x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Arab newspapers comment on Hizbollah's attitude towards Syria

Columnists and editorial-writers in the Arabic-language press speak up on topics including the expanding GCC, Egypt's need for economic reform, and the new skepticism of Arab peoples.

Hizbollah line on Syria is 'just pathetic'

Al Manar, the satellite television channel of Hizbollah, has recently reported that a group of Syrians has proclaimed an "Islamic emirate" in some Syrian villages, wrote Tariq al Homayed, the editor of the pan-Arab Asharq al Awsat newspaper.

This is the Hizbollah channel's "ridiculous" and "disingenuous" way of trying to dismiss the pro-democracy protesters in Syria as scary Islamists intent on bringing back Salafism, a hard-line, ancestral version of Islam, he said.

"It is understandable that the Syrian regime should employ this Islamic Salafi threat as a scarecrow; the regime does all it can to justify the repression it is handing out to its own unarmed people. But for the Hizbollah channel to be circulating these lies, that is just pathetic, for Hizbollah itself is an Islamist group, one with its own flag," the editor noted.

How does an Islamic party warn against "Islamic groups" anyway?

Being the agent of Iran's agenda in Lebanon, Hizbollah is basically channelling Tehran's support for Damascus. Yet this is the same Hizbollah that voiced its blessing of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions and its support of the Bahraini protests.

Hizbollah's main stake in all this is to stoke sectarian sentiments, which it has always tried to do in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and even Egypt, by pitting Shiites against Sunnis, to increase Shiite influence in the region.

Arabs no longer buy stale old 'product'

The "political product" that has been touted by Arab governments for decades has all but expired; it has no buyers among protesters in the public squares of Arab cities, commented Abdullah Iskandar, managing editor of the London-based paper Al Hayat.

No one is buying "the confrontation with Israel" argument any more.

The political campaigns against "extremists", "fundamentalists" and "terrorists" - which served as a pretext for never-ending emergency laws in this region - are not exciting the public either. This has all become a stale rhetoric.

"This merchandise has become rotten after many decades of selling very well," the editor said. "Arab people have moved on. Now what they are really intent to get is justice, democracy, equality and rights."

This shift is imposing itself on the US administration's agenda for the Arab region, especially ahead of Barack Obama's address to the people of the Middle East this week, following Washington's resounding failure in pushing the peace process forward.

In this context, whatever the new US Middle East strategy is, it will have no effect whatsoever if it does not set new, equal standards in dealing with Israel and the Palestinian people. The question is: would Obama have any influence on Israel on the eve of his presidential campaign for a second term in office?



Whatever the reason, GCC growth welcome

As soon as the GCC welcomed the membership of Jordan and Morocco, academics and politicians raised legitimate questions about this new form of alliance, observed the Kuwaiti writer Dr Shamlan Yousef al Issa in the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

In Kuwait, many intellectuals discussed the reasons behind the move, many seeing the decision as a bid to deter regional interference in the affairs of Gulf countries. But if this is true, why were Egypt and other Arab states excluded?

Other commentators maintained that some Gulf countries seem to have an increasing lack of confidence in the US administration, a legitimate concern.

But are Morocco and Jordan capable of countering outside interventions? Both countries have their own challenges; Jordan faces Israeli expansion, while Morocco is geographically distant and has its own security problems, including the Sahara dispute with Polisario.

Some Kuwaiti MPs said there were fundamental questions that must be addressed before engaging further in any agreement. They demanded this should be done gradually because of the differences inherent in the political systems of the prospective members.

Overall, the writer praised the initiative, saying "everyone is pro every Gulf-Arab rapprochement that serves the interests of the people."


Only economic reform defends the revolution

As well as political reform, Egypt urgently needs economic reform based on wide-scale amendment of commercial and investment laws, commented the economist Najib al Shamsi in a leader article for the UAE newspaper Al Emarat al Youm.

This is needed to create an environment conducive to attracting foreign investment and rebuilding trust in the Egyptian economy. A sound legal framework will also help bring Egyptian capital and brains back home to replenish the local economy.

Egypt has abundant resources for development projects. But progress is possible only through transparent public policies that break away from practices prevalent before the revolution. Any effort aimed at creating sustainable development depends upon multifaceted political and social reform.

The role of the government is basic. It needs to take the necessary measures, while controlling the factors that have led to the deterioration which sparked the revolution.

Nothing can redress the situation in Egypt except a stable economy. If this is not achieved, the revolution for which Egyptians fought is less likely to achieve its goals. Rather, it may backfire.




* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk