x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bigger GCC more than just a royal alliance

Editorialists and columnists in the Arab-language press write about the proposed expansion of the GCC, about sectarian violence in Egypt, and about the future of the US role in Afghanistan.

When the GCC welcomed Jordan's application to join and agreed to talks with Morocco, the first reaction was to wonder if this is a royal alliance, Tariq Alhomayed observed in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

"Why not? Let it happen. There is nothing wrong with the idea. A former Arab official once said, 'Arab monarchies enjoy legitimacy and legality. Popular demands in their kingdoms do not affect the rulers or the system,' but rather the regulations and laws.

"Another question is - do the Arab republics really have a republican system of government?" In such countries, presidents can remain in office longer than kings and emirs elsewhere. And even lower positions in government are inherited. Libya is a good example.

The Arab Spring has demonstrated that monarchies do not kill their people, and can be flexible in accepting their demands.

Some may say Jordan is in confrontation with Israel, and so the Arab Gulf will be. However, a better analysis would be that the Gulf states have always supported Arab efforts against Israel, without being confrontational. Moreover, Jordan has maintained peaceful relations with Israel.

If this expansion goes ahead, the GCC will be a guarantee for all members against the danger of non-Arab regional powers. The change would further reinforce the GCC's international influence and could leverage of a new form of common Arab action.

Australian example could guide GCC

"Why expand the GCC membership by including Morocco and Jordan? Is this a trend driven by concerns about the present Arab situation, or has this been planned beforehand?" The Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh posed those questions in its editorial.

GCC countries are known for sharing many general characteristics, which have contributed to their economic and security integration. So this decision may spark some questions, for example about common interests with Morocco, which is so far away.

A counter argument to this is Australia. Although it is geographically closer to Asia, Australia and its neighbours are distant in terms of many issues, including culture and identity. Australia is more connected to the West and has a dominant European culture.

Another issue that may raise is the exclusion of Yemen. The GCC has considered Yemen before and the GCC's members tried to overhaul the country economically to give it priority. If the reconciliation proposal made by the Gulf countries succeeds in solving the current turmoil in Yemen, other issues might then be handled through further measures.

The GCC has always tried to unite Arab views and has been a flexible framework for serving Arab interests and encouraging integration on many levels. It is heading in the right direction. The GCC's leaders and peoples share the same vision in economic and security matters.

Egyptians must stand together in unity

"There is no doubt that Egypt is living through critical times … due to many challenges, and on top of them sectarian strife," noted the UAE newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial.

This last problem "is instigated by the remnants of the dissolved National Party, the current economic difficulties, and the state of lawlessness that prevails in many areas in Egypt."

The warning statement by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) highlighted the threats to Egypt stability, an indicator of the serious situation in post-revolution Egypt.

Indeed, Egypt's critical circumstances mean that all Egyptians should join to confront whatever forces, from inside or outside the country, are intending to harm it.

The first step is for Muslims and Christians to stand united. This is what SCAF has underscored in its statement; calling on the coalition that made the youth revolution to stress this principle in the rally planned for today under the motto "Friday of unity".

To stress this principle further, the religious institutions of Al Azhar and the Church are invited to help counter sedition by promoting tolerance among followers of the two faiths.

In fact, the whole Egyptian society should rise to the occasion and confront the dangers that imperil the country. Egyptians should be vigilant not to follow calls of sedition, which will foster divisions among them.

US should divert cash to rebuild Afghanistan

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, two US senators requested a review of American strategy in Afghanistan, since the war in that poverty-stricken country seems to be going nowhere, observed the Emirati Akhbar Al Arab daily in its editorial.

Such an invitation will open a wide debate mainly about new ways to deal with terrorism so that the US will not be required to assume the financial, psychological and political burdens of that fight on their own.

The US allocates nearly $10 billion (Dh36.7bn) every month for the war in Afghanistan in exchange for meagre political gains at a time when the US still suffers from the economic crisis.

"If that amount were invested in improving Afghanistan's living standards and infrastructure, the entire Afghan population would get involved in the war on terrorism and they would chase the terrorists themselves."

After 10 years of war, the US administration must realise that the real sources of terrorism are poverty, ignorance and need. Terrorist groups attract and recruit the poor, who lose nothing by dying.

The US would be better off allocating a quarter of the annual war budget for the development of Afghanistan. The rewards would be astounding and quick.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk