During the first few days of 2014, I looked back on 2013 with anger; after all it was the year when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people and got away with it and the year mindless violence and raw cruelty became the “new norm” in Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Lebanon. As a result, I am already dreading 2014 and I look towards it with angst. The New Year began with a bang and a few painful ironies: car bombings and political assassinations in Beirut, Egypt continued to tear itself apart with its major political forces insisting on dragging the country into an existential struggle no one could win, and in Syria, rebels found themselves fighting a motley crew of primitive fanatic Islamists instead of the tormentors of all Syrians; the regime of Bashar al-Assad and his assassins. In Iraq, the mother of all ironies took place: after a bloody decade during which an untold number of Iraqis and Americans perished fighting intensely to drive out al-Qaeda and its local affiliates from Fallujah and Ramadi, the monstrous children of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are back and planting their black flags on the ramparts of those cities. If “what’s past is prologue” is true, then I shudder when I think of the calamities that the Syrians, Iraqis, Egyptians, Libyans and Lebanese will inflict upon themselves in 2014, usually with a little help from their “friends” and the “kindness” of strangers while an ambivalent world watches on impassively. When historians analyze the second decade of the 21st century, they will likely observe that these were the years during which most Arabs lived dangerously.
Conflicts in Syria and Iraq are morphing into one
The peace conference, even if convened, most likely will not succeed. This is because the primary combatants, the Assad regime and the Islamists, act as if the battlefield and not a conference room will decisively settle the warHisham Melhem