Assad speaks, the Arab world analyzes
Arabic media review

Assad speaks, the Arab world analyzes

Syrian government and opposition form feminine battalions

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s latest speech occupies the Egyptian press for a second day running on Tuesday, with opposition to Assad’s plan mounting both inside and outside Syria.

“The ‘domestic opposition’ joins those opposing dialogue with the regime,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, quoting the head of the National Coordination Committee Hassan Abdul Azim as saying that no direct dialogue is taking place between his organization and the regime.

On Sunday, Assad outlined a new peace initiative that includes a national reconciliation conference and a new government and constitution, in exchange for Western powers cutting off funding and arms for rebels.

The National Coalition, another opposition group, claims that Assad’s speech proves his incapacity to serve as a president “who understands the responsibilities on his shoulders during this crucial period in his country’s history,” Al-Hayat reports.

Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat leads its front page with a report on Syrian women entering the line of fire in Syria “not only through supportive efforts — such as [supplying] food or nursing — but by forcefully participating in direct combat.”

A number of female battalions have been formed among the ranks of opposition, the daily reports, with the regime responding in kind and forming feminine units of its own.

Meanwhile, Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya reports, quoting Iran’s Mehr News Agency, that Assad presented his political plan to Iran before declaring it publicly.

Amir Abdollahian, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, stated that the initiative was conveyed by Syria’s deputy foreign minister Faysal Miqdad during his recent visit to Tehran.

“Miqdad discussed this initiative moments after his arrival in Tehran. We considered it a comprehensive political program for Syria’s future,” Abdollahian said.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Ghassan Imam bemoans the militarization of Bashar Assad’s Allawite sect, claiming that its militarization will prevent it from integrating in Syria’s civil society.

“Why did the Allawite regime withstand the Arab awakening, while the regime’s of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt did not?” asks Imam. “Because these regime’s were not sectarian and could not use their national armies against their societies. An organized resistance occurred in Libya, because Gaddafi embodied the rule of the tribe. Such a dictatorial regime cannot survive, because the tribe is less extreme and sturdy than the sect.”

Al-Hayat columnist Hazem Saghiyeh claims that the Syrian opposition must convince the “Democratic world” that Syria will be part of it. Only then, he claims, will the Western powers intervene on Syria’s behalf rather than supply hollow words.

“Syria, at least from the mid 1950s, was not [part of the democratic world]. It was the first member of the Arab world to use Soviet and eastern armaments,” writes Saghiyeh.

Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera focuses on Assad’s reference to Palestinian refugees in Syria and the need to leave them out of the fighting.

Muhammad Amin, editor of Al-Quds magazine, tells Al-Jazeera that Assad’s use of “the Palestinian card” is intended to pressure Israel. He notes that the refugees demand the right to return to Israel, and — so believes Assad — Israel would be wise to pressure the US to cease from intervening in Syrian matters so as to avoid an influx of Palestinian refugees.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based daily, quotes Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi calling for Assad to be tried as a war criminal. The daily also reports that 100 countries are currently conducting an air maneuver in preparation for a possible attack on Syria, “if it decides to smuggle its chemical weapons.”

Iran accuses neighbors of overusing joint oil fields

Iran is accusing the Persian Gulf states of overusing joint oil fields, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports, adding that oil experts argue that the Iranian claims are “inaccurate” and stem from Iranian fears of economic collapse as a result of crippling economic sanctions.

Experts tell the daily that 15 joint oil fields exist between Iran and the Arab Gulf, and a report commissioned by Iran’s Shura Council found that the Gulf produce nine times more than Iran does.

Meanwhile, Iranian oil minister Rostom Qassimi told parliament on Sunday that Iran’s oil income has decreased by 45% as a result of the international sanction regime.

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