x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A test for Palestine in New York

Mahmoud Abbas tested the international community's support for Palestinians at the UN last week, and the world responded positively, one Arabic editorialist argues. Other topics in today's roundup: Saleh in Yemen, Syria and Turkey and Maghreb security.

A test for Palestine at the United Nations

The world held its breath on Friday while the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, was delivering his speech at the UN headquarters. Abbas came to New York, seeking the legitimacy of the organisation to confer full membership status to the Palestinian state, noted the Qatari newspaper Al Sharq in its editorial.

He also put the international community to the test either to support the Palestinians' right to statehood, or deny it. This will, in turn, call into question whether policies and interests comply with the belief in the rights and legitimacy. The world reacted positively to Mr Abbas's address.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians of various affiliations showed that they were determined in their pursuit to recover their rights peacefully and legally.

Yet Israel insists on defying the international community by disregarding previous UN Security Council resolutions. On this occasion and as usual, it bets on the US veto to block any attempt to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr Abbas realised this tense diplomatic battle in the UN corridors, and stressed the fact that all Palestinians are keen to achieve national unity. He warned that Palestinians would launch a new "spring" movement should Washington abort the Palestinian project. He also underscored that Palestinians hope to receive worldwide support and sympathy for their legitimate cause.

Saleh will only add gasoline to the fire

The Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has arrived in Sanaa safe and sound, but Yemen is still bedridden. "And here lies the crisis," noted the editor-in-chief, Tariq Alhomayed in a leader article for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Yemen is in a dire situation. It has to face the long-standing conflict with the Iran-backed Houthis, while countering the increasing influence of Al Qaeda. Additionally, given the fact that Yemenis are armed, a civil strife can spark at any time. This is why several scenarios are possible, and all of them are scary.

From this perspective, the return of Mr Saleh is not welcome by any means. His presence might cause the crisis to worsen. For this reason, "He should rather leave. He should hear this from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in particular."

The security situation in Yemen is a source of threat, not only to Yemenis but also to all neighbour countries. This is because those who seek to destabilise the region can easily use Yemen, and there are many indeed. Iran and Al Qaeda top the list.

They might attempt to fish in the shallow water, benefiting from the all-out chaos in the country. "They might [also] try to target the borders of Yemen and Southern Saudi Arabia ... Thus, it is not safe to leave Yemen alone for Mr Saleh or other power seekers. Gulf countries have, therefore, to move in order to end the race for power in Sanaa."

Retaliation against Syria's elite is insidious

In an interview conducted by the veteran journalist Fahmy Howeidi and published by many Arabic newspapers, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that he feared a civil war would erupt between Alawis and Sunnis in Syria, wrote Yaser Al Zaatra in a commentary for the Jordanian newspaper Addustour.

The main reason for such worries was the dominance of Alawi elites over key positions in the army and government.

Mr Erdogan feared that the masses would direct their anger at such elites, not only because for their role in exercising oppression but also because of their religious background.

There are no exact statistics about the number of Alawis in Turkey, but the truth is that Mr Erdogan did not try to flatter them at the expense of other communities. The Syrian regime just did this in order to alienate the majority Sunni community.

This is not a wise strategy, which prompted three symbolic Alawi figureheads to denounce the attempt of the regime to involve them with the regime's plans.

The regime aims to mobilise Alawis, some Druze communities and Christians, in addition to some undecided Sunnis to help him in its battle of survival.

This is what Mr Erdogan warned against, saying that civil wars based on religious or other doctrinal references tend to be the worst.



Border security a threat to the Maghreb

Since the eruption of the Arab Spring, the region is changing shape, obscuring some minor but worthy events, noted the UAE newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial.

"What's happening on the Tunisian-Algerian borders is a real threat to the situation in this part of the Maghreb, which seems calmer than in its eastern counterpart."

As the regime of Col Muammar Qaddafi collapsed, a system of security fell apart too. This prompted the Tunisian and Algerian army to engage in thorough monitoring operations along the borders surrounding the desert triangle relating them with Libya. Because this is a critical area, both governments should not overlook the money and weapons being smuggled there.

The security coordination among the five Maghreb states, including Libya should be on many levels. And everyone need to be aware that extremists and militants tend to seize this opportunity to spread division and carry out terrorist operations.

Security breaches can also come from borders as far as Niger and Mali.

All in all, the Maghreb is much affected by the Arab Spring. But the greater danger might come from the remnants of Qaddafi, who still pose a threat to the peace and security in the region.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi