Al Nusra Front becomes a mediator

A group said to be linked to Al Qaeda has become an unlikely peacemaker, writer Arabic-language columnist Abdel Bari Atwan. Other topics: Fallujah and Palestinian unity.

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Al Nusra Front, which only a few weeks ago was deemed a terrorist group affiliated to Al Qaeda, has turned into a mediator in efforts to put an end to the bloody war waged by moderate Islamic groups to eradicate the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

This, commented Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the news website Rai Al Youm, is the most astounding development in the Syrian conflict.

This “rolling” plan came amid growing agreement on the priorities of the Syrian crisis among the major world players, the US and Russia, and among regional players, especially Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The initiative of Abu Mohammed Al Joulani, the leader of Al Nusra Front, involved the formation of a religious committee from all major factions with an independent leader, brokering a ceasefire, deciding criminal cases and exchanging prisoners. All groups would use force against any party that failed to abide by the resolutions of the committee.

At this point, it is hard to deliver a firm verdict on the chances of this initiative, not only because it is fresh but also because Mr Al Joulani said that some parties have accepted his proposal, others said their approval hinges on others’ approval, and others have elected to stall their response.

The fight between Syrian and non-Syrian fighters that Mr Al Joulani has warned against has already happened. Every non-Syrian fighter is at risk of being killed or banished, or both. Large numbers of Isil fighters come from outside, which is probably why Isil has been targeted by the ongoing operation where all groups on the ground, including the Islamic Front, the Free Army and the Mujahideen Army, have unified to destroy it, with the support of the US, Saudi and Turkey.

There is a carefully contrived plan by the powers arranging the Geneva conference, setting as their number one priority the gradual liquidation of all armed Islamic groups on Syrian territory, because most of these groups, from the US and Russian perspective, do not believe in coexistence and do not want democracy for Syria after Bashar Al Assad.

Al Nusra Front is now considered as an acceptable mediator that has won the recognition of other groups backed by the US and Saudi Arabia, and has won the silence of the US. But it will soon turn into an enemy once the Isil fighters are destroyed.

All Islamic groups fighting in Syria, including those supported by the West and Arabs, have two goals in common: establishing an Islamic state and toppling the sectarian regime in Syria that has, according to them, committed crimes against Sunnis.

Besides, arms and chaos are the greatest danger to Israel’s security. The existence of armed groups under this chaos, whether under the current regime or not, is a nightmare for Israel and the West, the writer said.

An existential dilemma for Fullujah residents

It’s “either/or” time for Fallujah residents as Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al Maliki gives them an ultimatum between expelling Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) militants or bracing themselves for a face-to-face with the army.

As noted by Abdullah Iskandar, managing editor of the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, “Mr Al Maliki has thus clearly expressed his perception of power exertion and the nature of the relationship he wishes to nurture with his Fallujah-based compatriots”.

Mr Al Maliki may have short-term goals in Fallujah following a setback with his former Shiite allies, an ongoing hitch with the Kurds in the North and growing confrontations associated with the demands of various components in the country.

He implies a complicity between Al Anbar province residents and the terrorist organisation.

Iskandar argues that “the prime minister’s close relationship with Iran comes forth as an essential component of an environment that nurtures terrorism: any protest is deemed an act of terrorism and de facto, any anti-Maliki Iraqi is a terrorist, pending proof of innocence that would never be granted”.

Hence, the state loses its primary function of maintaining citizens’ safety by inviting them to pursue terrorism, while the army becomes the rod in the hand of the ruler. Eventually, “they are asked to either become terrorists or submit to a domineering autocracy”, the writer said.

Palestinians need a unity government

The Palestinian cause is experiencing its darkest hour under a rabid Israeli offensive on Palestinians that touches on every aspect of life, noted the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan in its editorial on Wednesday.

Palestinians are the victims of a cancerous settlement frenzy that is devouring what little remains of their land. Jerusalem faces the threat of complete Judaisation.

“Such Zionist practices wouldn’t have occurred had Palestinian factions been truly united and their internal affairs adequately handled to counter a most condescending occupier,” the daily said.

“Hence, the recent activity in the internal reconciliation dossier and efforts to end and overcome the schism require real concessions on the part of Fatah and Hamas. Internal interests and fleeting gains must be sacrificed for the greater cause for which thousands of Palestinians have perished,” it added.

Both sides have an obligation to work seriously towards rapprochement.

Mere initiatives here and there aren’t sufficient to bridge a gap that has been widening for seven years. Reconciliation agreements must be reactivated immediately to allow for the formation of a national unity government that could begin to address the many issues caused by division.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk