x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Any diplomatic breakthrough between the US and Iran would cost Arab nations dearly, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: Tunisia and Iraq.

Iran’s vigorous diplomatic offensive, led by President Hassan Rouhani since his election last summer, is starting to score some points with western leaders and seems to be on its way to alleviating Tehran’s political isolation, a situation that is leaving Arabs confused and outpaced, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the recently launched news website Rai Al Youm on Saturday.

We may be witnessing a prelude to what might later become talks to lift crippling international sanctions off Iran’s shoulders, coupled with a western recognition of its role as an indispensable player in the Middle East.

Take the French president, Francois Hollande, for instance. He will not only meet his Iranian counterpart on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings in New York this week, but he will also ask Mr Rouhani to help bring about a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Such a request coming from France “was completely out of the question just a month ago”.

For his part, Josh Earnest, the deputy press secretary of US president Barack Obama, confirmed to reporters while on a private jet on his way to New York City that communications between Tehran and Washington are underway, based on “mutual respect”, and are expected to go on for weeks, if not months.

Mr Earnest also did not rule out an official meeting between the US president and Mr Rouhani.

“But where are all the Arab leaders and their foreign ministers? What are they making of these surprising developments? Were they informed about these US-Iran communications? I doubt it,” the editor said.

“And what would their stance – or, rather, their reaction – be when TV sets all over the world become awash in the coming days with pictures of embraces and handshakes between President Obama and President Rouhani?” he asked.

Uncertainty and dismay will be the general feeling among Arab, and particularly the Gulf, delegations, he went on.

In fact, Iran’s possible diplomatic breakthrough in New York will come as “another heavy defeat” for Arab regimes and “an additional proof of their defective policymaking, their diplomatic short-sightedness and failure to grasp the meaning of regional developments due to their reliance on consultants and research centres that are full of ignoramuses and buffoons who claim competence”.

With much shrewdness, Iran is “winning the diplomatic battle in Europe and the US, without losing the military battle in Syria until now, and without ever giving up its nuclear ambitions”, Atwan observed. “And if Iran gives up its high-concentration enrichment operations of 20 per cent to improve its relations with the West, that concession will only be temporary, because expertise does not go anywhere; it stays in the brains of scientists.”

Positive developments are looming in Tunisia

Tunisia’s ruling Ennahda agreed on Thursday to an initiative by the labour union proposing a timetable for the government to step down in three weeks and allow for a caretaker administration to oversee elections.

“It is a quantum leap on the way to entrenching mutual trust among various parties and overcoming partisan and ideological polarisation in exchange for supporting national interests,” said the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan in its editorial on Sunday.

It is a move that “sets a way out from the current crisis and makes way for the completion of transition plans”, Al Bayan added.

National dialogue is key if agreement on vital issues is to be reached. It is the only guarantee for comprehensive participation in government and for a sustainable and stable system of rule in the country.

“This is not the time to exchange blame for past stances, but rather a call for all relevant parties to play their patriotic rescue role. No solution could be possible without national consensus,” the paper observed.

The security challenge facing Tunisia may be a unifying agent for Tunisians, or at least, the majority of Tunisians.

In light of the increasing security threats in the country, it is only normal that the public opinion would pressure politicians to suspend their differences and mobilise national efforts to counter the threat, the paper added.

Iraq sectarian sedition a threat to the region

The ongoing “mosque warfare” in Iraq, which targets Shiite and Sunni mosques requires urgent intervention from scholars from both sects and from Al Azhar in Cairo as well as the Islamic Cooperation Organisation, noted the Egyptian daily Al Ahram in its editorial on Sunday.

“The biggest crime that the US military intervention in Iraq has committed was stoking sectarian tensions to unprecedented levels, which was met with support from neighbouring powers such as Iran that backs Shiite militias in the country. This eventually put the Al Qaeda organisation and its affiliates on a state of high alert pouring their elements into Iraq to defend the Sunnis.”

A number of Iraqi powers today remain loyal to the US plan that seeks to ultimately fragment the region and stir sectarian strife everywhere. But Iraqi authorities can no longer contain the situation. This calls for an urgent intervention from large Islamic organisations as well as the Arab League, although internal differences among members of the internal body have rendered it rather handicapped.

“Should the mosque war in Iraq continue at its current rate, its effects will surely spread to neighbouring countries and to the entire Arab region will drown in sectarian terrorism,” the paper warned.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae