x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Regional politics driven by strategic interests in Med

Energy resources lying beneath the sea floor are key to political calculations in the Middle East, a commentator says in an Arabic newspaper. Other topics: Egpyt and inventions.

Energy resources lying beneath the sea floor of the eastern Mediterranean - off the coasts of Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Cyprus - are increasingly becoming a key factor in strategic calculations of regional and international powers in the Middle East, wrote Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, in yesterday's edition of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

On March 28, barely a week after the resignation of the Lebanon's prime minister, Najib Mikati, the minister of energy and water in the caretaker cabinet, Gebran Bassil, announced that 52 international companies had expressed interest in obtaining licences to explore the country's offshore oil and gas resources.

Despite the political uncertainty in Lebanon - a country still without a proper government, and with a civil war raging at its doorstep - Mr Bassil said the nomination and licensing process would go ahead as previously planned, Salem wrote.

In doing so, he reassured corporate chiefs of energy giants from the United States, the UK, France, Italy, Norway, Brazil, Russia, India, China, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and the UAE, the writer said.

Mr Bassil said he was confident that the licensing would start in the next two months and continue until the end of the year, with contracts to be awarded in the spring of 2014.

"If things move forward despite high political uncertainty," Salem said, "Lebanon hopes to start extracting gas in, say, 2016 or 2017."

Political stability in Lebanon and the region is not in sight, the author noted.

Lebanon and Israel still bicker over maritime borders, and so do the Turks and the Greeks on both sides of Cyprus.

"Hizbollah and the Israeli army have previously exchanged threats, while Turkish warships cruised to the coasts of Cyprus in a show of force," Salem said.

Then, there is the larger geopolitical context.

"Russia and Iran, backed by China and India, want to have an influence on this sector: Moscow wishes to maintain its hegemony over gas supplies to Europe, while China and India want to secure future energy supplies to feed their fast-growing economies.

"As for Iran, it is sponsoring a gas pipeline that would link it with Lebanon and Syria through Iraq. It has another project for a gas pipeline that goes to China through Pakistan."

The US-Israeli camp's interests are, however, in directing those energy resources westward, the author said. From this perspective, Syria is another battlefield - for future energy security.

"It will be a major loss for Iran and Russia if Syria completely falls into the hands of the opposition and, through Israeli-Turkish efforts and the backing of Gulf, Arab and western nations, is drawn closer to the West."

Egyptians must learn from the Lebanese

Egyptians must pay heed to the concern over the situation in Egypt, which was expressed by Lebanon last week as it marked the 38th anniversary of the civil war that broke out on April 13, 1975, wrote Wahid Abdul Majid in an article in yesterday's edition of the Egypt-based newspaper Al Ahram.

The situation in Egypt has become a cause for concern for Egyptians, noted the writer. He said that a Lebanese man told him that when the civil war erupted, the Lebanese sent their families to Egypt, and asked him "what we were going to do if Egypt were to suffer" what they had suffered.

"During my short visit to Beirut a few day ago, I saw that the Lebanese who followed the situation in Egypt were extremely anxious about the fallout of the escalating crisis in Egypt and the way it was being handled," the writer said.

The Lebanese are astonished that Egyptians do not share their concern, and warned them against downplaying the scenario in which the infighting could turn into a civil war.

When experienced Lebanese people draw a parallel between the developments unfolding in Egypt and those that played out in their homeland 40 years ago, Egyptians ought to be worried, even scared, he said.

The Lebanese are concerned about their country and about Egypt, fearing a return to war at home, based on some factors that exist also in Egypt.

Emirati inventor needs more recognition

"How is it possible that an Emirati who is behind more than 1,000 inventions remains unknown to a large number of his compatriots?" This question, in reference to Ahmad Majjan, was posed by a Twitter user to Sami Al Reyami, the editor of the Dubai-based Al Emarat Al Youm newspaper.

Mr Majjan inherited the aptitude for invention from his father, who was the first Emirati to own a garage in the 1940s.

Yet this man has neither been given the due credit, nor has he received enough support and won popularity for his achievements, the writer noted.

Without the support of Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid, Mr Majjan's inventions would not have hit that figure.

Mr Majjan started to work on his own, and rose to some prominence in 1989 when the UAE hosted the Gulf Forum for Inventions. At that time, the UAE had no known indigenous inventors. To avoid embarrassment, organisers started to search for Emirati inventors and in the process found Mr Majjan at his workshop with 39 inventions. Thanks to him, the UAE won the first place in the event.

He is being honoured 24 years later.

Nicknamed "the Edison of the UAE", he has been selected person of the month by Al Emarat Al Youm. But he deserves more.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk