At the first signs of the Iraqi-Syrian crisis and before the news reached the slowly waking Arab capitals, the Iranian and Turkish foreign ministers had already travelled from Baghdad to Damascus in an attempt to mend fences between the two states, wrote Arib al Rantaoui in the Jordanian daily Addustour. As it has already been the case in most regional crises, the two most active and most dynamic diplomatic powers were in a feverish race to offer their good offices.
In the meantime, the Arab community was absent and so exhausted that not even the customary verbal calls for restraint and dialogue were released. It is true that both Tehran and Ankara have major interests in Iraq and Syria and they definitely do not want to see their interests jeopardised by a conflict between the two neighbours. It is also true that both countries seek to permanently pose as a major and indispensable regional actor.
On the other side, most Arab capitals, if not all of them, observed total silence and were unable to make a single move, as if the war of accusations and counteraccusations between Baghdad and Damascus were happening on another planet. Meanwhile they all confirm that their stability and security depend on Iraq and that Syria is at the heart of the Arab order and key player for its higher strategic interests.
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is trying to convince all the Arab leaders whom he is meeting that they need to urge the US administration to hold an international peace conference before the end of the year, wrote Randa Takieddine in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. The French initiative is not a novelty in itself, as former French presidents have always tried to work with the US on the organisation of a Middle East peace conference. The Arab countries also want Europe to be part of such a conference, particularly France, which has large interests in the Arab world, while the Americans have always been reluctant to have Europe play a diplomatic role in this process. Even Obama, who is open to working with allies, prefers to conclude the current negotiation process through his special envoy, George Mitchell, before engaging in any international conference.
But the truth is that the Israeli government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is only seeking to gain time through offers that cannot deceive the Palestinians such as the freeze on all new bids for settlement construction till 2010. The offer is but a subterfuge to avoid a direct refusal of Mitchell's demands. President Obama is seeking a true peace and a final settlement to the conflict, but Israel's large influence inside the US makes his endeavour a very complicated and difficult mission.
Some 70 years ago, the first German rocket was fired in the direction of Poland, announcing the beginning of the Second World War, wrote Sobhi Zeinter in the Saudi Arabic daily Al Watan. The war only ended with the fall of the Nazi regime in Germany and the fascist regime in Italy and split the world into two opposing poles, which entered into a long conflict that was not over until the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was dismantled in 1991.
But as the Second World War was drawing to an end, the world was hit by a human tragedy with effects still visible today: two nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was a message to humanity that the end of the world would be the act of those who own the bomb. The big powers who won the war limited the right to own a nuclear arsenal to themselves: the US, the former USSR, the UK, France and China. Conventions and harsh conditions made it hard for any other country to get on board the nuclear train.
The criteria and standards set for this purpose were, however, largely discretionary. A country like Israel for instance, at war with Arab countries, owns hundreds of nuclear warheads, without even being a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while Iraq is invaded by the US and its western allies on the mere allegation that it "is seeking" to develop weapons of mass destruction.
At the beginning of every Ramadan, shopping centres and cooperative societies are "ferociously attacked" by consumers, wrote Sheikha al Marzouqi in an opinion article published by the Qatari newspaper Al Raya. The scenes from shopping centres are beyond belief, as if the whole month of Ramadan were but a huge marathon of food consumption, she noted. One has the impression that it is the end of the world.
Of course such behaviour encourages some merchants to take advantage of the rush on goods to raise prices. And, of course, budgets suffer from this feverish propensity to buy beyond the actual needs of households. People tend to be driven by an inner voice that tells them than Ramadan is a month of hunger and thirst, so they feel an urgent need to store as much food and beverage at home as they can.
As a matter of fact, what should normally happen is the opposite. People should save money during a month of fasting, instead of spending a year's savings in one month, particularly since large proportions of the food end up in the rubbish bin. This behaviour is against the values people are intended to learn in observing the holy month of Ramadan, one of worship and spirituality. * Digest compiled by Mohamed Naji