x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Saudi plan for GCC is welcome

Arabic editorials also comment on the situation in Iraq and criticism of Bahrain.

Saudi plan for a confederation-style 'union' of Gulf states is good news, despite doubts

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia dropped a "surprise of great proportions" at the opening of the 32nd summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council states (GCC) which wrapped up on Tuesday in the Saudi capital Riyadh, wrote Mohammed Al Hammadi, an Emirati journalist, in the opinion pages of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad yesterday.

In his keynote address, King Abdullah called on his fellow leaders of the GCC nations - Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE - to make the transition from a "cooperation" framework to a "union", in order to better brace against regional and domestic threats.

In the final statement of the summit, all GCC leaders said they were in.

"In fact, the creation of this union has become such a pressing necessity for every GCC state, big or small, in order to protect both national and foreign fronts," the writer said.

"Gulf states have felt that the GCC bloc … has offered them a degree of protection. So it is only logical that they see a 'union' as a greater degree of protection and security from next year's surprises."

True, the people's reaction was mixed, he added. Some were "overjoyed" that the "dream" of a union was getting closer to becoming a reality. Others stood between hesitation and anxiety, knowing that "so many GCC ideas and projects never materialise", the writer went on.

There were even those who raised doubts that this proposal may be a prelude "by some" to exert their influence on this prospective union, the writer added.

"But this idea doesn't hold water," he noted. "With all the radical changes that the Arab world has seen this year, so many cards have been scrambled and expectations were upended. No country thinks about doing that anymore."

The prospective union of the GCC states will be in the form of "a confederation", the writer noted. "It's a group of independent, sovereign nations that, by virtue of an agreement, can delegate some prerogatives to one or more representative authorities to synchronise their policies in a number of fields.

"This union is not going to form one state - it's not a federation," he stressed.

It's worth mentioning here that the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE, had pushed for the idea of a union of GCC states soon after the bloc's creation in 1981.

Now, the process to make the shift to a union should not take very long, the writer said. GCC leaders are expected to review final recommendations on the subject before next summer in a summit in Bahrain.

"Would it be the first meeting of the Gulf Union leaders?"

What is 'stable' about post-US Iraq now?

Speaking to US troops that had just returned home from Iraq, marking the official withdrawal of US forces from the country last week, President Barack Obama said the US military has helped build "a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq".

Not a week later, facts on the ground are invalidating Mr Obama's declaration, observed columnist Zouheir Qusaibati in yesterday's edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

Iraqi chiefs have already started trading accusations and warnings that the country's political and social "collapse" was imminent. This leaves a dent in Mr Obama's credibility, and will hardly serve his purposes as he gets ready to enter a re-election year, the writer said.

But more importantly for Iraqis, the situation became completely volatile after the Iraqi (Shiite) prime minister, Nouri Maliki, accused this week the Iraqi (Sunni) vice president, Tareq Al Hashimi, of plotting a terrorist attack. Sunni-Shiite tensions have undermined stability in Iraq and the wider region for decades.

"Was it really a coincidence that the Al Hashimi file is opened as soon as the last of the US forces left?" the writer asked.

Some inside and outside Iraq see Mr Maliki as the leader of "a neo-dictatorship" who bears allegiance to Iran - a charge he vehemently denies.

Whatever the case, the last word to describe Iraq now is "stable".

Criticism of Bahrain could be avoided

Bahraini authorities could have pre-empted the "harsh statements" made on Wednesday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, had they handled the findings of the Bassiouni report more positively, wrote Mansour Al Jamri, editor of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat.

The report, named after its director Cherif Bassiouni, a human-rights law expert, was commissioned in November by the king of Bahrain to probe allegations of human rights abuses during street violence in Manama last February, which left dozens dead and many more injured or on trial.

Without mincing words, Ms Pillay called on the Bahraini government to take measures to rebuild society's trust, and "went in great detail again through the abuses that must be immediately redressed", the editor said. She said failure to take these steps will be a serious roadblock to achieving reconciliation.

A delegation from Ms Pillay's office visited Bahrain last week, and met with senior officials and civil society groups. The takeaway was that there was a severe lack of trust within Bahraini society.

All this could have been avoided had Bahraini authorities been quicker in introducing the report's recommendations.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi









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