x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Bahrain ‘terror attacks’ reflect Iran’s region-wide double dealing

Bahrain bombs reflected Iran's region-wide double dealing, writes Hassan Haidar. Other views: US approach on Syria (Tareq Al Humaid) and charity organisations are falling short (Ahmed Al Sarraf)

The terrorist attacks witnessed by Bahrain last week were the immediate consequence of an Iran-led political and media campaign against the Kingdom, wrote Hassan Haidar, columnist in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

At the same time, a group of Bahrainis were misled by slogans into taking up arms in camps in Iran, Syria and Lebanon, while the Bahraini government actively strives to re-establish the national dialogue, considered to be the only way to tackle the country’s problems.

Clearly, the campaign Tehran is leading against Manama has contributed in obstructing the dialogue. It is consistent with the stance adopted by the Tehran since negotiations started with major powers over its nuclear programme, based on promises of “nuclear concessions” against the escalation of tensions on multiple regional fronts.

Such escalation is reflected in the Iran’s position on the Syrian crisis, which predicted the failure of the Geneva Conference, while Hizbollah and Shiite Iraqi militias are fighting alongside the regime’s army. As for Yemen, Houthis and Southern pro-Iran factions reject plans to organise the country into six regions.

In Bahrain, Iran encourages extremism as a way to influence the moderate opposition and to deter the resumption of dialogue.

Iran’s campaign sends out several messages. The first one is addressed to the Americans and Europeans, stating that any “concessions” made by Tehran on the nuclear front should be compensated on the regional front. Should they do not wish Iran to acknowledge Iran’s regional role, then the least they could do is not to oppose it.

“The second message is one addressed to the Arabs and the Gulf in particular, clarifying that Iran’s flexibility on the nuclear front does not imply weakness on the regional front nor does it suggest any incapacity to spread chaos on many fronts,” he wrote.

Iran is also sending out a third message to the Iranian people, aiming to reassure the Revolutionary Guards that this new moderate stance does not imply the imminent collapse of the strategy adopted throughout three and half decades and that they do not have to wait for the end of the negotiations to initiate activities abroad.

In this context, the formation of the Lebanon’s new government may seem to be an outcome of Iran’s supposed flexibility, but one which does not fit with the regional escalations campaign.

Hizbollah took advantage of the desire of the majority of the Lebanese people to maintain a minimum of stability and the desire of the Arabs in reducing Lebanon’s exposure to risks and extorted political cover for its exit from the national consensus and its increased involvement increased in the Syrian war, to rally them under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

US takes the wrong approach on Syria

The Obama administration announced that the president has asked for the debate on foreign policy to be reignited in response to the failure of negotiations in Geneva. The media in America has been especially enthusiastic about the opportunity to have an open nationwide discussion in a way that can be projected globally. Considering that the debate is being reopened in earnest, it is important that the Middle East countries contribute to the topic, observed Tareq Al Humaid, columnist in the pan-Arab Asharq El Awsat.

The problem with the US’s approach to the crisis is that it was very systemic, running strictly within the guidelines of what is considered moral and adhering to international standards.US foreign policy on the Syria crisis has remained relatively unchanged in the past three years, whereas Iran’s and Russia’s has grown increasingly bellicose, the writer said.

There can only be two possible explanations to this: “Either the US has withdrawn into the background of this crisis because the administration actually believes that the moment for timely intervention has passed, or the Obama administration is feigning ignorance in thinking that the other side is actually playing fair,” says Al Humaid.

What has to be said, is that when dealing with Iran and the Syrian regime, the US must speak the only language that actually registers with Al Assad: force.

Charity groups must create opportunities

An old Chinese proverb says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” But what happens when charity organisations and non-profits achieve neither, asks the columnist Ahmed Al Sarraf in the Kuwaiti daily Al Qabas.

“There has been an unprecedented influx in the amount of ‘so-called’ charity organisations transferring their operations abroad,” he said. The lack of need in the Gulf States for charity led them to move abroad. But the lack of transparency and effective international oversight allows some of the members of these organisations to grow rich with embezzled funds.

What about the generally ineffective use of these funds even when they are directed towards philanthropic activities? These agencies should not be digging wells or building mosques. Rather they should be using these funds to teach people how to dig wells by actually providing economic stimulus with employment opportunities.

After 20 years of digging in Bosnia what do we end up with? The recent unrest is not a product of the several million wells that were allegedly dug, but in large part a result of the rampant unemployment that has been left unaddressed over generations, the writer said.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk