Preparations for the Arab Summit turn Baghdad into a 'Guantanamo Bay' on the Tigris
The Iraqi capital goes into a week of hibernation as it prepares to host the Arab Summit tomorrow. It is a summit that isn't expected to have any effect on the current state of events since it comes at a time of ambiguity and controversy in terms of leadership in the Arab world, said the columnist Rajeh El Khouri in the Lebanese daily Annahar.
Many Arab countries have been undergoing a change that has yet to reach maturity; therefore, the present Arab Summit will merely be an introductory meeting among the new leaders.
"The title 'The Arab Spring Summit' that was chosen for the conference may have been rash, as the world has yet to determine the shape of the regimes and systems that the spring will yield eventually," opined the writer.
In fact, no one knows who the next president of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya will be. It is also unclear whether President Bashar Al Assad will leave Syria in these dark hours to attend the summit, especially in view of the Arab League's position towards his regime.
Saudi Arabia has decided to participate through its ambassador to the Arab League, while other countries are sending their foreign ministers as representatives, which signals that the Baghdad Summit could be among the least influential Arab summits.
Strangely, previous Arab summits have been equally unlucky in Iraq. The first summit the country hosted in 1978 proclaimed the division among Arabs following the Camp David agreements. And the second Baghdad summit in 1990 ushered in a new phase of Arab division that followed Saddam Hussein's madness as he invaded Kuwait.
"We don't know how is it going to be possible for Iraq, which is going through sharp internal divisions that have crippled the central authority, to help through the summit in bringing together divided Arabs, especially in the absence of the united Arab front that was traditionally represented by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria," said the writer. "Saudi has already announced its non-attendance, Egypt is going through a tumultuous process of transition of power and Syria is on the verge of a civil war."
The Iraqi situation is no better than the overall situation across the Arab world. With strict security measures to secure Baghdad against possible explosions and suicide bombers, the capital city seems hijacked.
"One hundred thousand troops have been deployed to protect the summit. Baghdad, far from being an impregnable fortress, has become a five star Guantanamo concentration camp," he added.
For the duration of seven days, bridges will be cut off and roads will be blocked. Newspapers will be on a compulsory hiatus as well as all banking, cultural, sports, social and artistic activities. It is indeed a summit of silence.
Assad's only interest is in crushing dissent
The UN special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, received the Assad regime's response to its six-point proposals but has yet to divulge the content of the response.
"Some view this as a source of optimism, but I don't think so," said Tariq Al Homayed, the editor of the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat. "No reasonable solutions could possibly come out of a regime that recently accused CNN of sabotage on an oil pipeline in Syria."
This could be another one of the Assad regime's ploys to buy time. Just two days ago, it issued a decision that turns the whole of Syria into one big prison as it banned males under 42 to leave the Syrian territories.
"During an entire year since the start of the revolution, the regime has yet to take any action" to prove that it understands what is going on around it. "This is a regime that believes that killings and terror are potent solution," he added.
The authority's main goal isn't to find a solution to the crisis, but rather to forcibly crush it, but that seems unachievable. Despite the poor armament of the Free Syrian Army, the regime is gradually losing its grip on large parts of the country.
Whether the Assad regime responds to Mr Annan's plan or not is inconsequential for the Syrian revolution. The best and the only way to preserve Syria and guard it against the impending civil war is to force the Damascus dictator out as soon as possible.
Time for a Palestinian spring to emerge?
The Palestinian people are entitled to an uprising of their own to face the divisions that have been present for far too long, said Barakat Shlatweh, a contributing writer with the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.
The Israeli occupation forces aren't the only side to blame for Palestinian mistakes and disappointments. Revolt against the warlords in the West Bank and Gaza has become a crucial necessity in light of the digression of the Palestinian cause.
In March last year, a popular campaign was set in motion in the West Bank and Gaza to end the division, but despite the best intentions and the remarkable zeal of the organisers, it stopped short of any results.
"Every now and then, someone comes out pretending to work at ending the division all the while accusing the other side of sabotage. Such people must be reminded that Palestine is getting pillaged,"said the writer.
The agreements of Cairo and Doha must be activated immediately and a new government must be formed to oversee the elections where the people would be heard. The Palestinian people can't possibly continue to be hostages to void agreements and protocol meetings that are nothing more than photo opportunities.
* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem