x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Forget Libya, Yemen will be regional 'hell'

A round-up of commentary in Arabic language newspapers.

The new divisions within the senior ranks of the Yemeni military, coupled with resignations of several diplomats, tell us that the country has finally stepped into the "forbidden zone", wrote Tariq al Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

"If, God forbid, things come undone in Yemen, what's been happening in Libya would look like a walk in the park."

The Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, after more than 30 years in office, had better ensure that a smooth transfer of power takes place, instead of claiming that most Yemenis are on his side.

"If the current crisis in Yemen is not handled with the utmost care, there is no avoiding disaster. It will not even look like Libya; in Yemen, it'll be hell, for the Yemenis as well as the Arabian Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia. You've got al Qa'eda in Yemen, the Houthis, a whole spectrum of tribes and armed communities, and then the separatist south - which is a recipe for death."

This is the time for President Saleh, who once said that "governing Yemen is like dancing with snakes", to stand up to his national and ethical responsibility. Otherwise he'll go down in the annals of history as the man who destroyed his own country.


Arab League chief must make up his mind

The secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, keeps on making curiously surprising statements - and probably won't stop until he finally retires from political life, declared the pan-Arab Al Quds al Arabi newspaper in its editorial.

"The man is capable of taking strong, admirable stances only to back down from them later."

Mr Moussa recently voiced his opposition to the airstrikes led by western coalition forces targeting Libyan sites controlled by Col Muammar Qaddafi's military. This was despite the fact that the Arab League had previously urged the UN Security Council to enforce a no-fly zone to prevent Col Qaddafi's forces from bombing rebel-controlled towns.

After Libyan state television reported 50 civilian casualties following the initial strikes, Mr Moussa complained that the original objective was to protect, not kill more, Libyans.

Then while receiving the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, Mr Moussa reversed his position again, stressing that he fully supported UN resolution No 1973 which sanctions military action in Libya. He claimed the Arab League had been consistent in its position from the start.

Mr Moussa was Egypt's foreign minister for years before being appointed to the helm of the Arab League, so he should know better. "An experienced politician does not go around making statements he will change the next day."


It's either dictatorship or western intrusion?

In an opinion article for the London-based daily Al Hayat, columnist Ilyas Harfoush wrote that the current western military intervention in Libya raises a number of concerns.

The western coalition keeps emphasising that its main goal is strictly to protect civilians who are opposed to Col Qaddafi, not at all to topple him. The implication is that the western forces want to create the conditions for democracy to take root without foisting it on the country. But, if that is so, then logically, this same initiative must be applied in other quarters where repression prevails - why just Libya?

Also, it should not be assumed that once Col Qaddafi leaves, democracy will be instated without a hitch. We must keep in mind that many of those who defected to the rebellion were, until very recently, pillars in that same oppressive regime they now want to oust.

"Changing the regime is one thing, and establishing the foundations for democracy is another."

Another concern over this foreign intervention is the sense of sympathy that may surge in favour of Col Qaddafi in its wake. With the Iraq experience prominently in the background, the labels of oppressor and liberator, torturer and victim, may well be scrambled in people's minds.

"And that is part of the danger in introducing democracy with tanks and fighter jets."


Book Fair should be an extracurricular visit

In a comment article carried by the UAE newspaper Emarat Al Youm, the columnist Adel Rashed considered that this year's edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair was less successful than others.

Rashed attributed this to the poor turnout of school students, who used to be the main visitors and buyers in earlier book fairs. They used to bring excitement to the venue as they were exploring between stands for intriguing titles and electronic content.

As many children could not attend, so parents did not. The main reason was the scheduling of the exhibition which, this year, overlapped with the end of second term exams. Reducing the exhibition period also deprived many of the opportunity to visit it.

To correct this situation, "I think it will be beneficial if organisers include such a public event in the school calendar in order to be part of the general educational process. This means visiting the fair will be compulsory and be included in school excursion programmes."

Perhaps organisers intended to make of this year's fair a platform for concluding deals among publishers in a way similar to Frankfurt International Book Fair. They have every right to do so. But the fair used to be a cultural carnival, celebrated by many in Abu Dhabi.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk