x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Al Qa'eda loses focus or loses control

Two recent terrorist attempts have stirred serious doubts about the efficiency of an organisation that once caused the world to wage a war on terror.

In the commentary of the Lebanese newspaper Assafir, Satea Noureddine put forth two hypotheses about al Qa'eda's latest "awkward" surge. "Either al Qa'eda has lost focus, or there are shadow terrorist movements that use its name to undertake their operations," he argues.

Both recent terrorist attempts have stirred serious doubts about the efficiency of an organisation that once caused the world to wage a war on terror. Many observers believe the mail bombs and the attack on a church in east Baghdad were the acts of militias.

In the first case, the organisation no longer has the skills to mastermind "surgical" operations. It is unusual to send two printer cartridges in bomb parcels from Sana'a to Chicago, a city that sells them at cheaper prices. It is no less unusual to try to attack a synagogue in a city like Chicago, which has a small Jewish community.

"Yet it is possible to think of these acts as attempts to harm the reputation of the organisation, or perhaps they are executed by other groups for purely political or security goals ...as with mail bombs sent from Athens to many European capitals."

In Baghdad, the attack on the church was an improvised act because the armed group had just clashed with security forces near the stock market before it moved to control the church. Then it asked the Coptic church to release two women in Egypt, who had converted to Islam.

Saudi on the brink of delivering united Iraq

Iraqi's political factions have apparently overcome their differences over the Saudi reconciliation initiative as they resumed talks aimed at forming a new government, wrote Areeb al Rantawi in an opinion piece for the Jordanian daily Addustoor.

They accepted the de facto reality on the ground; the post of the prime minister will go to Nouri al Maliki, the head of the State of Law coalition and the candidate of the Shiite National Alliance. This came Friday when the leader of the Iraqiyya bloc, Iyyad Allawi hinted at the possibility of accepting al Maliki as a prime minister in return for an agreement to ensure he becomes president of the republic.

This breakthrough does not mean the roads ahead are clear for al Maliki, as Kurds may reject to the idea of waiving the seat of presidency they hold now. President Jalal Talibani along with his party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, might strive to abort any reconciliation plans underway.

To ease any possible tension, it was reported that the US was active in Kurdistan to persuade "the ruling partners" in the semi-autonomous province to step down from the presidency, and hold instead the chairmanship of the parliament and other important positions in government. This aims to pave the way for striking a "balanced" deal that would satisfy different parties.

Syria under pressure with new Congress

"The good times between the US and Syria are over. What will make matters worse is the Republican control of Congress," wrote Tariq Alhomayed in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

After two years of open policy with Damascus, the US administration has been left outraged over Syria's interference in Lebanon, accusing it of undermining stability. Under a Republican-dominated Congress, President Barack Obama would be less able to pursue other initiatives towards Syria, especially amid mounting demands for reexamining Washington's relations with Damascus.

"Syria missed its chance to reintegrate the international community when many Democrat congress members visited seeking to convince it to change its regional policies. Yet no progress was achieved."

Instead, Syrians antagonised them by describing the visit of the outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Syria as a Democrat manoeuvre to attack George W Bush's policy towards Damascus.

Syria may face tough times ahead because it cannot rely solely on its friends in the region, mainly Iran, to help it restore its territorial integrity. It will certainly need the US in this pursuit, as Jeffrey D Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs affirmed. He also pointed out the failure of the US-Syrian alliance and reiterated his support of the International Tribunal for Lebanon.

Israel challenges UK right to sovereignty

"The British government has knelt down and accepted compliance with Israeli demands over arrest warrants against Israeli officials in the UK," noted the Egyptian newspaper Al Gomhuriya in its lead article.

This came following an announcement by the British foreign office minister, William Hague, that the UK would introduce amendments to some laws that allow the prosecution of Israeli leaders before British courts for crimes against Palestinians.

To achieve this, the Israeli government suspended the so-called strategic dialogue between the two countries after Israel noticed that the UK had been reluctant to enact the changes to its laws, which disrupted the visits of many senior Israeli officials to London for fear of arrest.

"The UK's meek attitude and also that of other European countries towards Israeli crimes against humanity would only encourage Israeli extremist leaders to continue their policies of aggression and expansion at the expense of the rights of the Palestinians and in disregard of international laws and conventions."

The paper questioned whether Arab and Muslim countries would be able to react differently to Israeli blackmailing and be able to assert free will over their sovereign decisions.

* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi