x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Iraq's new tilt towards Russia

Recent arms deals confirm that Iraq is moving into the Russian orbit, partly because of Turkish and American policy on Syria, a columnist says. Today's other topics: clashes in Egypt and a new call for jihad against Israel.

As resentment grows towards Turkey's policies in Syrian crisis, Iraq returns to Russia's camp

On Wednesday, following a meeting with Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, Russia's President Vladimir Putin announced: "We have resumed military-technical cooperation."

Before the meeting, the Russian government announced it had recently signed arms deals with Iraq worth over $4.2 billion (Dh15.4 billion) as part of the large-scale cooperation pact between the two countries in defence, energy and investment.

This could be the preamble to an Iraqi shift from the US to the Russian camp amid the international polarisation around the Syrian crisis, suggested columnist Samih Saab in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

"All indications suggest that Mr Al Maliki is seeking to breathe life once again into the historic relationship that existed between Moscow and Baghdad in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s up until the collapse of the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait," added the writer.

Current regional and international circumstances, namely the Syrian crisis and its repercussions on its neighbouring countries, have contributed to the current Iraqi-Russian rapprochement.

Baghdad's and Moscow's positions towards Syria's predicament and the proposed solutions for it are obviously consistent.

"Iraq's prudent stance toward Syria's plight, contrary to most Arab countries and Turkey, has indeed amplified the gap between Baghdad and the United States and its allies," the writer said.

Iraq is increasingly feeling the heat of the crisis and is trying to avoid having an extremist Sunni state at its doorstep, which would threaten to stoke conflicts again on its territories. Moscow shares the same concern, as it fears that Syria could be transformed into a platform for religious radicalism that would surely echo in Caucasia and Russia.

Baghdad and Moscow are both weary of religious extremism. This could explain Mr Al Maliki's verbal attack on Turkey from Moscow recently. It came as proof of the Iraqi PM's growing resentment of Turkey's policies towards his country and towards the Syrian crisis. The Iraqi government had requested that Turkey terminate its military presence in northern Iraq, which it uses to attack Kurd militants.

The Turkish-US response to the Russian-Iraqi harmonisation didn't take long. Turkey's interception of a Syrian passenger flight coming from Russia can be interpreted as a double protest message to Baghdad and Moscow.

Simultaneously, the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, confirmed from Nato headquarters in Brussels that US troops have been deployed in Jordan, close to the Syrian border.

His announcement could have been a message to Mr Al Maliki that the US has found an alternative host for its military presence in the Middle East, the writer said.

After clashes in Egypt, hope turns to concern

It is sad that whenever a detente occurs or whenever stability looms on the horizon in Egypt, conflicts are soon inflamed again, among diverging factions or within state institutions, opined Egyptian columnist Imad Eddine Adib in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

On Friday, an unfortunate clash erupted between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi over a recent court ruling that acquitted former officials of involvement in the infamous "camel incident" during the uprising against the former Mubarak regime.

Mr Morsi's opponents had gathered in their thousands in Tahrir Square to protest his "failure" to deliver on his promises for his first 100 days in office. Their clash with Mr Morsi's supporters was the first return to street violence since the presidential election.

"I was optimistic about the return to relative stability recently, but the events of the last 72 hours conjure a state of unease and concern over clashing factions and authorities," said the writer.

Egypt is in dire need of relative calm and sustained stability for a minimum of three years to change its classification country where investing brings a high risk.

Also, Egypt needs calm to attract tourists. It needs dialogue and not political hysteria.

"Revolutions give hope, not frustration. They unite; they don't divide … Once again, I go from optimism to concern," he concluded.

Call for jihad against Israel 'long overdue'

The recent call by Mohammed Badie, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for jihad against Israel for the liberation of Palestine came as a welcome surprise to many who believe in the righteousness of the Palestinian cause and in the colossal injustice done to the Palestinians, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi said in its editorial on Saturday.

Mr Badie called for jihad based on his conviction that justice will never be achieved "through the corridors of the United Nations or through negotiations, because Zionists understand only the language of force".

"Such calls for jihad have become rare in the Arab world in our days," the paper said. " In fact, they are often combined with accusations of terrorism."

The supreme guide's appeal to Muslims coincides with an intensified anti-jihad campaign in New York metro stations.

Its importance stems from the fact that he is the leader of the movement that rules Egypt at the moment and for the next four years at least.

"[His call] redraws Egypt's politics in the coming phase and redirects its compass towards the real enemy of the nation and the creed, which was diverted for years through submissive politics with Israel," the paper added.


* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem