When Assad’s Syria is your only friend
Arabic media review

When Assad’s Syria is your only friend

Lebanese scholar analyzes Muslim Brotherhood, Shi'ite support for Damascus regime

The Syrian Flash crew
The Syrian Flash crew

Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the London-based Palestinian daily, focuses on the current status of the Syrian People’s Council – the revolutionaries’ newly founded governing body. Despite the high regard for the Council in some quarters, the paper reports that “the international community is still reticent to grant the People’s Council official recognition, and is conditioning such recognition on a display of unity by the Syrian resistance.”

Nevertheless, the governments of France and England are saying that once the members of the Syrian opposition manage to unite and offer a well-organized and worthy alternative, support will come, since “The Syrian leadership cannot be comprised of a leader who sanctions massacres against his own people.”

The rest of the Arab world, upon whose support the Council is also very much dependent, is proving similarly wary about flat-out recognizing the People’s Council as the official Syrian ruling body. However, the article goes on, expressions of support can be found throughout the Arab world, with “mass demonstrations in Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen in front of the Syrian embassies in support of the Syrian resistance.”

A-Sharq Al-Awsat reviews the religious response to the Syrian conflict

In an op-ed written in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, the pan-Arab Saudi publication, Ridwan Al-Sayid, a Lebanese scholar of philosophy and religion, muses on various religious responses to the Syrian crisis.

He starts with his alma mater, El-Azhar University – Egypt’s leading theological institute of higher education. The university, usually careful when speaking out on political issues, has taken “a firm position against the Assad government.”

Al-Sayid reports that El-Azhar’s main sheikhs speak out repeatedly for “the immediate end of the hostilities on part of the Syrian security forces against the revolutionaries.” And “of the necessity of international intervention to end the violence.”

Having said that, the religious officials do urge the protesters to continue to act “in a peaceful way without resorting to violence so as to mirror the other revolutions in the Arab world.” Al-Sayid also makes a point of mentioning a fatwa (a religious decree) written by the religious scholars denouncing the actions of Assad’s regime – quite possibly the strongest denunciation that can come from a Muslim spiritual authority.

On the other side of the spectrum, Al-Sayid does mention the two main religious factors that still support the Assad regime – the Muslim Brotherhood and the Shi’ite leadership in Iran. Looking at what Al-Sayid views as a deep-seated incongruity between the values and Islam and the support of Assad, he tries to offer an explanation for these two players’ obstinacy: “Despite already supporting the revolutionaries in Bahrain, they are still wary of supporting the revolutionaries in Syria. That is because the toppling of the Syrian regime is the main order of business of both the US and Israel!”

Al-Sayid continues with his analysis: “Not only that, for some – like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad — the friendship with (Bashar Assad’s) Syria is all that is left in the region.”

By saying that, Al-Sayid is basically passing very harsh criticism on these institutions, insinuating that their support of Assad is driven by self-serving practical and geo-political reasons as opposed to a value-based religious rationale.

New Syrian drama hits the internet

The independent Syrian publication Al-Watan reports a new initiative by cinematically savvy Syrian youth to launch a new web-drama. The show thus far consists of “15 webisodes; each one of them a couple of minutes long.”

Entitled “Syrian Flash,” it takes on various aspects of Syrian life and tackles them in a “dramatic and intellectually-complex way.” The director of the series, Wasim Al-Sayid, says he and his team “do not wish to take sides” on the present Syrian tumult. “We simply try to present a well-balanced, dramatic portrayal of the life of Syrian youth under the modern Syrian reality.”

The series – which is the first Syrian work of visual drama online – is presently averaging somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 views per episode on Youtube.

Israeli concerns about foreign diplomats

Qatar’s Al-Jazeera covers Israeli reactions to the aftermath of the New Delhi, Tbilisi, and Bangkok  attempts on the lives of its foreign diplomats last week. Al-Jazeera’s Jerusalem-based reporter offers us this from Israel’s security cabinet meeting: “The officials discussed Israeli intelligence’s failure to provide early warning for the attacks or even anticipate the country in which they were going to take place.”

It mentions Israeli allegations of who was to blame for the attacks: “There was an Iranian connection which was established based on certain explosives that were found on one of the bombers in Thailand.” And it notes that Thai intelligence confirms that “The bombers carried Iranian passports.” However, it notes, there is no conclusive word from Thai intelligence as to the recovery of any piece of evidence that speaks to a direct Iranian government connection.

For his part, a spokesman from Iran’s Foreign Ministry is quoted denying any Iranian connection to the attacks: “There is absolutely no Iranian involvement in the Bangkok bombing; what we see here is an attempt to tarnish the long-standing relationship between Iran and Thailand.”

Readying for snow in Jerusalem

The East-Jerusalem publication Al-Quds reports on a warning from the Palestinian Meteorological Office of the possibility of “snowfall in Jerusalem as well as several key areas in the West Bank.”

Not being a frequent occurrence in the warm and dry Middle-Eastern climate, authorities are preparing for the snow with heightened alertness: “The Ramallah Police Force was put on alert for the possibility that it will be mobilized to assist in directing traffic during the inclement weather conditions.”

The paper also notes that “The Palestinian authorities are cooperating with the Israeli authorities in preparation for the severe weather.” This cooperation seems to be an increasingly common occurrence in the West Bank, on civic as well as security matters.

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