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Why is Algeria co-operating with France?

Allowing French warplanes to overfly Algeria en route to bomb in Mali is a surprising and imprudent decision for Algeria, a columnist says. Other topics: dangerous stunt-driving and Iraq's problems.

Algeria's decision to allow French fighter jets into its airspace for Mali offensive is very risky

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius dropped a bombshell when he announced that Algeria has authorised France, whose fighter jets are pounding Islamist rebel strongholds in northern Mali, to cross its airspace unconditionally, Abdel Bari Atwan commented in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

The Algerian government has remained silent over this statement, and has not explained its new stance towards France's blatant military intervention in an Islamic state that has been described as Algeria's "loose back door", the writer said.

Allowing French combat aircraft to use Algeria's air space to attack a sovereign state amounts to blessing this French adventure, and constitutes direct involvement in it, he added.

Spokesmen for the Algerian government had said on several occasions that they rejected any military solution to the Mali crisis, stressing that dialogue was the optimum way out.

The Algerian government also declined an intervention plan announced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Algiers last October, in which Algeria was pressed to back an African-led military intervention into northern Mali.

So, the question is: what are the motives that have prompted the Algerian government to align itself now with the country that colonised Algeria for more than 130 years?

To be sure, Algeria and France have a common interest in waging war against militant groups in African's Sahel region.

These groups have sought to subvert the Algerian authorities for being secularist and for their role in liquidating many supporters of Islamist groups at the height of the Algerian civil war.

But the threat posed by such groups has waned remarkably in recent years; it is concentrated in the Sahel and limited to kidnapping tourists, particularly the French, noted the writer.

The move by the Algerian government to side with the French government in its military attack might enlarge the scope of such a threat, reignite excuses to target the government at home, and revive the declining accusations that Algerian authorities are aligned with the Western coloniser, the writer cautioned.

Algeria's gamble that the French military adventure will eradicate militant groups in the Sahel - on behalf of itself and other African countries including Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria and Chad - is a very risky business. If experiences in Iraq and, especially, Afghanistan tell us anything, it is also doomed to failure, he said.

France is fully aware of this, hence the early withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan and its refusal to intervene intensively in the US war on Iraq.

The French intervention in Mali has stirred up a hornet's nest, the stings of which could spill over into neighbouring countries and France itself, he concluded.

Mistrust is the cause of all Iraq's problems

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the fall of the former regime, brought a series of changes to the political structure and social composition of the country, said the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial on Wednesday.

In the decade since then, lack of trust has been the common denominator in all the crises Iraq has had to deal with, the paper said.

Lack of trust among national partners was at the root of the widespread policies of elimination and marginalisation, among other problems.

Partners in the political process in Iraq, most of whom were leading opposition figures under the former regime, approach the administration of state affairs and their interactions with each other with a typical opposition mindset, the editorial said.

"Lack of trust, suspicion and accusations of treason all led to the state of chaos that has taken hold in Iraq. Solutions and initiatives of national dialogue are still based on naive notions of unity and nationalism that clash with the democratic movement in the new Iraq," said the paper.

Without transparency and honesty, all proposals for a solution will be pointless.

Iraq's politicians and leaders are urged to demonstrate precision and wisdom, especially when it comes to public statements that could appease or inflame the situation, the newspaper concluded.

Death tracks should never become legal

Badr Al Kibali, a 20-year-old Emirati man was pronounced dead in a reckless driving incident last week at a stunt-driving sand arena in Ras Al Khaimah. Authorities said the deceased and his friends had entered the arena illegally.

"What if he had entered the arena legally? Would that have prevented his death?" asked Sami Al Reyami, editor-in-chief of the Emirati daily Al Emarat Al Youm.

The responsibility for the man's death doesn't fall on him personally or on his family, but rather on the existence of such arenas in the first place, he wrote.

Stunt driving of the type seen in those arenas is no sport at all. It is nothing more than a chaotic effort in drifting and tyre burning. It is a waste of money and, worse, a waste of young lives.

"Those responsible for those death arenas on sand dunes must be held responsible for Mr Al Kibali's death. They brought the culture of stunt driving into our midst," said the writer.

These daredevil racing events should never be legalised, regardless of any safety measures that organisers may claim to take. Safety measures can do nothing to stop a 4x4 from rolling over downhill.

All that can be done in that case, the writer concluded, is to remove the bodies and put out the fire.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk


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