Jordan's pro-government newspaper Al Ghad ran an article by Dr Mahjoub al Zowairi saying the former Iranian president Hojjat al Islam Sayyed Mohammad Khatami has announced his decision to run in the presidential elections scheduled in June 2009, raising the number of candidates to three. "The more candidates there are, the more heated the battle will be," he wrote. "It is worth mentioning that the elections in Iran - both parliamentary and presidential - are a referendum over the legitimacy of the political regime, which the Iranian policymakers have always relied on in their confrontation with the international community."
Khatami's return to the political arena came after a four-year absence of the reformists, coupled with pressures including the closure of many reformist newspapers. As president, he would face several challenges. "The political challenge that will face the new candidate is Iran's image in the Middle East and the world and how to deal with the American openness declared by President Obama."
"What a beautiful picture it was in the 1970s when populations, nations, flags, banners, names and symbols from all religions and sects allied around the struggle for independence and freedom," Muhammad Sadek al Husseini wrote in Syria's state-controlled Teshreen daily, referring to Iran's Islamic revolution. Yasser Arafat shot seven bullets from his office balcony. The late George Hawi, head of the Lebanese Communist Party, instructed his cadres to prepare banners congratulating the new regime, "which toppled the policeman of American imperialism through a massive popular revolution".
Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, among other clerical "symbols of struggle", headed to Tehran and the Sunni clergy took to the streets, he wrote. "That day, Iran closed the enemy's embassy and opened the first Palestinian embassy in the world, with a decision issued by that honourable and rebellious 80-year-old man, who did not hesitate to say: 'Today, it is Iran's turn. Tomorrow, it is Palestine's.'"
The Palestinian-owned Al Quds al Arabi daily ran an opinion piece by the chief editor Abdel Beri Atwan saying the state of paralysis revealed by the close Israeli election results reflects the Jewish state's predicament, "out of which the political elite seems to be incapable of leading it, whether through peace or war". "The electoral programmes of the parties that engaged in these elections were similar, if not identical, at the level of the refusal to offer any concessions to the Arabs over their main causes," he wrote in the London-based paper.
"Therefore, the competition was between the right wing and the extremist right wing." Any resulting government will be weak in terms of its ability to take steps towards peace, but strong on waging war. "Netanyahu's victory might be more useful to the Arabs and the Muslims in the long run, because it would expose the hostile, racist and extremist nature of the Israeli people who reject peace and coexistence," Mr Atwan wrote. "It might even secure the miracle of seeing the unification of the Palestinian ranks."
Dr Rashid Bin Hawil al Bayadani, a regular columnist for the Saudi pro-government newspaper Okaz, wrote that the Human Rights Assembly in Saudi Arabia has recommended that the authorities end adolescent marriages and specify 15 as the minimum age. The Children's Bill of Rights, ratified by the kingdom in 1995, clarified that any person below 18 years of age is a child, he wrote.
"This means that when we marry our daughters to men while they are below this age, then we are giving away their hands while they are still children," he said. Even marriages of adolescent girls to boys of similar ages are doomed to failure. "If we sanction the marriage of an adolescent girl, it means that we are marrying a girl that has not reached physical, emotional, or mental maturity," Mr al Bayadani wrote.
"The solution to this problem is through educating the public about the importance of allowing our daughters to reach maturity, and also providing new bills to restrain some parents who see their daughters as commodities for sale and for profit." * Digest compiled by www.mideastwire.com