x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Russia must present a strong alternative

In dealing with the Middle East, Moscow should realise that times have changed, an Arabic-language writers says. Other topics: Israel and public speaking.

Russia has taken the decision to seek to secure for itself power zones in the Middle East region, in line with its new strategic approach, said Kuwaiti columnist Shamlan Yussuf Al Issa in the Abu Dhabi-based daily Al Ittihad.

The United States’ gradual withdrawal from the region is leaving a void, giving Russia the opportunity to try to fill it by taking an increasingly advanced role.

But what are the weaknesses and strengths of this new Russian policy? And can Russia play an effective role?

For its Middle East comeback to be effective, Russia under President Vladimir Putin is looking to expand its clout by thwarting any western attempts to uproot its main ally, President Bashar Al Assad, from power.

However, this isn’t necessarily a successful policy in the long run. Moscow doesn’t bring to the table anything new or offer real solutions to deal with the Syrian dilemma other than obstinate reactions to any western proposals.

“Russia’s uninterrupted support to Al Assad and its failure to come up with alternatives to the Syrian conflict have significantly shrunk its role, notably following its negative position from the Arab Spring revolutions,” the writer noted.

Moscow is looking to further its economic interests and trying to ensure the best revenue possible from weapons sales. It has already signed agreements with Iraq and Iran.

Despite its approach to western intervention in Iraq and Libya. With the exception of its stance on Syria, Russia didn’t make any notable efforts to defend its allies from the waves of domestic revolutions.

Nonetheless, it presents itself as a mediator in the war-torn Syria, knowing it cannot bring together all the parties concerned and, even worse, it doesn’t have a ready solution from the conundrum.

In Egypt, President Putin saw the change of authority as the chance to return to the forefront of the power race in the region. Egypt is the centre of gravity for the Arab world and it is normal that Moscow would seek Cairo’s favours, especially now that it has lost its standing in Libya and Iraq.

But Washington, unwilling to let go of Egypt, was quick to block its way and began delivering naval missile carriers to the new Egyptian government to defend the Suez Canal.

It even changed its rhetoric, with US secretary of state John Kerry stating recently that the Muslim Brotherhood, his country’s long-time allies not too long ago, stole Egypt’s revolution.

“Moscow should realise that the days of the Cold War are over. The conflict in the region today is no longer ideological, but economic,” the writer opined.

“It is in the interests of Russia and the region interest to reach some sort of agreement with the West to end the Syrian conflict peacefully.”

Israel is determined to prevent right of return

Eliminating the core of the Palestinian cause – refugees’ right of return to their homes – represents the essence of Israel’s policy, wrote Ali Jaradat in yesterday’s edition of the Sharjah-based Al Khaleej.

This is shown by the insistence of former Israeli governments, and more blatantly the current one, on a demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state without defined borders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even asked Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to acknowledge the “historical ties between the Jewish people and their land that date back 4,000 years”.

Hard-line Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman, back as foreign minister following his acquittal on fraud charges, has said that peace would be possible by providing security to Israelis in return for providing economy for Palestinians.

The essence of the Palestinian cause can be defended not only through tactical politics, inside and outside negotiation rooms, but also through the rebuilding of the “national project” that has been dismantled by 20 years of absurd negotiations.

The historical rights of Palestinians and the goal of a democratic state of Palestine must be highlighted as the only solution to counteract the “Zionist project”. Yet the fight to end occupation and build a Palestinian state must not relinquish the right of return.

After dinner, choose humour or politics

Formal meals in this region usually conclude with political speeches followed by applause and cheering, Iraqi author Khaled Al Qashtini noted in the London-basednewspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

However, according to the writer, westerners prefer humorous speeches, which have been scientifically proven to ease digestion and lower stress and cholesterol levels.

In contrast, political speeches can cause stomach cramps and increase stress.

Some people deliver humorous after-dinner speeches for a living, getting paid handsomely, the author noted.

He gave the example of Irish-born footballer George Best, who was once paid almost Dh30,000 for a five-minute after-dinner speech during which he recounted funny events about football games.

During one formal dinner, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw met English writer G K Chesterton.

Shaw was a skinny vegetarian while Chesterton was overweight. The latter told Shaw that seeing him personified the hunger of the world. Shaw replied, pointing to Chesterton’s belly: “Whoever sees you understands the cause of the hunger.”

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk