x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Arabs must seize post-election opportunity

When President Obama relaunches the peace process, it will present an opportunity for nations in the Middle East, a columnist notes. Other topics: Sharia law and pressure on Algeria to intervene in Mali.

Arabs must seize the opportunity of Obama's re-election to find solutions for region's issues

The United States elected its president, but the whole world has had something to say about it, wrote journalist Octavia Nasr in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

Reactions in the Middle East varied between indifference, unjustified jubilation or unjustified despair. Then there is the category of people who see any US president as bad news for them and for the region in view of the historic and ultimate support the US extends to Israel.

The main message to be deduced from President Obama's re-election is that US citizens want their commander-in-chief to focus on internal issues while maintaining good relations with other nations and holding a responsible role in the world - precisely in this order.

For the Middle East, this is a golden opportunity to adjust the situation, the writer noted. But exactly which situation?

Syria is struggling amid a raging civil war, while Arabs stand by watching or fuelling the sedition. Iran and Israel are gearing themselves up for a confrontation that threatens to set the entire region ablaze with serious repercussions that could engulf the whole world. Lebanon is once again in the throes of instability under an inefficient government and a complete lack of security.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to change the rules of the game with Israel. Although Egypt is bound to international agreements and heavily reliant on US aid, the time is right to manoeuvre and for an amendment of the peace accords in a way that reflects the new reality.

Iran showed signs of willingness for negotiations even before the US elections were over. It reduced by 20 per cent its uranium enrichment programme and agreed to take part in the proposed nuclear conference to discuss banning weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

"The Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains the biggest hurdle facing any attempt for making headway in the region. I expect President Obama will launch an early call to revive the peace process during his second term, and I expect this round to be more focused and efficient than any previous rounds," added the writer.

The Obama administration dispelled the myth of unconditional support for Israel. The Democratic electorate opposes Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party's harsh approach in dealing with Palestinians, the writer opined. Democrats are more inclined towards finding an equitable solution for all parties concerned.

When Mr Obama relaunches the peace process, Arabs will have a valuable opportunity to make a substantial difference for themselves and for the region.

Nasr concluded: "The carrot-and-stick method of negotiation was quite successful with Arabs. Wouldn't it be delightful if Arabs began to use all the carrots and sticks in their arsenal to reach an equitable solution for the region's issues, old and new?"

Sharia alone does not bring justice or welfare

It is sad that there are people who believe Egypt's religion traders, whose delusions leave some of the simple-minded in a trancelike state, noted Ibrahim Issa, editor-in-chief of the Cairo-based newspaper Al Tahrir.

"To spread their knock-off goods that rest on incomplete religiousness, satellite preachers make hay of the fact that the common people cannot read, while those who have been educated are plagued by cultural ignorance," the writer said.

Their take on religion is incomplete because it is based on trivia rather than quintessence.

These preachers paint a rosy picture of the Caliphate as the epitome of justice and well-being, but they fall short of supporting this with solid evidence.

The fact is, since the moment Caliph Uthman was murdered, Muslims have entered a stage of political conflict, injustice and dictatorship. This stage continues. History has shown that, the Sharia notwithstanding, Muslims still shed each other's blood for power, the writer said.

Sharia implementation did not mean that justice reigned in the past. Rather, power monopolies, persecution, and the murder of dissidents and scholars were commonplace for the most part.

Not by Sharia implementation alone are nations built and justice delivered. It is of no use when it is implemented by extremists, hypocrites and tyrants, the writer concluded.

Refusal to lead Mali intervention is sound

Algerian authorities are facing mounting pressure from the US and France to assume a major role in an African-led force in preparation for a military intervention in Mali to fight Islamist militants, wrote the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in an editorial yesterday.

Algeria's resistance to such pressure is a sound decision, because any US-backed military intervention will serve hard-line Islamist groups, and it absolutely does not guarantee results, according to the newspaper.

Experience has shown that US military intervention in Islamic countries might succeed in solving the primary issue, but it creates other more serious problems. Iraq, Afghanistan, and, to a lesser extent, Somalia attest to this.

Algerian Foreign Ministry spokesman Amar Blani was right to describe military intervention in northern Mali as a catastrophic mistake and to suggest dialogue as a way out of the crisis, said the editorial.

Algeria is the region's most experienced state in guerrilla warfare and use of military solutions to counter Islamists, so Mr Blani knows what he is talking about.

While there are concerns that Algeria could face retaliation from the US and Europe, whatever that might be would still be much less costly than an intervention, the editorial said.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk