x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Foreign policy problems

France had grand plans for its interference in Libya, but those plans are beginning to backfire as unrest spills into the African Sahara, a leading Arabic-language columnist writes in today's Arabic News Digest. Other topics: Iraq's Syria problem and police troubles in Bahrain.

France's plans in Libya backfire as chaos drowns the political process, spilling into Africa

Marine Le Pen, the radical National Front candidate for the French presidential elections, was right on the money when she said in a recent statement that French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the leftist Jewish intellectual Bernard Henri Levy, through their unbridled interference in Libya, gave rise to an Islamic tidal wave throughout coastal Africa in which Mali could be just one of many stops, said Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi.

"The overwhelming armed chaos in the African Sahara, the increasing turmoil in Mali, France's strong ally, the emergence of a heavily armed Islamic belt that extends from Mauritania in the west to Somalia in the east and which has Al Qaeda and other extremist Islamic groups at its nucleus, are all sure evidence that the magic has backfired on the magician," he said.

Mr Sarkozy and Mr Levy wanted a pro-French regime in Libya. But their venture has cost them neighbouring Mali and may cost them Chad and Niger soon enough. All the while, their dream of gaining Libya has yet to materialise. Their liberal friends in the country have disappeared from the political map and are accusing western nations of handing Libya to extremist Islamists.

Mr Sarkozy, who was enthusiastic about the military intervention in Libya, doesn't know what to do abut the recent developments in Mali and the coastal states. A large part of the advanced weapons that were stocked in the former Libyan regime's warehouses found their way into the hands of extremists eager to take revenge against pro-western regimes in their region.

Post-revolution Libya faces dismantling and chaos as tribal, racial and territorial conflicts mushroom one after the other while the bloody competition between armed militias for power in the main cities rages on.

Six months into the declaration of liberation in Libya, the political process remains tenuous, as political parties are non-existent. The dispute over the distribution of parliamentary seats is growing amid expectations that the leaders of armed militias would eventually take over the parliament and control the political life.

"It is true that Nato did prevent a massacre in Benghazi and that it was instrumental in toppling the corrupt dictatorship, but the price that the Libyans are paying in destruction, segmentation and chaos far exceeds the advantages [of the intervention]," said the writer.

Western countries will end up paying a hefty price as well. The real purpose of their military support was never the protection of the Libyan people, but to take over their oil resources regardless of the consequences.

"A democracy imposed by missiles and foreign interference couldn't possibly lead to stability or to the establishment of a modern state. The Iraqis and the Afghans are proof of that."

The Syrian crisis is keeping Iraq in limbo

Nouri Al Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, is having a hard time consolidating his country's relations with neighbouring states, due in part to his overloaded domestic agenda, but also owing to his dilemma over which regional camp to side with regarding Syria, commented Dr Mohammed Idris in yesterday's edition of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

As the Syrian crisis is reshaping the region's diplomatic map, Iraq still has no clue about where to stand. So far, the crisis in Syria has distanced Turkey from Iran, especially after the visit to Tehran by the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the end of March proved to be a failure, the writer said.

The fact that Turkey is leading the regional camp in favour of arming the Syrian opposition - which goes against Iran's wishes - only complicates things further for Mr Al Maliki, who cares about keeping Iran happy but craves Ankara's support.

Meanwhile, Qatar, an emerging diplomatic force in the Middle East, is still host to Tariq Al Hashimi, the Iraqi vice president, who had been accused by Mr Al Maliki of concocting terrorist operations, in a case that put Iraq in a gridlock.

Mr Al Maliki has two options: either embrace Turkey and the Gulf states or publicly support the Syrian regime. Trying to stay in between keeps his country in limbo.


Respect for police is on the wane in Bahrain

It would be a chilling experience for citizens and security forces in any country to see a group of policemen running away from a crowd that is intent on inflicting the utmost harm on them. Yet that scene took place in Bahrain just a few days ago, according to Ibrahim Al Sheikh, a columnist with the Bahraini newspaper Akhbar Al Khaleej.

In an article yesterday entitled A scene that sums up the whole story, the columnist said: "The lives of policemen have become of no great value for the state; that's why they are being regularly assaulted and deliberately targeted … and the perpetrators get away with it."

Bahrain was rocked in February of last year by protests said to be led by the country's Shiite majority demanding more social and economic rights from the ruling Sunni establishment. Since then, occasional clashes between demonstrators and security forces have become commonplace.

"This is not an attempt to justify the assaults and abuses perpetrated by members of the security forces against citizens, whatever their crime may be," the writer noted. "This is just to say that the charisma of law enforcers has been lost in Bahrain. Even children now ... dare stand up to them on the street."


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk