x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Libya's dirty laundry exposed

Libya's leader fears he is marching towards the same fate as Iraq's Saddam Hussein, says an Arabic-language commentator. Other excerpts touch on water conservation, protests in Jordan, and Israel's sea-resource grab

Former Libyan FM airs regime's dirty laundry

In an extended interview that the London-based newspaper Al Hayat will be running in daily instalments, the former Libyan foreign minister Abdul Rahman Shalgam revealed a number of secrets about Colonel Muammar Qaddafi - the man and the leader - and brings an insider's view on stories including the Lockerbie bombing, the attempted assassination of then Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the assassinations of Libyan dissidents.

Before the Arab Spring, the collaboration between Libyan intelligence and its Tunisian counterpart was so complete that Col Qaddafi had allocated a monthly salary to then Tunisia's president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Mr Shalgam revealed. It was known that Col Qaddafi used petrodollars to buy allegiances in parts of the Arab world and Africa.

Mr Shalgam also stated that Col Qaddafi has become paranoid in recent years about the prospect of facing the same fate as the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

According to Mr Shalgam's accounts, Col Qaddafi detested Saddam and provided the Iranians with Libyan missiles, free of charge, during the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s.

Allegedly Col Qaddafi did not like Saudi Arabia either, and would have been happy to see it divided. Mr Shalgam said the Libyan leader supported London-based dissenters and Houthis in Yemen to embarrass Riyadh.

Water: the Gulf's most wasted vital resource

The Arab Forum for Environment and Development wrapped up its latest session in Beirut earlier this month, strongly recommending that immediate action be taken to address water scarcity in the Arab world, wrote Ahmed Abdul Malik, a Qatari academic, in the opinion pages of the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

The forum advocated the adoption of political, institutional and legal reforms to better handle demand for water and reduce wasteful behaviour.

Like other natural resources, water is prone to depletion, the writer said. And since alternatives to natural water resources are limited to desalination, a serious dialogue about the issue must start in every Arab country, especially in the Gulf states.

According to one recent magazine report, 50 per cent of desalination projects worldwide are concentrated in the Gulf, where water is scarce.

"This is terrifying, but everyone is quiet about it," the writer noted. The magazine cited a report by the consultancy AT Kearney, which stated that GCC countries could save up to 40 per cent on their spending in the water sector by introducing improvements.

Efficiency is good, but behaviours must change as well. "Our children must be raised to use water rationally," the writer said. Asking the maid to wash the family's five cars with the hose is not how to achieve this, he added.

Israel trespasses on Lebanon's sea riches

"Israel has made a career of nibbling at Lebanon's natural riches," opined columnist Essam Noaman in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

"In the 1948 war, it took a bite at border villages. In the 1967 war, it took another bite at the south-eastern Arqoub region, which sat on an enormous groundwater reservoir," the writer said.

And this month the Israeli government ratified sea maps delineating the country's "Exclusive Economic Zone" in what it considers to be its territorial waters.

With these maps Israel has "gobbled up, deliberately, a section of Lebanon's Exclusive Economic Zone into its own - a 17-km-long strip," the writer said. "This translates into 1,500 square kilometres including gasfields containing an estimated 16 trillion cubic metres of gas, not to mention large oilfields."

The previous Lebanese government, under premier Fouad Siniora, neglected to protect the country's maritime resources from Israel and Cyprus. This is what the new Lebanese energy and water minister, Jabran Bassil, came to realise.

As things stand - now that Israel and Cyprus have signed sea-border agreements - Lebanon has two options: the United Nations, and defensive armed struggle.

Diplomacy comes first, though it would involve the time-consuming process of preparing a legal dossier for a toddler Lebanese government, which Israel knows has a lot on its plate already.

Lebanon warns Israel against sea border move in offshore gas reserves feud

Jordanian response was like Yemen's

Young Jordanians, backed by the Islamic Action Front party, have ratcheted up their demands for political reform during street protests this weekend, the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi said in its editorial.

But they were met with pro-regime demonstrators mobilised by the Jordanian authorities, a manoeuvre reminiscent of President Abdullah Saleh's way of handling protests in Yemen.

That was not all. Jordanian security men used force in dealing with the pro-reform protests, which were not only peaceful but also licensed by the interior ministry. Demonstrators were beaten and dispersed, leading to several serious injuries, including to journalists.

"Assaulting journalists is a very serious act," the newspaper said. It sends the message that Jordan would have no qualms "putting a muzzle" on the media.

Jordan's authorities would be making a strategic mistake if they choose repression.

Recent history has shown that this crude solution "only puts oil to the fire of popular discontent".

"The youth demonstrating for change have legitimate demands", the newspaper said.

If there is ice between the Islamic movement in Jordan (which drives the protests) and the monarchy, it is not repression that will melt it.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi

aelbahi@thenational.ae