Battle for Aleppo could usher in a Libya-style scenario in Syria

What happens in Aleppo will seal the fate of the city and the nation, a columnist writes. Other opinion articles in Arabic-language newspapers compare a healthy democracy with a good marriage, and marvel at the power of the Olympics to bring nations together.

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"All eyes are on the city of Aleppo, the site of a decisive battle that will not only seal the fate of the city and the victor, but the future of Syria as a whole," wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in his front-page column at the weekend.

The current military developments in Aleppo are making headlines across the world, even in Britain, overshadowing some of the Summer Olympics' coverage.

Both sides of the battle, the rebellious Free Syrian Army and the government forces of President Bashar Al Assad, have been preparing for a major clash after exchanging fire for over a week now. The situation promises fierce fighting to match the strategic significance of the city.

Benghazi in Libya comes to mind, the editor noted. "Interest in Aleppo these days is not attributable to the fact that it is the economic capital of Syria or that the peanuts that carry its name are the best in the world - Aleppo is the strategic key to Syria," he pointed out. Much like Benghazi was during the Libyan revolution.

"Whoever gets to control it will have achieved a game-changing accomplishment, paving the road to Damascus (should the opposition win) or preserving the capital and probably the whole of Syria (should the regime prevail)."

Also, the fact that Aleppo is geographically linked to, on one side, neighbouring cities like Idlib and, on the other, to the Turkish borders, give it potential to become "Syria's Benghazi", the editor went on.

Down the line, it might even turn out to become a state on its own, should speculation about plans to "re-divide Syria into five states - Aleppo, Damascus, the Druze Mountain, the Kurdish state and the Alawite state - as per a 1934 scheme by the French colonisers" come true.

Various nations, namely Britain, France and the United States, have warned that carnage would take place if Syrian government forces pushed ahead with their offensive into Aleppo, which is in part controlled by the Free Syrian Army. This is vividly reminiscent of the international outcry that preceded concrete efforts to save Benghazi from Col Qaddafi's brigades.

So will the Libyan scenario play out in Syria?

The West and Ankara fear the current civil-sectarian war might spill over into the neighbourhood, namely to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and that a failed state in Syria - which is said to own biological weapons - might turn into a hotbed for Al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, Russia and China, which have stood by the Syrian regime throughout the 17-month crisis, can't keep their arms crossed forever.

"Everyone's finger is on the trigger … And this Aleppo battle will be the practical test for all," the editor concluded.

Rules of marriage and democracy are similar

There is much in common between marriage and democracy. Both are sweet in the beginning, turn tedious and troublesome in the course of days, but 10 years later, they become easy as if they are running smoothly on a well-lubricated track, Taoufik Bouachrine wrote in an article posted on the Moroccan news website Febrayer.

"Marriage and democracy are necessary evils," the writer said. "Bothersome as they are, they are indispensable for ordinary people. The wedlock leads to stability, giving and offspring, and democracy leads nations to stability and welfare."

For a marriage to succeed, there must be and agreement on the rules of the game: no infidelity, no selfishness and no violence.

Similarly, democracy entails a common ground agreed upon by parties and forces. No violence, no elimination, no rigged elections and no treasonous collaboration. Conflicts are sorted out by civilised means.

Marriage requires a written legal contract between spouses on building a family, and getting along well with each other. Likewise, democracy is founded on a social contract between the ruler and the ruled.

Sunni marriage is permanent. It does not approve fixed-term marriage. So does democracy. And dictatorships that seek "concubinage with democracy to have a free hand to drive it out of home once not interested…will end in failure."

Sport offers lessons for world of politics

It is a mystery why athletics, as competitive as they are, manage to create worldwide harmony that could never happen in political arenas, economic forums, environmental conferences or any other occasion for that matter, said the Qatari daily Al Watan in its editorial on Sunday.

As London inaugurated its 2012 Olympic Games in a dazzling ceremony on Friday, dozens of world leaders were in attendance at the stadiums among some 60,000 spectators and more than 1 billion viewers across the world.

"Doesn't this prove that sports could bring together what politics drive apart and bridge the gaps brought about by conflicts of interest?" asked the paper.

Politicians could certainly benefit from the values of sportsmanship. They are a good recipe for resolving differences and laying the foundations for constructive dialogue as can be witnessed by the British prime minister David Cameron and the Russian president Vladimir Putin, who took the time to negotiate commercial transactions between their countries while attending judo matches.

"In the same sense, in an atmosphere of sportsmanship, a simple red card would peacefully cast out of the field a leader who kills his own people," concluded the newspaper.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk