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Arab media's verdict on Libya: good or bad?

A daily round-up of press from Arabic newspapers.

"The Arab League's decision [last weekend] to throw the Libyan ball into the court of the UN Security Council proves yet again how ill and impotent collective Arab decision-making is," stated the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

Muammar Qaddafi's forces are killing Libyan rebels by the dozen every day, yet that seems not to be reason enough for Arab governments to provide material support and protection for the Libyans.

"Rescuing the Libyan people is primarily an Arab mission, and it is unfortunate that Arab foreign ministers should fail at it, as they did with other missions before," the newspaper said.

For his part, Tariq al Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the London-based daily Asharq al Awsat, wrote an opinion article titled The Arabs just did it, what about the West?, in which he lauds the "responsible" and "important" decision that the Arab foreign ministers have taken as they officially called on the Security Council to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to protect the people from their regime.

The United States and other western powers were hesitant to take action for various reasons, one of which was the absence of an explicit stance on the part of the Arab League.

"Now the ball is in the court of the international community, which must fulfil its duty of protecting the Libyan people," the editor said.

Reform, not abolish, intelligence bodies

"The people want intelligence bodies 'reformed' - not 'abolished' or 'destroyed'. This is the slogan Arab citizens ought to express during revolts, because no country can ensure security without national security organs," wrote Saad Mehio in the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej.

The equation is, theoretically, that security must shift from protecting the regimes to protecting the citizens as well as their human and legal rights.

Naturally, security-enforcement bodies, due to their heavy-handed ways and their involvement in strategic spheres, will forcefully resist change. What to do then?

Here, it would be useful to draw on previous experiences in the developing world, namely that of Indonesia. Since Indonesia's independence in 1945, the military and other national security bodies have occupied a prominent position. But intelligence did not really monopolise power until Suharto, Indonesia's president, took office following a US-backed coup that left half a million dead.

Under Suharto, security organisms hijacked politics and encroached on people's lives. So when time for reform came with the advent of Abdurrahman Wahid in the late 1990s, national security bodies did all they could to retain their clout, including destabilising the very national security they were there to protect.

Moral of the story: the process of changing these sensitive institutions is, however pressing, inherently long-term.

Bahrain betrayed by its own political leaders

Bahrainis have grown numb to the speeches and manoeuvres by the leading figures of the various political blocs in the country, be they in power or in the opposition, because all of them have proven that they only care about checking off items on their own agendas, irrespective of the nation's strategic interests, according to Abeedli al Abeedli, a columnist with the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat.

Political leaders from both camps must realise that their narrow-minded calculations are affecting innocent, apolitical citizens across Bahrain as much as they do the politically conscious youth.

As things stand now, prospects are grim for a once-promising national dialogue; calls for it are no longer genuine. This situation not only breaks the spirit of the younger Bahraini generation, but also favours a sectarian divide that is already fuelled by a social division, the writer said.

"Sectarian hatred has been one of the worst consequences of the recent clashes. Whether political leaders from both sides want to acknowledge it or not, sectarian bitterness is now permeating Bahraini society, especially among the young. And no one wants a whole generation of young Bahrainis to grow up breathing sectarian sentiment."

It is urgent for all leaders, from all sects and ranks, to take stock, acknowledge their mistakes and change their attitudes accordingly.

What comes after the protest in Lebanon?

"The crowd was exceptional, but the speech problematic. It wasn't on par with the occasion, it didn't dissipate the mystery and didn't set a clear course of action for any objective," observed the columnist Satea Noureddine in the Lebanese daily Assafir in a comment piece on the massive protest that the March 14 coalition called for this last Sunday in Beirut.

The tone of the speeches wasn't commensurate with the large turnout or with the sixth annual commemoration of the 2005 March 14th rally. It didn't embarrass anyone or force anyone to review their experience and their mistakes.

The speeches weren't aligned with the memory of the event, which, six years ago, was an Arab landmark and a promising start. Six years ago, it was a decisive moment of change that, locally, achieved the equivalent of a revolution and regionally, the equivalent of a strategic transformation. But subsequent events were able to take away that revolution's context and meaning until it became a disappointment.

No one expected that the discourse would stray away from its emotional form, but the speakers were expected to tell the crowds what the next step would be. Becoming the new opposition isn't in itself sufficient. It should be followed by concrete action.


* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem


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