A statement by an Iranian official saying Syria is undergoing “the final stages of the game” leads the news in Arab dailies Sunday.

Mohsen Rezai, secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council and former Republican Guard official told the Iranian Maher news agency that the battles raging in Syria will determine whether the country will succumb to Islamic influence or American influence.

Both A-Sharq Al-Awsat and Al-Hayat, the two most widely read newspapers in the Arab world, feature photos of opposition fighters aiming machine guns at their enemy in the city of Aleppo.

In what Al-Hayat dubs “an unusual move,” the Syrian regime is denying news that Syrian Vice President Farouq Shara has defected. But according to defecting Syrian oil minister Abdo Hossam A-Din, Shara is being held in Syria under house arrest, Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya reports.

‘In anticipation of the ideas Ibrahimi may propose to solve this virtually intractable bind, the man does not cease to talk about hope. But this rhetoric reflects a philosophical position regarding the big problems with no reference to specific data about tough realities’

The nomination of Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi Friday as international and Arab representative to Syria in place of Kofi Annan is also receiving wide Arab coverage.

Al-Jazeera reports that Russia is demanding that Brahimi continue Annan’s mandate, adamantly rejecting calls for a no-fly zone over Syria. The United States, for its part, is requesting “clarifications” on Brahimi’s mandate.

Al-Hayat columnist Abdullah Iskandar writes Sunday that Brahimi’s mission is doomed to fail, because solving the crisis in Syria would require strategic changes in policy by Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime, changes that are beyond the ability of one man to achieve.

“In anticipation of the ideas Brahimi may propose to solve this virtually intractable bind, the man does not cease to talk about hope. But this rhetoric reflects a philosophical position regarding the big problems with no reference to specific data about tough realities,” writes Iskandar.

Meanwhile, Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor-in-chief Abd Al-Bari Atwan is enamored with a new Egyptian initiative to solve the Syrian crisis. President Mohammed Morsi suggested the establishment of a four-country group composed of Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to find a “peaceful solution” to the bloodshed in Syria. According to Atwan, the Egyptian initiative has revitalized Egypt’s leadership role in Arab foreign policy which has been dormant for 40 years.

“The four countries are the main focal points in the Middle East, and are the only ones which, together, can intervene effectively and decide the Syrian issue after all the other initiatives have failed,” writes Atwan.

Lebanon’s president awaits clarification from Assad

Lebanon has traditionally been cautious not to aggravate its larger neighbor to the east, Syria, especially since unrest erupted there in March 2011. But the discovery of a Syrian plot to sabotage Lebanon in order to destabilize the country and deflect attention from Syria is causing a change of heart in Lebanon’s leadership.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman tells Al-Arabiya that he still maintains good relations with President Bashar Assad, hoping that “no  Syrian official is behind sending the explosives.” Suleiman adds that he awaits a phone call from Assad clarifying the situation, but that “so far, no such call has taken place.”

Malek argues that Lebanon is mistaken to think that by announcing its neutrality it will be able to avoid spillover from Syria’s violence

“After having imported it from Syria, Lebanon is at the heart of the revolution!” writes Lebanese reporter Adel Malek in an op-ed in Al-Hayat.

“Since the revolution’s eruption in Syria, fears are growing day by day regarding the dangerous repercussions of this revolution on the Lebanese scene,” writes Malek.

Malek argues that Lebanon is mistaken to think that by announcing its neutrality it will be able to avoid spillover from Syria’s violence.

“Why? Because many forces clearly wish ill to Lebanon and its citizens. Things are getting worse with the sharp polarization of ‘Lebanese factions’ surrounding many issues being discussed,” writes Malek.

Passive smoking in Dubai

Cafe owners in Dubai are complaining about fines imposed since the beginning of August by the Dubai Development Department on hookah cafes that serve youths under 18 and pregnant women, in a bid to combat passive smoking, Saudi-owned news channel Elaph reports Sunday.

Cafe owners and customers also bemoan a decision to move the cafes outside of residential areas. The owners told the daily that they cannot prevent parents from bringing their children to the cafe, nor can they examine the IDs of youths who tell them they are over 18.

One owner, Bassem Hussam, told Elaph that if pregnant women, children and under-18-year-olds were banned from his cafe he would not be able to make a profit and would be forced to close.