A Russian proposal to remove Syria’s chemical weapons in order to avoid a Western military strike on the country leads the headlines of Arab media on Tuesday, which also highlights the outrage of Syria’s opposition to the Russian proposal.
“‘Chemical weapons diplomacy: Syria ‘backs down’ in order to avoid a strike,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, featuring a photo of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem walking off the stage looking contented following a press conference in Moscow Monday, where Syria expressed its willingness to forgo its chemical arsenal.
Quoting Western diplomatic sources, the daily reports that although the move was likely intended to influence the vote in Congress on a military strike and make life difficult for US President Barack Obama, it constitutes a first-ever Syrian admission of owning chemical weapons and perhaps a tacit acknowledgement that these weapons were used in the attack in al-Ghuta a-Sharqiya last month.
“The ‘hypothetical’ proposal on chemical weapons confuses the Syrian scene,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, featuring a photo of US Secretary of State John Kerry looking dismayed at a press conference where he announced that the Russia proposal could remove an American strike from the table.
The daily highlights confused American statements, noting that while National Security Adviser Susan Rice asserted the resolve of the administration to strike Syria militarily, a spokesman for the State Department exposed the diplomatic track discussed between Kerry and Lavrov on Monday.
Meanwhile, Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera dedicates an article on its website to the outrage of the Syrian opposition following the Russian proposal.
Salim Idris, commander of the Free Syrian Army, told the channel that the decision is merely intended to buy the regime time and avoid a military confrontation, which he considered imperative.
In a telephone conversation with Al-Jazeera, Idris warned the US against “falling into the trap of deception and avoiding a strike against this criminal regime, which killed thousands.”
Saudi news site Elaph reports on Tuesday that while the Syrian army is superior to the opposition in terms of weapons and ammunition, the Free Syrian Army has a higher number of fighters, reaching some 100,000, not including Islamist fighters “which oppose [the Free Syrian Army] ideologically and support it during harsh battles.”
“Syria — the final crucial moments,” reads the headline of an op-ed by A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Tareq Homayed.
If Congress votes against a strike, writes Homayed, “it would simply mean that killing is the basic factor in the rules of the game in our region, which will need to prepare for a new, harsher, wave of terrorism.”
Meanwhile, Al-Hayat columnist Mustafa Zein says an American strike would merely mean that an occupation would replace a dictatorship.
“America now is the world’s policeman, judge and prosecutor general. It is a democracy domestically which practices the worst form of dictatorship abroad. American writers, with the exception of some pariahs, witness pure democracy in their own country. Oppressing others, attacking them and installing their own leaders serves their interests and strengthens their democracy. There are states, in the east and the west, which await the decision of this democracy to save them from the evil people.”
“Once again, it is an equation of the occupation saving us from tyranny, a policy proven wrong by history.”
Turning a leaf in US-Iranian relations
Quoting “knowledgeable sources in Tehran,” Al-Hayat reports that the Obama administration has sent a message of appeasement to Iran following the election of Hasan Rouhani as president.
According to the sources, the Americans expressed willingness to ease the sanctions on Iran and engage in direct dialogue with it in return for positive Iranian cooperation with the six countries engaged in negotiations with Iran concerning its nuclear program.
The American message was reportedly conveyed through the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who discussed the matter with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
According to Al-Hayat, Khamenei was positive about the notion of a “new page” in relations with the US, on condition that the US “change its behavior toward Iran.”