x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Iran's concerns growing

Arabic editorials also discuss Yemen's new cabinet and the Iraqi prime minister's visit to Washington.

Despite bluster from Tehran there are reasons for Iranians to be anxious about the future

Iranians have every right to be concerned, opined Gassan Charbel, the editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

Despite the cohesion of the regime that continues to hold every aspect of life in a tight grip, despite the massive crowds that gather to listen to the Supreme Leader and the waving fists at the mention of the "demon", despite the successive military parades and the fiery statements of the Revolutionary Guard commanders, despite the confirmed power in Baghdad, the unbreakable alliance with Syria and the intense presence at the heart of the government in Lebanon, the Iranians have a lot to fear, suggested the writer.

Iran can certainly celebrate the US quasi-defeat and withdrawal from Iraq. It can allege that, with the help of Syria, it succeeded in disabling US plans in the region. But the fact is that the complete departure of US troops from Iraq would give Washington more leeway to exert additional pressure on Tehran. The withdrawal would certainly shed light on the strong Iranian presence within decision-making circles in Baghdad where a growing anti-Iranian movement can be felt.

"Iranians are entitled to worry since their country failed to convince the world that its nuclear programme doesn't conceal dreams of producing a nuclear bomb that would eventually turn upside down the balance of powers in an economically crucial region.

Furthermore, the production of Iranian weapons of mass destruction would put the GCC states before a difficult choice: either to acquire nuclear power themselves or to join a nuclear umbrella.

In its perpetual conflict with the West, Iran finds itself slipping into an armament race, which, in the long run, surpasses its economic potential. Add to that, its commitments overseas conjure up images of a Soviet Union labouring under the weight of the armament race and aid to allies.

Iranians should fret since their government decided to clash with the Arab Spring movement as it reached Syria. They are well aware of the repercussions to crowds of Syrian protesters burning the flags of Iran and Hizbollah on Iranian-Arab relations, as well as on Sunni-Shiite relations.

Iranians are permitted to feel disturbed since their government's attempt to become the political and religious reference of the Arab Shiites has lead to severe tensions with several countries, as it was revealed following the agitation in Bahrain.

In addition to all the above, the writers concluded, the Iranian revolution's refusal to morph into a normal state that focuses on stability and prosperity, and its insistence to constantly clash with international and regional balances, are weighing down the Iranian people and furthering their isolation.


Give Yemen's interim government a chance

The national consensus cabinet that the GCC-backed political settlement generated in Yemen held its first meeting on Sunday, headed by the newly appointed premier Mohammed Salem Basindwa.

"The deal indeed brought some calm to the Yemeni street, but this doesn't mean that Yemen's dangers are behind it," said the editorial of the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi daily.

Mr Basindwa was chosen to lead this cabinet because he is a man of wisdom and expertise. His integrity as well as his moderation gained him the trust of many in Yemen. The fact that he is originally from the southern part of the country helps to appease the people of Yemen who are facing the threat of division.

The Basindwa cabinet, which will oversee the early presidential elections in two months, has heavy burdens to shoulder. During the long months of turbulence, Yemen's economy was brought to a complete halt, adding to a difficult situation.

"Its first priority must be the resuscitation of state institutions and the provision of basic services to the people."

This government, although contested by some, deserves a chance to accomplish its mission in leading this critical transitional phase, especially because it is a national consensus cabinet that aims to preserve the country's unity and guide it into free parliamentary elections in two years.


A sudden change of heart for Iraqi PM

On the eve of his visit to Washington, the Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al Maliki called upon peoples to assume their responsibilities in putting a stop to dictators who tyrannise their own people.

What inspired Mr Al Maliki to address such a call at this time precisely? Asked Tariq Al Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab Asharq Al Awsat.

Up until a few days ago, Mr Al Maliki was warning about the serious repercussions of Bahar Al Assad's fall. He said that the fall of the "tyrant of Damascus" would fuel a sectarian crisis in the region and he expressed concern over the effects that it would have on Syria and Iraq.

Syria, which shares borders with Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey can certainly be a source of sectarian trouble, but it is no less so than Iraq itself. With the nearing withdrawal of the US troops, Iraq's future too is in danger since it shares borders with a number of countries, including Iran where the regime is as tyrannical as Mr Al Assad's.

Why the sudden change of heart towards the Syrians from a regime that tried to hinder every Arab effort to stop the bloodshed in Syria? "The answer is simple," said the writer. "It is the prerequisite for Al Maliki's visit to the US … It can only be seen as the price [Al Maliki] had to pay for his ticket to Washington."

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem