Tuesday, 3 January 2012

“Fasten your seatbelts for 2012”

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, general manager of Saudi AlArabiya TV, believes that after the 2011 Arab Spring unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria, the year 2012 will prove to be tough for all Arab countries. Consequently, he writes for the Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, “All of us -- the countries rocked by revolts and the countries fearful of revolts – need to tightly fasten our seatbelts because 2012, I think, will prove to be the most hazardous of all.”
Where Syria is concerned, Qatar’s Aljazeera portal says there was no let-up in violence there on Monday, when security forces killed 24 civilians in the Damascus suburbs, Homs and Hama.
But Arab print and electronic media have different readings of Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby’s take on the League’s observer mission in Syria.
Elaraby, speaking at a news conference in Cairo on Monday, said persistent shooting in Syria must cease, warning that snipers remain a threat. “Yes, there is still shooting and, yes, there are still snipers,” he said. But heavy weapons, including tanks and artillery, have been removed from residential areas. Elaraby also vouched for Sudanese Gen. M. al-Dabi, the controversial head of the monitoring team.
A sample of Syrian press headlines on Elaraby’s remarks:
Al-Watan – “Elaraby confirms the end of armed presence in cities and the release of 3,484 detainees”
Al-Baath – “Elaraby: Some criticisms are misplaced”
Tishreen – “Elaraby: Mission is making progress and the media need not prejudge”
Champress – “Elaraby: Damascus gave free access to 130 media outlets and barred three TV networks” (presumably Aljazeera, AlArabiya and France24).
Saudi Alawsat, however, prefers to underscore on its front page the following remark by the Arab League secretary-general: “We were asking for the Palestinians’ protection, we’re now asking for the Syrians’ protection.”
In his leader comment, Alawsat’s chief editor Tariq Alhomayed sounds unconvinced by Elaraby’s words. He still wants Gen. al-Dabi replaced and the mission of “Arab League spectators” restructured “with the help of a ranking international organization and a number of competent and respectable figures.”
Better still, Alhomayed writes, “it’s time to start handing over the Syria file to the UN Security Council – not necessarily by the Arab League, but by a distinct committee comprising Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Turkey and whoever else wants to put an end to the killings in Syria. The committee would lobby Russia, the U.S. and Europe for a UN resolution providing the Syrians with buffer and no-fly zones.”
Abdelbari Atwan, publisher/editor of the pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi, says Arab governments have only themselves to blame for choosing al-Dabi, an army general accused of overlooking atrocities during the Darfur genocide, to lead the Syria observer mission.
“Gen. al-Dabi is not a Swede. Like most of his fellow Arab army generals, he belongs to institutions that usurped power through military coups. He was not an American or international nominee to the post. His selection was purely Arab and was made by a task force of foreign ministers belonging to the Arab League. If choosing him was wrong, the blame should not fall on him or his country, but on those who named him for the job in the first place,” Atwan suggests.
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