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Iran's unfolding game in the Middle East

"The latest statements by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that any solution to Middle East conflicts is contingent upon Iran's consent are a serious development. They come along with another warning to the Gulf states not to interfere in Yemen's internal affairs," remarked Waleed al Saadi in a comment piece for the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai.

"The latest statements by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that any solution to Middle East conflicts is contingent upon Iran's consent are a serious development. They come along with another warning to the Gulf states not to interfere in Yemen's internal affairs," remarked Waleed al Saadi in a comment piece for the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai. Most observers agree that Iran is flexing its muscles in the region. Tehran is omnipresent in Lebanon through Hizbollah, in Gaza through Hamas, in Iraq through religiou§ s influences, and in Yemen through the Houthis.

It is not surprising that Iran feels so confident to claim its pivotal role which feeds its growing ego as a big regional country. This encourages it to further consolidate its position by reaching out to Turkey, the other major power in the Middle East, in an attempt to strengthen bilateral ties of co-operation. Tehran is already behaving arrogantly, so how would it act if it possessed nuclear weapons?

In that case, the Palestinian cause would be downgraded and the Iranian issue would steal the show. Given its rising regional importance, Iran is likely to convince others to enter into dialogue with it, sooner or later, on Middle East issues. Yet all this depends on the Islamic Republic's willingness to co-operate with the countries in the region to achieve stability and security.

Most armed operations in Iraq since 2003 were ordered by Saddam Hussein and other leaders tied to the former regime, but some were masterminded by the al Qa'eda organisation, which took advantage of the security vacuum, observed Wafeeq al Sameraei in an opinion piece for the London-based daily Al Sharq al Awsat. Had those embarked upon establishing the new state not committed flagrant mistakes, Iraqis would not have felt a sense of injustice, leading to local insurgencies. The new government caused damage to large segments of society when it decided to exclude former army officers and security forces. In reaction, they turned against the government.

Terrorists and the military opposition had more skills and better experience than the security authorities in place. The relative stability achieved today cannot be attributed to the Iraqi government, but to allied local forces who countered the death squads Iraqis have begun to realise the consequences of excluding former security forces on sectarian and partisan grounds. It became clear that a collaborative expertise was lost, and when the new government tried to build an alternative security system, it erroneously counted on quantity rather than quality. As a result, a large number of unqualified soldiers were recruited in a rush, causing a waste of state resources.

"February 1 was Arab Women's Day. It was a normal day, however, as it was missed by our newspapers and satellite channels, which report on festivals, air songs, and feature news bulletins," noted the Saudi newspaper Alyaum in its editorial. "We often say that women are respected and enjoy dignity and full citizenship rights. We call upon our religious values honouring women. All this is true, but our social practices look at women in terms of inferiority, sexism, and chauvinism. Such a view shows the highest degree of contradiction between words and deeds."

All men talk about the essential position of women in society and praise their role in the family union and the community at large. Men talk as if they have given their female counterparts rights they do not deserve. They overlook the social injustices they have caused, and the fact that women and men are mentally equal. Many men, because of an archaic mode of thinking, still cannot absorb the idea that women are co-citizens and partners in making history. "Ethically, we should restore the status of women if we are truly Muslim. It is not enough to consider women as hidden jewels, but we need to prove this by truly respecting them."

"International relations are witnessing great changes, while Arab societies are undergoing disturbing cases of ethnic and sectarian division. They are also under the threat of pollution, disease, food and water shortages, illiteracy and other ills," commented the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial.

These multiple and complex crises seem to happen as a storm leaving behind a desolate scene of damage. The Arab countries are truly facing great challenges that require quick intervention and an effective strategy to surmount them. The latest regional developments are unprecedented, especially in the Gulf basin and Arabian Peninsula in general. "In our region, we have three types of crises: some inherent and deeply rooted in history, some emerging, while others are dormant, waiting for the right time to explode."

Wishes are not enough to ward off the threats surrounding Arab states. They need effective action to build up strong self-dependent capacities in various fields. This can only be possible by consolidating free and critical thought and analysis, as well as by nurturing a responsible culture of dialogue to lay the foundation for institutional action. * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae

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