approach with the opposition, but many among the opposition will seek nothing less than a democratic Egypt.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk

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