x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Obama's inconsistencies in Mena

Washington's inconsistent policy arms Iraq, and potentially Iran, while ignoring the Syrian rebels, says a columnist in today's roundup of Arabic-language opinion. Other topics today: the Arab Autumn, and Tunisia's media meddling.

Washington's inconsistent policy arms Iraq, and potentially Iran, while ignoring the Syrian rebels

It is indeed becoming increasingly difficult to fathom the US politics in the Middle East, said Tariq Al Homayed, the editor of the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

Despite the Syrian rebels' pressing calls for assistance and the abominable crimes perpetrated by the Assad's regime against civilians, the Obama administration continues to reject any proposals to arm the Syrian opposition. In justification of their reticence, the US claims that the weapons in question could fall into unsafe hands, meaning jihadis or terrorists.

"However, Washington has no qualms about arming the Iraqi regime, Iran's close ally, and seems to have no apprehension about these arms reaching Tehran," Al Homayed added.

According to US officials, Washington fears that supplying weapons to Syrian rebels could eventually put the entire Middle East's security at risk. Nonetheless, Washington has announced large-scale arms sales to the current Iraqi regime knowing that it is under the control of Iran, which in turn threatens US interests in the region.

The Obama administration is supposedly aware that Baghdad is essential for the Iranians at the moment. In light of the economic embargo intended to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, Tehran has been using it neighbour as a conduit to relieve the stifling pressure it has been subjected to in recent months.

Reports also indicate that Iraq is using its territories to support the Assad regime in Syria. "The US has been providing the Iraqi regime with state-of-the-art weapons that could end up in Iranian hands at any moment while it withholds less developed weapons from the Syrian rebels who have been facing a brutally oppressive regime that fights them with aircraft and heavy artillery," he said.

The inconsistency doesn't stop there. Washington recently objected to a French proposition to recognise a temporary Syrian government, claiming that it is a hasty idea that must be postponed until the Syrian opposition is united and includes all the components of Syrian society without excluding any group.

"It certainly is a realistic and rightful position that aims to guarantee the future of Syria as a state and as a society. However, observers can't help but wonder at Washington's double standard policy as it pledges unrelenting support for the regime in Iraqi despite the fact that Nouri Al Maliki [Iraq's prime minister] excludes the Iraqi Baath party and persecutes his Sunni vice president Tariq Al Hashimi," the writer added.

The contradictions are multiplying.

Will the US administration clear up its policies or is it that Washington just doesn't care about its self-contradictory approach to the events in the region, specifically in Syria?

Second half of Arab Spring is looming

After the "first half" of the Arab Spring toppled "clear-cut dictatorships", the turn could come to the other "fuzzy dictatorships" in the "second half of the match" if they don't move on to real democracy, commented Jamal Boudouma in the Moroccan newspaper Al Massae.

Two year after the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi that sparked the Arab protests, the picture now looks like an "Islamic fall", especially with the crisis in Syria, the writer noted.

But while the bloodbath in Syria makes people think twice before taking to the streets seeking regime overthrow, there is no denying the fact that the "wall of fear in the Arab world has crumbled for good", he said.

Backing out is no longer an option for Arab regimes as nothing at all prevents a new bout of protests in many Arab countries, including those that think they are invulnerable to rebellion, despite their flaws.

These countries, in particular, must understand that the "old world" is dead, leaving room to the "new world", he added.

People can rise up anytime if such countries fail to get on the right track and establish a true democracy which guarantees social justice and the rule of law, and smooth the rift between the rich and the poor.

Otherwise, else there will be a "second half" to this season of unrest, the writer warned.

Tunisia's new rulers want to tame media

The media in post-revolution Tunisia is going through "one of its worst phases", as the Ennahda-led government keeps making attempts to intimidate information outlets and fine-tune them to its own agenda, according to Saleh Souissi, a features writer for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

This ongoing arm-wrestle between government conservatives and journalists recently culminated in an arrest warrant against Sami El Fihri, the head of the well-known Attunsiya TV channel.

Mr El Fihri, who reportedly turned himself in, stands accused of "years of profiteering" and causing major losses for the institution he ran. However, civil society activists claim he is being targeted for something entirely different: Political Logic, a satirical show using plastic animated figures to mimic and poke fun at Tunisian politicians.

"The show apparently … did not sit well with some top officials at Ennahda party who took it a little too personally," the writer said.

Indeed, the arrest of Mr El Fihri is just one in a series of government manoeuvres to "tame the Tunisian media" which has barely started "to breathe in some of the breeze of freedom".




* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk