Restoring the Initiative and the Hijacked Files

Restoring the Initiative and the Hijacked Files

Monday, 16 April, 2018 - 08:30
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
Whenever I pack my suitcase to cover an Arab summit, I remind myself of the essence of my profession. I tell myself that my job is to look for the news and try to read between the lines, and not to lament and shed tears. The truth is that we have consumed all the dictionaries of regret, resentment, frustration and disappointment. But in the end, I am an Arab journalist and the figures scare me. Between each summit and another, I discover that the number of Israeli settlements has increased, and that the looting of Palestinian land is ongoing.
 
I also discover that the number of Arabs living in refugee camps is estimated at millions and that a new generation is born under the camps’ cruelty and brutality. I find out that the number of Arab children deprived of schooling is estimated at millions; and that fissures are slicing through new capitals that are managed by non-Arab components in the region.
 
I also see that a large number of unemployed people had joined the endless list; that poverty is taking root; and that it is very difficult for bright ideas to find their way in the dark; and that Arab bodies are swallowed by the fish after falling from death boats fleeing more than a hell. I find out that the other components are racing to share influence on the Arab land, as if the owner of the land has passed away or nearly died; and that these components establish on the Arab territory factories for the militias, working with great skill and abundance.
 
When following up Arab summits, I always thought to write an article entitled: Oh hell! Then I have changed my mind out of my conviction that the Arab situation is more severe than that headline.
 
I am writing as an Arab journalist, as my profession took me to attend many summits. By the way, is a person considered rude if he still says I am an Arab? Should we give up the spirit and the mantle and act as peoples lost in conspiracies and interventions?
 
Why is the Arab component in the Middle East weakened to such extent? Why don’t we have the right to get the minimum of what international conventions, norms and historic facts gave us? At least, Iraq should be for Iraqis, Syria for the Syrians, Lebanon for the Lebanese, Yemen for the Yemenis and Libya for the Libyans. At the least, territories of these Arab countries should not be seized by forces of darkness, coup militias, invasions or foreign tutelage.
 
Is an Arab considered rude when saying that Baghdad should be ruled from Baghdad, Damascus should be managed from Damascus, and the same for Beirut, Sana’a and Tripoli?
 
If we do not recognize an Arab tutelage over another state, how can we accept non-Arab tutelage? Is it rude to demand that Arabs have natural rights, no more or less?
 
The situation in Syria almost summarizes the current Arab calamity. Before the Summit, tension escalated, the Western tripartite alliance targeted Syrian chemical sites. The strike was limited, not aimed at the core of the regime, nor at changing it. It was a reaction to the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons and a message that staying under Russia’s umbrella does not prevent the West from launching punitive operations in response to the violation of the red lines. But the Syrian situation is more complex than the current US-Russian tension.
 
A quick look at the Syrian map is enough to know the scale of the disaster. Russian, American, Iranian and Turkish armies are currently stationed on Syrian territories. Syrian and non-Syrian militias cannot be counted here.
 
The success of the regime in dealing a serious blow to the opposition does not refute the fact that the Syrian map is placed under bickering external hegemony that has transformed the Syrian flag into a mere flag between many flags. A quick look at the real origin of missiles fired by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia shows that the threats to Arab national security have reached an unprecedented level.
 
Concern over serious violations of Arab national security was strongly present in the opening session of the Summit. This was expected as Arab countries no longer have the luxury of delaying or avoiding naming things by their names.
 
However, the highlight of the meeting was the declaration made by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, to label the Dhahran summit as the “Summit of Jerusalem” - a message of great significance in light of recent talks and rumors. This was accompanied by the announcement of financial support for the Islamic Endowments in Jerusalem and UNRWA. The move was greeted with applause.
 
There is no exaggeration in saying that the Arab role in the region began to dwindle when Khamenei’s Iran rushed to take out the Palestinian issue from Arabs’ hands, presenting itself as the custodian and defender of the Palestinian rights, and taking advantage, at that time, of the declining Egyptian role due to the Camp David agreements and the consecutive Arab reactions.
 
Observers do not forget that Iran began to creep into the Arab arena when its supporters clashed with Israel. Under the pretext of fighting Israel, Iran succeeded in planting the seeds of its influence in Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian arena, before the American invasion gave it the opportunity to penetrate the Iraqi fabric and later move to Yemen. Turkey also realized the importance of the Palestinian issue to find a corridor to a number of Arab arenas or powers.
 
Putting back the Palestinian issue into its Arab cradle and committing to the Arab Peace Initiative provide a common Arab ground for developing a serious strategy to confront the Iranian and Turkish interventions. Isn’t it strange, for example, to see the future of Syria discussed by the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey, in the absence of any Arab representation?
 
Arabs have no choice but to regain the initiative, restore the kidnapped files, and formulate realistic and effective policies to restore peace in Syria, Libya and Yemen.
 
Assuming the responsibility of those files will push the major countries to take into account the rights of the Arab component, instead of considering its land as an arena for experimenting wars and weapons.

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