Progress in Iraq's parliament?
Iraqiya's decision to end parliamentary boycott is crucial to Iraq's ability to end the hostilities
In a positive move, the largely Sunni Al Iraqiya bloc has decided this week to end its boycott of the Iraqi parliament that began last month in protest against Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's alleged centralisation of power.
Iraqyia MPs participated in Tuesday's session, which included discussions over the 2012 budget and an amnesty law for Iraqis, but have yet to break their boycott of the cabinet meeting.
Commenting on the move, the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan said in an editorial: "This is a step in the right direction that would lead to a solution of the political crisis and a good preamble to a national conference."
It is indeed a helpful decision that indicates serious intentions to deal with the various crises in Iraq and to find common cause between the parties to pave the way for the next phase.
Nonetheless, the situation in Iraq will remain precarious unless all political players, namely the Sunni Iraqyia bloc and the Shiite State of Law Coalition, agree on the main principles around which the political process would centre in the upcoming phase, leading to parliamentary elections. A rapprochement is needed in the political scene in Iraq in order to overcome the repercussions of the US withdrawal that coincided with a hike in tensions in the entire region.
The political stand-off that began in Iraq last month is likely to escalate into a sectarian conflict that threatens the future of the entire political process and could throw the country once again into the furnace of sectarian violence that has reaped tens of thousands of innocent lives on all sides so far.
Iraqyia's return to the parliament is key to the approval of many stalled projects that have direct bearing on the welfare of citizens. Any future decision by the bloc to remain in the cabinet or to withdraw from it to form an opposition bloc in parliament would be up to them.
"Iraqi leaders are required, now more than ever, to work together to come up with a clear roadmap to steer away from the regional dangers," said the paper. "Fighting by proxy is no longer acceptable to the Iraqi people, who have seen years of suffering and are going through a bumpy democratic transformation. It certainly makes it seem as if democracy isn't a viable system in the Iraqi society that has been subject to individualism in power for decades."
The political players would be well advised to seize the opportunity of a national conference and focus on the interests of their country. They must reach a quick and equitable agreement and press ahead with the rebuilding efforts.
This would entail a complete halt of the media hostility that has been used so far. Bilateral and partisan discussions are best negotiated behind closed doors, for the provocation of the street at this point would only lead to strife.
Russia fears a Security Council vote - on Putin
At last, the Syrian issue is before the UN Security Council, where the West and most of the Arab World come face to face with Russia and its allies who refuse to condemn the Damascus regime, said the columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari daily Al Watan.
"While the speakers at the Security Council discussed a proposal that requires president Bashar Al Assad to step down, the phantom of Libya hovered over the assembly as Moscow held on to its decision to disable any action that might constitute a demand for the ouster of the regime," he said.
Russia is wary of being dragged into another Libyan scenario, where it supported the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians, which was later exploited by Nato as cover to assist in the fall of Muammar Qaddafi.
In fact, the Russian delegate to the Security Council argued that the West's plans would create a precedent for the toppling of kings and presidents in the future. Urging Bashar Al Assad to step down would be the worst scenario for Moscow, for its worst fear is that a day could come when the Security Council would request the departure of Vladimir Putin.
In its attempt to deny its partial responsibility in the escalation of killings in Syria, Russia has recently distanced itself from Mr Al Assad and stated that his remaining in power or his fall is the concern only of the Syrian people.
Former allies abandon Libya in time of need
Reports from Tripoli are disconcerting, said the pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi in an editorial entitled Where have all of Libya's enthusiastic friends gone?
"Western reports reveal that more than 145 military committees are operating in the capital city alone and that 8,000 people have been detained, some of them in secret prisons. In addition to that, armed militias are competing among themselves over power on the ground in a competition that often escalates into battles with heavy weapons," said the paper.
Libya's friends, western and Arab, that were fervently concerned with the Libyan crisis before the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, seem to be deaf to the news of strife in the newly liberated country. "As long as the former regime has fallen and as long as oil is flowing uninterrupted into Europe, nothing is happening in Libya and all the reports from human rights organisations, that were once used to condemn the former regime, have lost all value even if they speak of detainees being tortured and killed in militia prisons."
As a result, the situation in Libya is tragic. The National Transitional Council is torn apart with conflicts and is currently facing a crisis of rejection from a large sector of Libyan society.
* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem
Updated: February 3, 2012 04:00 AM