x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

If Iran genuine wants change, it must produce actions, writes Ahmed Abdul Malik in the Arabic-language newspaper Al Ittihad. Also, Assad should realise he is only a card in Russia's game, and why the Muslim Brotherhood remains a threat in Egypt

Rouhani has talked the talk, now the GCC and the world are waiting to see him walk the walk

In his media outings leading up to the United Nations’ General Assembly meetings last week, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, made several encouraging statements, promising that Tehran under his leadership would be taking a moderate and cooperative stance in its dealings with the international community.

And while many observers are still sceptical about the reliability of Mr Rouhani’s stated intentions — citing the argument that Iranian presidents have always been lame ducks under the overbearing authority of the country’s Supreme Leader — the man’s consistency in emitting positive signs has earned him the benefit of the doubt, suggested Ahmed Abdul Malik, a Qatari scholar, writing yesterday for the Abu Dhabi-based paper Al Ittihad.

In an article for The Washington Post titled Why Iran seeks constructive engagement, Mr Rouhani talked about his commitment to an election promise to “engage in constructive interaction with the world”, stressing the need for international cooperation in tackling challenges like “terrorism, extremism, foreign military interference, drug trafficking, cybercrime and cultural encroachment”.

Mr Rouhani wrote: “A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives.”

“These are fine, positive and elaborate words, indeed,” Abdul Malik commented, “but what Iran needs to be doing now is translating those words into action on the ground, so that the vision of the Iranian president is fulfilled and Iran’s credibility in the world is restored.”

If genuinely meant, the notion of “engaging one’s counterparts” that Mr Rouhani has stressed should entail some immediate changes in Iran’s foreign policy.

“Iran has always shown complete disregard for repeated calls from its neighbours — and from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states — to resolve the dispute over the three Emirati islands that Iran has occupied since the 1970s,” Abdul Malik wrote. “In fact, Iran has responded to those well-intentioned calls with provocative military manoeuvres near GCC capitals, coupled with feisty statements by its army marshals, threatening to target foreign assets in the region.”

This is the kind of behaviour that Iran’s neighbours are used to, and it is definitely a far cry from Mr Rouhani’s more sensible notion of “constructive engagement” and his assertion that “we must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart”.

This is not to mention Tehran’s flagrant interference in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

So, can this Iran, as the GCC and the world see it, change under Mr Rouhani? Only time will tell, the author concluded.

For Russia, Al Assad is just a playing card

Following the historic Obama-Rouhani phone call on Friday and the unanimous vote at the UN Security Council for a resolution on Syria’s chemical arsenal, Syrian president Bashar Al Assad must have learnt his lesson, said Tariq Al Homayed, a contributing columnist with the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.

“He feigns indifference, but this is expected. Mr Al Assad has gone beyond the point of no return and no amount of political measures can secure the survival of his rule,” the writer opined.

The Security Council resolution outlines the procedure to control and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. It also calls for unspecified consequences should Syria fail to fulfil its obligations.

Russia made sure that any form of intervention in Syria in the future would require another vote. Moscow doesn’t want to see a repeat of the Libyan scenario, where the allies and Nato interpreted the UN resolution at the time as a green light for military intervention against Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, which cost Russia many opportunities.

“Moscow wants to make sure that it will be able to trade in Mr Al Assad’s head in a way that best serves its interests. This must be tormenting Mr Al Assad, who had to watch the Iranian president, his only other ally, opening up to Washington to push the Iranian agenda,” Al Homayed added.

Mr Assad must by now realise the difference between being a player and being one of the cards.

The fact that Egyptians have succeeded in removing the Muslim Brotherhood from power doesn’t mean the threat from that organisation has also been removed, noted Dubai newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial on Monday.

“The Brotherhood continue to try to inflame the situation through deliberate clashes with people in various areas in an attempt to upset the economy,” the paper said.

The Islamist group is exploring every possible way to export tension to the streets of Egypt. Their latest plot is directed at the armed forces as they prepare for their annual day on October 6. The Brotherhood, who were recently banned from operating on Egyptian territory, are planning to stage protests around military institutions.

Their destructive plots don’t stop at that. The group has been mounting a vicious slander campaign against the new constitution, which is still being drafted, with the aim of sabotaging the popular referendum over it.

“The Brotherhood’s subversive practices will not stop as long as they continue to entertain hopes of returning to power. Authorities should deal with them strictly to allow the leadership and the people to work towards the next phase in Egypt,” Al Bayan concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk