Saudi Arabia's Al-Watan daily ran a piece by Yahya al-Amir saying the inter-religious conference at the United Nations coincided with a period during which the world had started to count its losses and face its mistakes. Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz told the gathering all humans were equal, and could either live in peace or be obliterated by the fires of hatred. "Are traditional enemies included in this vision?" al-Amir asked. "Everyone recalls the negative and emotional way the Saudi peace initiative that was launched during the Beirut summit in 2002 was read and addressed." Traditional Arab approaches towards "normalisation" with Israel, which has negative connotations, are increasingly obsolete in an era of cross-border economies. "Any new agreement that takes an issue of conflict and turns it into an issue of peace is a civilised agreement. Those without the courage to adopt such positions will remain captives to their flaws and fears."
The UAE's independent Al-Khaleej newspaper editorialised that the security agreement, "or the agreement that extends the occupation's mandate", raises many questions about the coming period in Iraq. "Will the coming three years differ from the ones that preceded? Will the extension of the occupation's term also extend the chaos this occupation brought about?" the paper asked. America has achieved its demands and secured its presence in Iraq for three years, while the country's future, stability, development and prosperity are left for a later date. "The experience of the past years of occupation do not bode well, because they were a disaster for Iraq and the Iraqis," Al-Khaleej wrote. "After extending the occupation's term, fears grow for the future of Iraq, and also of the possibility that the United States might exploit its presence to play with the region's stability and security map."
"The game keeps intensifying between Iran and Europe and America on one hand and between Iran and Israel on the other concerning the Iranian nuclear activities," wrote Dr Ya'qub Ahmad Al-Sharrah, a regular columnist for the independent Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai al-Aam. The international crisis could lead to a hasty Israeli military response against Iran. This would cause the situation in the region to deteriorate, and fast. "Iran would respond to such an attack by striking at Israeli, American and European interests abroad, including attempting to stop navigation through the Straits of Hormuz and attacking oil tankers and freighters plying the Gulf," he wrote. This escalation would harm the Gulf states as well. Wisdom dictates that the Gulf states must act now, especially as US President-elect Barack Obama is likely to deal seriously with Iran. "The Gulf states must act effectively to prevent any military attack on Iran. They must focus on the option of negotiations with all means at their disposal."
"Arab culture is feeling a bit under the weather,"wrote Pierre Abi-Sa'b, a regular columnist for Lebanon's independent pro-opposition newspaper Al-Akhbar. "But everyone is hastening to its bedside and we have the elite of specialists trying to diagnose its ailment and devise cures." The Arab Thought Foundation is holding the seventh round of its conference in Cairo. Damascus hosted the Arab ministers of culture over the past few days. "They focused on preparing for the 'renaissance', which is about to start at any moment thanks to the efforts of their governments, which keep working and planning with full integrity and transparency to serve the cause of democracy, peaceful exchange of power, justice, and development. But wait a minute, what exactly are we talking about? The culture that prefers embroidery over effort, decadence over protest, and court poets over mavericks? We dream of the day when a writer wags his finger at a ruler and tells him, as Diogenes told Alexander the Great: 'Get out of my sunlight'."
Digest compiled from www.mideastwire.com