Tide is turning in Syria

It may seem that the protests in Syria are just repeating themselves, but they are growing each week, writes an Arabic-language commentator. The direction is clear. Other topics today: The Islamists in Egypt, Islamists in Tunisia, and relations between Kuwait and Iraq

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Syrian tide is turning against the regime

Observers of Syrian events may get the impression that matters have reached a stalemate or are repeating themselves, the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi said editorially.

Protesters take to the streets every Friday, and are violently repressed by security forces. All that changes from week to week is in the number of casualties.

But in reality, there are new additions to the crowds each week, as the opposition grows stronger and the regime more aggressive.

The widening scope of the protests, which have included 150 towns and villages so far, proves that the opposition is gaining momentum, especially following three opposition conferences featuring the participation of most opposition categories.

True, large cities such as Damascus and Aleppo, with the biggest concentration of businessmen and the middle-class, have yet to throw their weight into the protests. But this is now expected: the loyalties of the trader class usually shift toward the winners.

The economic deterioration due to the crisis and western sanctions will damage the ruling authorities in the near future, as commercial transactions have fallen by half in recent days and the tourist season has ground to a complete halt.

The US and other western countries, which cannot interfere militarily or politically as in Libya, are wagering on an economic collapse, which would be the quickest way to regime collapse.

The end of Islamist power in Egypt

The ministerial changes in Egypt are truly an exceptional event, observed columnist Satea Noureddine in the Lebanese daily Assafir.

This is a strictly Arab or third-world type of event: the Egyptian street imposed a radical adjustment on a cabinet that, until recently, had been changed only upon a decision by the ruler and at his whim.

The street has become the controlling and accountability authority and an instrument for development and improvement.

The military council was prompt to respond and the prime minister, Essam Sharaf, honoured the public's demands to a great extent. Half of the cabinet members were ousted and the rest now realise that they are being tested. More importantly, more than 1,000 police officers were dismissed for their roles in killing or repressing protesters.

"Egypt's revolution has set an irrevocable precedent whatever the type or form of any future system of rule: the street is the main source of authority and the last resort for legality," the writer said.

These developments have set things straight once again. Islamists had left the street and didn't take part in the cabinet adjustment campaign. That was proof that they are not the most potent political power in Egypt.

"Egyptian public opinion rules, and has ended the role of Islamists," the writer concluded.

Time for Kuwait, Iraq to build some trust

You know the Iraqi campaign against Kuwait has reached its height when a politician and the Iraqi Hizbollah Brigades strongly oppose construction of the Mubarak Port project, the UAE paper Al Bayan noted in its editorial.

The Kuwaiti government has every right to have concerns sparked by the shift in the political discourse in Iraq. It is also right to worry about the spring intervention of some Iraqi politicians in Bahraini internal affairs.

So the Iraqi government needs to show clearly its official attitude, through the prime minister or the president, regarding the new port and other pending issues between the two countries.

The role of GCC in this is crucial. The Council needs to support Kuwait in order to deter "harassment" by Iraq. And the UN should urge Iraq to abide by international legitimacy, and should help both countries to fully implement UN security council resolutions.

Some considered the issue of the Kuwaiti port to be an attempt by some parties in Iraq to "dig up" the border demarcation issue, which is supposed to be settled, once for all, by the international resolutions 883 and 899.

"It is hard to understand the reasons behind the row. This port, will, after all, benefit all of Iraq and the south in particular."

The editorial concluded by expressing optimism about the new Iraq, and the hope that Iraqi leaders will focus on developing good relations with their neighbours.

Tunisia's Islamic party is being two-faced

It is well known that Sheikh Rashid al Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party in Tunisia, adjusts his rhetoric according to time and place, always taking into account the audience before him, commented Abdul Rahman al Rashed, a columnist with the pan-Arab Asharq al Awsat newspaper.

It wasn't unexpected of him, then, to tell one British newspaper during a recent interview that, were his party to take presidential office, they would be so tolerant as to allow accessibility to alcohol and women wearing bikinis, the writer went on.

Mr al Ghannouchi often repeats that his party wants "a civil, democratic state that preserves public liberties". Yet his statement to the British newspaper remains a bit hard to believe. How is the Renaissance Party going to accept women wearing bikinis when it is the one that speaks against women who wear their hair uncovered in public?

"The truth is such a liberal statement, which we never hear Mr al Ghannouchi make in the Arab media, may not be more than a politicised discourse specifically directed to westerners." Its goal would be to reassure them that Tunisia's Islamists are not advocates of the full niqab - which seems to annoy some in London - and do not share ideologies held by Iran's Basij or Gaza's Hamas.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk