‘Collective punishment’ in Syria and rumors on Iran
Arabic media review

‘Collective punishment’ in Syria and rumors on Iran

EU envoy to the Middle East says time is running out for the two-state solution

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

A Syrian man walks by a house destroyed in a Syrian government bombing in Azaz, near Aleppo, August 24, 2012 (photo credit: AP/Muhammed Muheisen)
A Syrian man walks by a house destroyed in a Syrian government bombing in Azaz, near Aleppo, August 24, 2012 (photo credit: AP/Muhammed Muheisen)

Will the Syria of Bashar Assad repeat the Hama massacre perpetrated by his father, Hafez Assad, in the early 1980s? According to London-based daily Al-Hayat, he will.

The daily says Assad has adopted a policy of “collective punishment,” using methods similar to those of his father. Al-Hayat reports that the regime has sent bulldozers to flatten residential areas in the impoverished town of Tawahin, near the Damascus-Beirut highway. On Sunday, 200 shops and homes were reportedly burned and demolished in the old section of Daraa, in the south.

Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera also uses the term “collective punishment” to describe the violence in Damascus, reporting 250 fatalities there Monday. The channel broadcasts footage of a Syrian bomber dropping bombs over the Aleppo region.

Meanwhile, Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat is leading its Syrian coverage with reports that Russia has requested its nationals to leave Syria and abstain from traveling to it. The daily reports the death of 18 Syrian refugees, including women and children, in a building in the town of Al-Bab which was bombarded from the air. The daily also reports that Syrian jets have been dropping explosive barrels of oil on residential areas.

A number of editorials deal with the international envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, who is quoted as saying that his mission is “nearly impossible” in a BBC interview.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat editor-in-chief Tareq Homayed bashes Brahimi’s statement that Syria now needs a “ceasefire,” arguing that what Syria really needs is to “stop Assad’s killing of the Syrian people.” Homayed concludes that the term “ceasefire,” indicating balance or moral equivalency, should not be used in the Syrian context.

Another editorial, in London-based daily Al-Quds Ar-Arabi wonders: if Brahimi’s mission is “nearly impossible,” why did he accept it?

“Many friends advised Mr. Brahimi… to stay away from this complicated issue, but it seems like the man wants to return to the limelight and no one can blame him for that. The Syrian crisis was never easy, and becomes only more difficult due to the foreign interventions in it.”

Al-Hayat editor Ghassan Cherbel agrees that Brahimi can indeed accomplish nothing if both sides of the Syrian fighting do not decide to forgo violence.

“Brahimi cannot carry out real mediation as long as both sides of the conflict in Syria do not sense hunger. By hunger, I mean the need for an out. His practical role cannot begin unless both sides of the conflict realize the impossibility of dealing a fatal blow and that its price cannot be borne.”

Did the US send a secret letter to Iran?

A report in Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth that the US sent Iran a secret letter asking it not to retaliate to an Israeli strike by attacking American bases in the Gulf is being widely covered in Arab press Tuesday.

“Washington and Tel Aviv create a ‘storm’ of doubt surrounding America’s dissociation from an Israeli strike on Iran,” reads the headline of Al-Hayat. The daily reports a denial of the Yedioth report by both American and Israeli officials.

“Washington examines options for curbing Iran’s nuclear project and denies negotiating with it secretly,” reads the headline of A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah threatened in a televised interview that Iran will bomb American bases across the region in retaliation for any Israeli attack.

“Israeli angst following an secret American letter to Iran,” reads the main headline of Al-Quds Al-Arabi. In the daily’s report, Nasrallah promises Israel that he will “invade the Galilee” and claims he will not use chemical weapons, because they are banned by Islamic law.

EU representative: The two-state solution is at risk

In an interview with Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam Tuesday, the EU representative Andreas Reinicke claims that the two-state solution is in jeopardy, adding that with no political solution “we are quickly approaching “the point of no return.”

Reinicke admitted that in light of Europe’s economic crisis, European interest and influence in the region have decreased.

According to Al-Hayat, Reinicke singled out the settlement issue as the main stumbling block to negotiations.

“The Europeans today warn that the two state-solution is at risk, as long as settlement activity continues and no solution is found,” he said.


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