x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Profound internal and external challenges ahead of the newly elected Iranian president

Rouhani's depends on where he takes Iranian society next, a writer for Al Hayat says. Other views: The unifying nature of hatred will trouble Egypt and the risk of fragmentation of Arab states.

The new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, takes over the helm of government amid difficult and complicated times for his country and the region, George Simon wrote in a column on the London-based Al Hayat.

The new president faces the remnants of the eight years in which his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ruled the country. These years were the worst in the history of the Islamic Republic, both in terms of internal and external affairs.

During these years, political differences deepened, the social fabric was torn, the socio-economic crisis worsened and polarisation and repression increased.

The poor management of foreign policy, especially regarding the nuclear programme, has doubled sanctions and increased sanctions, he said.

In addition, the Arab Spring of the last two years has increased the number of challenges faced by Tehran, and disturbed the balance of power in the Middle East and affected relations among regional countries.

"This legacy, accumulated since 2005, was the first factor in the basis for the selection of the new Iranian president. But the economic crisis and its relation to issues inside and outside was the biggest factor," the writer said.

So this will be Mr Rouhani's priority, and his citizens will have to wait a long time for change, especially since the new president came from the existing system.

Thus, any change at the domestic level will be impossible if it conflicts with the existing power structure or touches the essence of Iran's revolution. Likewise, any change in foreign policy, regionally or more broadly, will be impossible if it threatens to undermine the strategy that the Islamic Republic has built over three decades.

"Whether the new president is classified among the reformists or the conservatives or in between, Iran will continue to move under the rule of the religious leader, whatever the aspirations of the Iranians." President Rouhani will not be able to change the equations at home unless he opens the door again for basic freedoms, and comes up with a formula for national unity under the overall system.

In term of foreign policy, "the most notable issues these days are, of course, the nuclear file and the Syrian crisis that has pushed the whole region towards sectarian conflict."

But can Mr Rouhani make radical changes in the policy of the Islamic Republic, paying the high cost that this would bring?

"Internal economic conditions and developments in the broader Middle East, from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan, do not allow the luxury of wait-and-see," the writer concluded. "They require urgent decisions in the nuclear file and the Syrian crisis, and the network of regional and international relations linked to them. This alone might bring life to the Iranian economy."

People united by the "pleasure of hatred"

Sometimes the best way to avert mayhem is the one which is most ridiculed and totally rejected by the majority of people, columnist Bilal Fadl wrote in the Cairo-based paper Al Shorouk.

Amid the turmoil engulfing the Arab world, hatred seems to be common and convincing. Hatred seems more attractive than any tedious talk about the inevitability of accepting and coexisting with others, including those who hate each other, the writer noted.

Unfortunately, there is no agent that unifies people better than hatred; this is what the American writer Eric Hoffer argued in his 1951 book The True Believer, in which he examined the rise of fascism and Nazism in the first part of the 20th century.

Hoffer argued that hatred can consume a person so much that it makes him oblivious to his surrounding and his future. He is freed from others' desires and eager only to join those with whom he shares hatred. This can form an incendiary group, guided only by hatred towards those who have wronged them, unaware that hatred make them reshape themselves like their tormentors.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood have repeated the mistakes of the Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party. And the Brotherhood-haters are now repeating the Brotherhood's mistakes.

In this way evil persists even after the original evildoers are gone, because those who hate reproduce a similar evil and therefore prolong its existence.

What does the year 2020 hold for Arabs?

Despite a shortage of future studies in the Arab world, it is not hard to foresee the year 2020, Khairi Mansour wrote in yesterday's edition of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

There are signs that the coming seven years are going to be lean, not only economically but also in terms of the social fabric, forms of government and the political landscape, the writer said.

But there are different scenarios. Some postulate a period of fragmentation, "Phase Two of Sykes-Picot", will befall Arabs, producing a regional map with more than 60 statelets.

Others suggest that the emerging awareness in the Arab world is capable of de-romanticising dreams so that concepts such as unity come to be seen as necessary, according to the writer.

This growing awareness could put things right despite the current conflicts and the ideological and political chaos that beset the Arab world.

Should the developmental projects in various areas translate into action, Arabs will be making progress and will not necessarily be in danger of being kicked out of history, a fate about which some desperate people now warn.

And despite all of the challenges that lie ahead for the Arabs, turning back the clock is a losing bet, the writer concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk