The majority of countries all over the planet stood by the United States' decision to wage a war against the Taliban right after the September 11 attacks, wrote Raouf Bakr in the Emirati daily newspaper Al Bayan. "One may still be able to recollect the headline of the French daily Le Monde which read: 'We are all Americans'. Eight years on, the Americans have started secret negotiations with the Taliban in order to secure a place for the group in the government in Kabul and by the same token safeguard US troops from their fire."
The fact remains that the US has committed three major mistakes in Afghanistan. First, Washington misunderstood the configuration and the ideological background of the Taliban: the group is an extremist entity that acts under the guise of chauvinism for the Pashtun ethnicity and is ready to fight for the prominence of their tribe. The second mistake is that the US failed to establish a framework for political growth in Afghanistan despite massive international support diplomatically, financially and militarily. This has dragged the US to its third major mistake, which is starting talks with the Taliban. This last mistake is a big blow to Afghans' hopes for a better and clearer political future in their country.
No more than 10 days since the Istisqae (rain) prayer took place in Saudi Arabia, the city of Jeddah was awash with torrential rains, commented Abdul Rahman al Rashed, a regular contributor to the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat.
The weather forecast office said the showers did not exceed 72 millimetres overnight; yet more than 90 people have been killed in one of the worst floods in Saudi history. The whole region, not just Saudi Arabia, had been going through its worst drought with rivers shrinking, farmlands turning barren and dust storms. "But six hours of rain would never drown a well-prepared city. Jeddah is a city of contradictions; it is where people suffer from lack of water and die because of rain."
In fact, the people of Jeddah may be lucky, despite the tragedy, because the storm has opened their eyes as well as the authorities' to some of the problems that have been lingering in the city for about two decades. Of course, Jeddah is an extraordinary town; it is a cultural melting pot, the business hub of the Red Sea, the gateway to Mecca where millions of pilgrims land every year, but it must come out wiser and stronger after this sad experience.
The US secretary of state Hilary Clinton has embarrassed herself twice during her tour in Pakistan and the Middle East, wrote Samih Saab in the Lebanese daily Annahar. She started off by telling Pakistani officials that she did not believe them when they said that they did not know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Her statement left the Pakistanis completely clueless and Mrs Clinton had to patch up the misunderstanding by reaffirming that the Pakistani government is allied with the US in its war against al Qa'eda and the Taliban.
Then, in the Middle East, Mrs Clinton caused a wave of controversy when she urged the Palestinians to put aside their demands for a settlement freeze and resume peace talks with the Israelis without preconditions. Again Mrs Clinton tried to mend matters the next day by saying that the US is still opposed to Israel's settlement activity, but the Palestinians had already understood the message. After such a U-turn in the US administration's stance on the peace process, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas decided not to run for office again once his current term is over. "Was Hilary Clinton forced to slip into all these contradictions?" Whatever her reasons, her inconsistencies are compromising the credibility of the US administration as a whole.
Though Russia shows signs of understanding Israel's misgivings regarding Iran's nuclear programme, the Russians still do not see Tehran's nuclear project as dangerous as that of Pakistan or North Korea, wrote Mazen Hammad in the comment section of the Qatari daily Al Watan.
After a long meeting on Thursday evening with the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, the leaders of Jewish community in Europe concluded that Moscow does not believe sanctions on Iran would be effective and that the best way to solve the crisis is through talks. But the most contentious point of dispute between Russia and the Jewish European Congress revolves around Moscow's prospective deal with Iran, which involves a sophisticated set of S-3000 ground-to-air missiles. This predictably fuels Israel's fears that Iran may be able to brace itself adequately against any attacks conducted by Israel or the US targetting its nuclear facilities.
Some Russian newspapers, on the other hand, have been talking about Iran's intentions to sue Russia for failing to deliver the missiles on time, the deal having been sealed in 2005. Tehran seems to believe that the tardiness is deliberate by Moscow, which is thought to be under great pressure from western powers. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi firstname.lastname@example.org