Voices From The Arab Press: What is the situation for Idlib?

Weekly analyses and insights from the Arab world.

KURDISTAN DEMOCRATIC Party leader Masoud Barzani shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote during parliamentary elections in the semi-autonomous region on the outskirts of Erbil, Iraq, on September 30. (photo credit: REUTERS)
KURDISTAN DEMOCRATIC Party leader Masoud Barzani shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote during parliamentary elections in the semi-autonomous region on the outskirts of Erbil, Iraq, on September 30.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Ittihad, UAE, December 6
Can the war in Idlib end the intransigence of the terrorist organizations in Syria?
The 11th round of Astana meetings failed, and the political parties taking part in the talks – Iran, Russia and Turkey – were unable to extend the 10-week truce that is set to expire in the city soon. The Syrian regime has been continuously bombing the countryside areas of Idlib and Hama. There were numerous massacres, and dozens of people have been killed at the hands of the regime. The most frequent victims are women and children. The number of bombings and assassinations increased, and about four million people are still living in eminent danger. Opening a secondary front in Idlib could lead to a horrendous calamity.
Although the international players involved in the Astana talks are acting out of a true desire to end the war, they have failed to understand the simple fact that a political solution will not suffice in Syria. They called for the establishment a constitutional committee that would help write a new Syrian constitution. But the truth of the matter is that the Syrian north has become a breeding ground for terrorist organizations that enjoy widespread support. The only way to move forward with the Syrian ceasefire plan is to disarm these movements and ensure that a new Islamic State doesn’t emerge in the Middle East.
The new US envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, made reference to this issue in a recent interview, when he said, “We need a Syrian government that does not push half of its population outside the country in order to solve the fighting. Doing so will simply create new terrorist organizations.”
Therefore, the only viable solution to the Syrian crisis would be one that prevents more massacres and initiates an on-the-ground intervention. The failure of the Astana meeting is an omen for more bloodshed, unless world powers put aside their disagreements and reexamine their priorities. Achieving a clear political vision for Syria will make Syrian citizens more confident in their future.
Most importantly, it will send a clear message to both criminals and extremists that they have no future in the country.
– Riyadh Naasan Agha
Al Mada, Iraq, December 7
Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, arrived in Baghdad last week for a first meeting of a Kurdish leader with an Iraqi prime minister since the 2017 Kurdish independence referendum.
This visit has been long overdue, and it’s hard to believe that it would have ever taken place had new Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi not taken office. Mahdi has long-standing ties with the Kurdish leadership in Iraq, which date back to the days of Saddam Hussein. Mahdi maintained close ties with his Kurdish counterparts throughout the years and even sought refuge from Saddam’s intelligence authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan. Since taking office, he has been a strong proponent of bridging the enormous divide between Baghdad and Erbil; a gap that emerged after the Kurdish population voted to secede from Iraq and declare independence last year.
The visit has great timing for both leaders. Iraq has a desperate need to salvage its economy and boost its exports. This can be achieved by extracting and exporting oil from Kirkuk to Turkey, via Kurdistan. A large focus of Barzani’s visit is the signing of a deal between the two parties that would enable the government to do exactly that. On Barzani’s end, receiving such a warm welcome in Baghdad, saved only for foreign dignitaries, provides Kurdistan with the legitimacy and recognition is needs. On Mahdi’s end, receiving the support of the Kurdish party in parliament, which holds 25 seats, is a strong boost of power that secures his ability to run a government.
After the reign of two Iraqi prime ministers who attempted to marginalize and weaken the Kurdish population, Mahdi is determined to turn the page on Iraqi-Kurdish relations. Barzani shares the same mission. This development may very well be one of the most important milestones in Iraqi politics of our time, and could pave the way for a more stable and peaceful country in years to come.
 – Udnan Hussein
Al Jazeera, Qatar, December 3
Despite the fact that more than two months have passed since the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey, the US media continue to report on the matter on a nearly daily basis.
Part of this reporting comes in response to recent leaks made by CIA officials on the involvement of the Saudi Crown Prince, Muhammad Bin Salman, in the decision to kill the Saudi-American journalist. According to the American findings, Bin Salman had been directly involved in the operation and personally gave the order to carry out the killing. This should be a shocking discovery for any decent human being. Even the most militant supporters of Saudi Arabia in America have been struggling to deal with these revelations and defend Bin Salman.
The only person determined to ignore this mounting evidence is US President Donald Trump, who launched a direct attack on his own intelligence agency and denied the findings presented to him by senior CIA officials. Thankfully, the vast majority of the American public doesn’t believe Trump’s lies. The American people were willing to turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s attacks in Yemen. They were willing to condone the continuous encroachment of human rights in the kingdom. But the killing of Khashoggi was a step too far.
I believe that it is only a matter of time until Congress launches a formal investigation on Trump’s politicization of intelligence and refusal to accept the CIA’s findings. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman is closely monitoring these developments in an effort to protect his seat. If this matter continues to unfold with such great public attention, Bin Salman will be forced to make major changes to his government, including a potential rearrangement in the Royal House.
Otherwise, he will find his own neck on the line.
– Hassan Brari
Asharq Al-Awsat, Saudi Arabia, December 5
The passing away of leaders provides us with an important opportunity to stop and reflect on their lives and remember important historical events that helped shape our world today. George H.W. Bush, who stayed in office for only one term, had a momentous impact on the Middle East.
He entered the White House at an incredibly difficult time, in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union and the impeding war between Iraq and Kuwait. Bush was a man of great courage, just like King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. The two men were determined to put an end to Saddam Hussein’s expansionary ambitions in the region and, despite warnings both at home and abroad, decided to launch a military offensive against Iraq.
If these two men hadn’t taken these actions, it is highly likely that Kuwait would have disappeared from the map. It would have become an Iraqi protectorate used to destabilize the Arab Gulf and undermine US interests in the region. The American public did not recognize Bush’s great statesmanship in his decision to launch this war. He never received the credit he deserves, as the American public was still scarred from the war in Vietnam. Yet Bush did not waver; he insisted on doing what was right for his own nation and its closest allies. It is easy to forget this through the lens of time.
We must not let radical leftist propaganda erase these great achievements and the incredible role played by the US around the world in general, and in the Middle East more specifically, throughout the years. Without great leaders like George H.W. Bush, the Middle East would have been in an even greater state of war today. The history of Bush is therefore intertwined and embedded in our own collective history. On the week of his passing, it is important we honor Bush – not to romanticize who he was as a leader, but to thank him his role and his legacy in protecting Saudi Arabia and the moderate nations of the Middle East.
 – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
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