When friends aren't much help

The "Friends of Syria" group is so ineffectual that it must delight the dictator, an Arabic-language pundit says. Other topics today: Jerusalem's Arabs, and Hizbollah not helping Al Assad.

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'Friends of Syria' and the SNC do more harm than good as they fracture, disagree and delay

Even the 90-per-cent vote in favour of the new regime-proposed constitution of Syria could not have made President Bashar Al Assad as happy as the inefficiency of last week's Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia, or the division within the Syrian National Council (SNC) on Monday, wrote Abdelbari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

Monday's reports that 20 members have quit the SNC must have been music to Mr Assad's ears, especially as there were some heavyweights among them - opposition figures, like the well-known lawyer Haitham Al Maleh, who have been detained for years and tortured in the Syrian regime's prisons, the editor said.

This split within the SNC, a body that has been billed for some time as the potential diplomatic representative of the Syrian people, is compounded by the "utter failure" of the Friends of Syria meeting last week, which brought nothing tangible to the Syrian people.

"The Friends of Syria basically offered the Syrians … a pathetic statement, a bunch of diverging views and rehearsed speeches, while the humanitarian situation in towns besieged by regime forces is only getting worse, and as the number of casualties rises."

The Saudi foreign minister, Saud Al Faisal, and the Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, voiced their support for arming the Syrian people to help them defend themselves against the Assad regime. But that is not a good option either, the editor noted.

"The Friends of Syria have severely wronged the Syrian people by raising their hopes for an upcoming liberation from a despotic regime," the editor argued.

"They held conferences and meetings, took the Syrian crisis to the United Nations, made proposals to deploy international troops, then the real results came, and the frustration was complete.

"The crisis is getting even more complicated now, and the death toll is rising by the day."

But all of that will still not justify arming the Syrian people as a last resort, the editor said. "In fact, arming the Syrian people would be a way to dodge moral responsibility towards them. Arming could lead to grave consequences, not least of which would be the rise of the death toll to horrific levels on both sides - regime opponents and loyalists.

"By the same token, it might fling the door wide open for a sectarian civil war, not just in Syria, but in the whole region."

Though it is costing the Syrians so dearly, political change is coming there sooner or later, whether Mr Assad's repressive regime likes it or not.

But simply throwing a quantity of weapons at the Syrians and leaving them to fend for themselves, without a plan for now or the future, is far from being a sound solution, the editor concluded.

Jerusalem needs support from Arabs

The Doha International Conference on Jerusalem that officially started on Sunday coincided with an escalation of violence in the holy city, including blatant transgressions by Israeli authorities and radical groups on Islamic and Christian holy sites, the Palestinian daily Al Quds said in its editorial.

At the same time, while demolishing Palestinian homes, Israel continues to practice a series of harsh measures against the Arab residents of Jerusalem, in a policy evidently aimed at driving them out of the city.

"This Israeli escalation is leading to heightened tensions. It drives the region towards yet another round of violence and bloodshed," opined the paper.

Arab and Islamic countries need to come up with a clear action plan to counter Israel's policies and to demand serious international pressure on Tel Aviv to cease its blatant transgressions on the human rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem, especially the ethnic cleansing policy that is implemented in various Israeli authorities and ministries.

As for the Arab and Islamic financial support offered to Palestine, it has yet to be on par with the level of challenges that the people of Jerusalem are facing.

"The Arab and Islamic nations must fulfil their financial commitments to sustain the Arab Palestinian presence in the Holy City. Otherwise, nothing will ever change on the ground."

Hizbollah covering up failure to assist Assad

The successive pro-Al Assad speeches by Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hizbollah, don't necessarily express real enthusiasm for the Syrian regime, columnist Abdel Rahman Al Rashid suggested in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Those speeches may be nothing more than a cover to justify the party's failure to execute essential tasks for its ally the Al Assad regime, the writer added.

"In my opinion, Damascus did indeed ask Hizbollah to start a new battle with Israel from Lebanon … in an attempt to distract attention from Deraa, Douma and the rest of the rebel Syrian cities.

"Hizbollah however didn't want to get involved in a potentially damaging confrontation with Israel," said the writer.

The Syrian regime was furious at the Shiite party's reticence to relieve the pressure on it. But despite Mr Nasrallah's harsh speeches, his party didn't once clash with the Lebanese pro-revolution elements.

The support Mr Nasrallah offered stopped at dispatching some of his militiamen to Syria, which was itself quite a risky measure since it leaves Hizbollah uncovered in Lebanon at a time when Israel is threatening to hit Iran and undermine its military abilities in the region.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk