The statement issued in the wake of the Fatah and Hamas reconciliation meeting in Damascus last Friday did not reveal the points of agreement that both delegations reached nor the points of disagreement that are still under discussion, observed Abdullah Iskandar in an opinion article for pan-Arab daily Al Hayat. The public statement said the meeting's atmosphere was brotherly and amicable and reflected a genuine desire on both sides to put an end to the division between them. The situation is compounded by the relaunch of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that impose upon Fatah certain commitments that Hamas rejects.
Ending the Palestinian division requires not only the cessation of aggressive actions between Hamas and Fateh and reaching a power-sharing formula for control in all Palestinian territories, but it also necessitates the retreat of both parties' dominance in the West Bank and Gaza for the benefit of a new formula for the Palestinian national project in all its aspects. However, any attempt to reintegrate Hamas in the state building process would compel Fatah to go back on many of its commitments, which jeopardises the viability of negotiations.
Both Palestinian sides are aware of these facts. Their meeting imposes a calm attitude to await the outcome of political confrontations in the region.
A worm attacks many Iranian computers
Despite the Iranian propaganda to promote its image as the power that counter-balances US power in the region, Tehran finds itself helpless before the Stuxnet "worm" computer program which infected tens of thousands of computers and is thought to target its industrial and nuclear plants, wrote Asharq al Awsat's editor-in-chief Tareq Hammad.
Considering the worm's quality and speed, Tehran is convinced that it cannot be an individual creation, but rather part of a state-designed scheme aiming to cripple Iran's energy-related systems. "What is important here is that a 'worm' is capable of crippling Iran's capabilities, despite all Iranian statements and military propaganda". It showcases the real difference in military power between Iran and the West, especially the US. The one truth remaining is that Iran's real power lies in its sabotage abilities.
The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was truthful when he claimed Iran is the second most powerful nation after the US in the region. It is clear that all keys to obstruction are in Iran's hands. Tehran holds the peace process hostage through its control of Hamas and Hizbollah. In Iraq, it continues to widen the sectarian gap hampering the formation of a new government. Its interference is also felt in Yemen through the Houthis and in the Gulf countries where it sows the seeds of sectarian sedition.
New crisis between China and Japan
China and Japan are indeed two Asian titans, but Beijing has proven more assertive and more capable of escalation during times of crisis, wrote Mazen Hammad, a columnist with the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. This is what the latest diplomatic confrontation between the two countries has revealed. The crisis broke out earlier this month when Japan arrested the captain of a Chinese fishing boat near an uninhabited archipelago that is disputed by the two sides.
"In the beginning, observers thought that Tokyo was ready for escalation, especially after it announced that it would prosecute the Chinese captain. But the way the two-week crisis has ended showed that Japan presented no tough opposition to China." The release of the captain marked a clear win for the Chinese leadership and, by the same token, brought about the question as to why did Tokyo take the route of escalation in the first place, if it was only going to dismount from its high horse.
Tokyo may have arrested the Chinese captain to show off its authority over the islands, but Beijing's tough response claimed ownership over the Japanese-administered islands and demanded an apology and compensation. This last episode comes to seal the balance that occurred in Asia when, earlier this year, China overtook Japan and positioned itself as the world's second strongest economy after the US.
The GCC faces its own security challenges
A number of Gulf countries have bought $125 billion worth of advanced weapons from the US in order to balance Iranian military supremacy in the Gulf region, reported Dr Shamlan al Issa in an article for Emirati daily Al Ittihad. Gulf countries have gone through various phases in the security field. They exerted great efforts to establish their security following the departure of British forces in the 1970s. After the Iranian revolution and the Iraqi-Iranian war, they formed the GCC, which later established the Peninsula Shield force with 5,000 troops from all council members. However, the force soon proved to be incompetent and insufficient during the invasion of Kuwait.
Once Kuwait was liberated, GCC countries reviewed their concept of national security. They signed defence agreements with the US, Britain and France. Nonetheless a number of problems face the Gulf countries in their latest armament deals. The first is their demographics and excessive reliance on oil as a single source of income. The small number of the Gulf armed forces compounds the problem. Countries of the Gulf must combine their powers and develop their aerial and missile defence systems for the new weapons that require a high level of competence and expertise - the true measure of military advancement.
* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem