x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Iran is exploiting the US's reticence of foreign conflicts to pursue its nuclear weapons ambitions. Other views: US abduction of alleged Al Qaeda leader in Libya is an act of aggression; and many Arab nations are facing contentious elections next year

Since Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, the international media has been buzzing with news that he was able to bewitch president Obama and his administration with nonbelligerent talk of peaceful nuclear projects, noted the columnist Abdul Hamid Al Ansari in Abu Dhabi’s daily Al Ittihad.

“In the world of politics and international relations, bewitchment is only effective over those who are predisposed and prepared to be bewitched,” the writer said.

“This is the reality today in the US under a president who is predisposed to believe that the Iranian nuclear programme is peaceful and that the Iranian regime is committed to a religious ban on nuclear weapons.”

President Obama and analysts and writers affiliated with his administration have repeatedly referred to the religious ban on nuclear weapons that was placed by the former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Al Khomeini in Iran.

They have sought to promote this idea in the US public opinion and their efforts have paid off. Recent polls in the US show that most Americans are in favour of direct negotiations with Iran.

But what was the motive behind Iran’s change of heart towards the “great Satan”, he asked.

Observers attribute the change of heart to the effect of international sanctions on Iran and on internal pressures that led it to opt for flexibility in order to alleviate the economic siege.

“But I believe that the leading motive behind this new direction is that the Iranian leadership believes that America is going through an economic and political phase that is the weakest in its history, which should be exploited to the benefit of the Iranian nuclear programme that seeks to realise Iranian national dreams of possessing nuclear weapons,” the writer opined.

Tehran deems that this is an opportune moment that shouldn’t be wasted. Having watched Mr Obama’s reticence to intervene militarily in Syria despite the use of chemical weapons against civilians, Iranians are convinced that the White House is averse to confrontation. This may be the main factor in Iran’s openness to its US nemesis.

“I think that the US is fully aware of the nature and the objectives of Iran’s nuclear programme. It is unfathomable that Iran would wage a fierce battle, subject its people to famine, spend billions and sacrifice years facing off the whole world for the sake of a peaceful nuclear programme,” the writer added.

America must realise, as it surely does, that any totalitarian ideological regime such as in Iran is in constant fear for its survival and doesn’t trust anyone or anything except its military might.

In this sense, for Iran, nuclear power is an enhancement and a confirmation of its military supremacy.

US action in Libya is a major aggression

“The United States is in the wrong if it thinks that it will ever succeed in its war on terror by infringing on the sovereignty of other nations and barging onto their home soil … as it did, earlier this week, when it abducted a Libyan citizen named Abu Anas Al Libi as he was driving his car in the capital Tripoli,” stated the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram in its editorial yesterday.

Washington considers Mr Al Libi an Al Qaeda leader in North Africa.

But that does not invalidate the fact that the US operation to capture him amounts to “a breach of international laws and conventions that enforce the sovereignty of nations and forbid any infringement upon it, whatever the circumstances”, the paper observed.

Instead of exercising its stealth techniques, US authorities could have used legal diplomatic channels by contacting the Libyan side and asking for the necessary legal measures to be taken and have the suspect questioned, the paper said.

If it turns out there was enough evidence to prosecute him, he could then be put on trial with due process.

“But it seems that the US still prefers to apply the method of muscle and condescension, capitalising on the fragile security situation in Libya and the infighting between Libyan brothers over power and over control in natural resource-rich regions,” the paper said.

2014: a year of Arab presidential elections

The spring of 2014 will coincide with a series of potentially problematic presidential elections in the Arab world, involving Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria, wrote columnist Randa Taqiy Al Din in yesterday’s edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

In Syria, while President Bashar Al Assad retains power, the election will be just another chance for the regime to renew its mandate at the usual approval rate of 99 per cent, he wrote.

In Egypt, a much-anticipated election will take place in 2014, with all eyes on the country’s current minister of defence, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who is rumoured to have plans to run for president. Some say he had better stay in the army, which has proven to be the ultimate guarantor of stability in the country, the writer added.

Algeria also expects a presidential election in 2014, with some newspapers already circulating unfounded claims that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika might seek to amend the constitution to allow him to run for third term. But these are mere rumours which, in the unlikely event they turn out to be true, have the potential to stoke popular discontent.

Electing a new president in Lebanon will also be complicated as the country is split between Hizbollah and its allies, on one side, and all the other forces that want a stable, independent Lebanon.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk