Hopefully 2017 will be a better year
The first day of the New Year was not expected to be different from any other day in 2016: Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Syrian people will continue to spend gloomy winter nights in the cold, with little food and blankets.
Millions of other Syrians, meanwhile, will spend the night in temporary shelters inside Syria, or in orphanages in different countries of the world, suffering tough conditions and facing an unknown future. The same goes for Libyans and residents of volatile spots in Yemen and Iraq.
Amid those sorrows, and along with the destruction and continued killing, I can however see a glimmer of light as 2017 dawns.
There is the news that a preliminary solution is in the air for Syria; an initiative for a solution in Yemen is also being discussed; and a call for reconciliation has been made in Libya. A long-awaited retake of the Iraqi city of Mosul would also result in exterminating Daesh after two years of fear, anarchy and terrorism.
Is this a glimmer of hope or just a fleeting illusion? Actually, I do not know. The signals are positive and the promises are encouraging, and we have nothing but to wait, wishing that 2017 would be better than the bloody preceding five years.
But why I am pinning hopes on the New Year? Because the outgoing US President Barack Obama, who used to back the Iranians, the Russians and the Damascus regime, is leaving the White House.
Furthermore, half of the apparent Russian-Iranian victories are in reality semi-defeats. The early arrangements for a negotiated solution also suggest that the New Year will be better than the previous one.
At the beginning of 2017, a desire to end conflicts is notably a common feature in all news on Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya, and I hope this feeling will become a reality.
Few winners in war
Conflict has exhausted the fighters, as everybody discovered that destruction and displacing people from their homes does not lead to victories.
For four years, the Syrian regime has been daily dropping barrel bombs on an entire area and targeting civilians in a barbaric campaign to force people to flee their homes. After this huge cleansing campaign and all these massacres, the regime failed to achieve demographic hegemony, because the regime itself is a minority and its troops have greatly decreased after its sect followers opted to escape with other Syrians to Europe and other places, instead of letting their children be compulsorily conscripted and driven to the battlefield.
An Alawite father once told me while in New York that many Alawite families make their children flee the country as they reject fighting for a regime that does not deserve to kill for. Those who send their children to die for the sake of the Assad regime are hired militias like those aligned with Hezbollah, or the Asai’b Ahl Al-Haq in Iraq. The Iranian regime is boasting that only few Iranians are fighting in Syria as it uses Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani militants.
Road map for peace
As for Yemen, war stopped for only a few days in a test of the truce that proved to be a failure a month ago. But the road map for peace proposed by the UN envoy is still the only thing that warring factions can gather around. There are big hopes that all parties will return to the negotiating table with the beginning of a new American era.
Obama’s exit with the end of his second term brings both joy and concern. He adopted a no-action approach toward several dangerous, simultaneous crises until they represented intercontinental dangers. Perhaps President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will follow a stricter and more determined policy against chaos.
Anyway, 2016 was a very cruel year, but hopefully the New Year will bring some breakthroughs so badly needed by millions of homeless, tragedy-hit, and orphaned people.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of the Al Arabiya News Channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was originally published.