UN sword looms over Syria
Arabic media review

UN sword looms over Syria

While Hosni Mubarak wilts in prison, international community may step up pressure against the Assad regime

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

Egyptian women protest in Egypt's Tahrir Square June 5 (photo credit: AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
Egyptian women protest in Egypt's Tahrir Square June 5 (photo credit: AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

The ongoing violence in Syria has prompted the international community to debate the prospect of replacing Bashar Assad, with 14 foreign ministers meeting in Istanbul Wednesday to discuss contingencies for the day after Assad steps down.

“Washington threatens with Chapter Seven; Annan to present a ‘fortified plan’ today,” reads the headline in the London-based daily Al-Hayat, which describes a “tug of war,” between the United States and its allies on the one hand, and China and Russia on the other, over the realities of a post-Assad Syria and the wisdom of involving Iran in the solution.

“Syria: International mobilization to discuss a post-Annan plan,” reads  the headline of a story in the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat next to an image of a family fleeing the town of Houla in pickup truck.

According to the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, one proposed plan included presidential elections in Syria and the relocation of Assad to Russia. Annan will suggest involving Russia, China and Iran in the solution.

According to the paper’s lead editorial, “The surprise in this plan…is the acknowledgment of the United States, and the US-led Friends of Syria Group, that it was a mistake to alienate Syria from the start. They also capitulated to Russia’s condition to include Iran in the international efforts to discuss the Syrian issue.

“The question now is whether Russia accepts the plan and whether it can convince the Syrian president to relinquish power and retire in Moscow.”

Nabil Al-Arabi, the secretary general of the Arab League, told Al-Hayat on Thursday that although his organization would not demand military intervention in Syria, he was fearful of the imminent threat of civil war in the country.

Egypt to reconvene constitutional assembly

The Egyptian parliament agreed Wednesday to reconvene the constitutional assembly, a body tasked with drafting the country’s post-revolutionary constitution and defining the role of the president and military.

According to the Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera, 37 percent of the new assembly will be members of parliament, with the other seats going to constitutional experts and civil society members.

The establishment daily Al-Ahram reports that Egypt’s constitutional court will decide next week whether presidential candidate Ahmad Shafiq can run in the wake of the legislation of a law prohibiting members of Hosni Mubarak’s regime from participating in Egypt’s political life.

Al-Hayat reports that the law will likely be declared unconstitutional, especially considering the fact that justice Farouq Soultan, who will decide the case, is also the man in charge of the presidential elections.

Meanwhile, Egyptian and other Arab dailies are publishing excerpts from the court proceedings in Mubarak’s case, including detailed testimonies from his senior aides.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi leads its news with reports of a “dramatic deterioration” in Mubarak’s health. “The Brotherhood threatens violence if Shafiq wins,” reads the headline.

In a pessimistic editorial titled “The Debris of the Revolution,” Al-Hayat columnist Muhammad Salah bemoans the current political climate in Egypt.

“As long as everyone is inconsistent in their positions, and contradictory, opportunistic positions characterize most people and parties in Egypt’s political world, it will be extremely difficult to reach common ground that can overcome the crisis engulfing the country,” writes Salah.

Iraq, Turkey, and the Kurds

The Saudi-owned daily Elaph reports Thursday that the Iraqi government has warned Turkey against signing bilateral agreements with the government of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, arguing that it runs contrary to international law.

Meanwhile, political efforts to impeach Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki continue. According to A-Sharq Al-Awsat, 200 signatures have already been obtained from parliament members in order to start the impeachment process — significantly more than the minimum required 165 signatures. But Maliki’s political adviser Mariam Al-Rais said the prime minister may decide to dissolve the parliament and head for elections within 60 days.

Syrian air stewardesses brawl over Bashar

The Saudi daily Al-Watan reports that Syrian air stewardesses working for Saudi Airlines have been brawling over their opinions of the current Syrian regime.

The paper reports that 15 police records were opened in Saudi Arabia for the violence. In one case a flight to Dubai was delayed and airport security had to intervene to brake up a brawl.

A Saudi Airlines official met with the stewardesses and warned them against discussing politics in public, the paper reports. Saudi Airlines stopped flying to Damascus recently as part of an Arab boycott of the Syrian regime.

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