x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Sectarian thinking in Iraq

Iraq has insulted the people of Syria by signing new agreements with the Syrian regime, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics today: South Sudan, Palestinian power, and Egypt's new era

Sectarian thinking prevails in Iraq

In Baghdad, on the eve of Friday's "your silence killing us" protests in Syria, the Syrian regime signed a number of agreements with the Iraqi government, editor-in-chief Tariq Alhomayed wrote in a leader in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

It is as if those agreements were signed with the blood of Syrian victims, who are facing continuous repression, said the writer.

The move by Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, to stand by president Bashar Al Assad at this time is a a show of disrespect to all Syrians. It also denotes that Mr Al Maliki has publicly joined the list of "prominent" friends of the Syrian regime: Hizbollah and Iran.

"Defending Iraqi interests at all levels does not require supporting Al Assad. On the contrary, Baghdad is supposed to spearhead the democratic process in the region, since this is the claim of the Americans and of the current Iraqi government."

Iraq today has a sectarian system of government. By supporting the Syrian regime, Iraq acted purely on factional grounds so as to be in line with Damascus's other allies in the region, mainly Hizbollah and Tehran.

By signing cooperation treaties with Damascus, Mr Al Maliki is also ignoring calls from the Syrian people to stand by them in their time of distress. This shows how interests based on sectarian considerations can outweigh principles of freedom, human dignity and democracy.

Arabs must cooperate with South Sudan

Israel did not take part physically in the celebrations of the new state of South Sudan, but Tel Aviv's presence in different forms has deep implications, the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan said in its editorial.

Israel's secret activity was seen in the recent announcement of official relations between Juba and Tel Aviv, and Israeli pledges of financial and technical aid.

Strategically, the newly established state holds promise for Israel amid the rapid changes in the Arab region. Israel could seek to use Nile water as a new pressure card against Cairo, to strip Egypt of political free will.

Israel may also use the example of South Sudan against the Palestinian Authority's intention to unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state. Israelis may say mutual agreement of stakeholders is necessary before a new state can be declared.

Apparently Israeli politicians remain loyal to former leader David Ben-Gurion, who called for besieging Arabs through their surrounding countries. This is what Tel Aviv has done by consolidating its relations with the southern Sudanese. We, Arabs, were to blame, however, for being less politically active in the threatened areas.

Accordingly, we need to deal with this realistically. Mostly, we need to accept this new state and provide all forms of support to it so as not to attract those seeking to benefit from the vacuum left by us."

National unity will empower Palestinians

It is no longer possible to put pressure on the PA to prevent it from asking the United Nations for international recognition of a Palestinian state based on the borders of June 1967, argued Mazen Hammad in a commentary for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

It is also impossible, he added, to put pressure on the PA under the pretext that negotiations are the only way to settle the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. "In fact, 20 years of staggered talks have shown that the Israelis are less serious about peace. Throughout those years, Israel has used negotiations as a means to buy more time to steal more land."

For these reasons, the PA should proceed with its plan. Now, 122 countries out of the 193 UN member states have reportedly agreed on the project to recognise the Palestinian state. Many of the others will do so in due course.

The PA should also stand firm no matter what, even in the face of increasing warnings from the US about cutting off aid.

If the UN acknowledges statehood, Palestinians will be empowered to engage in serious negotiations under international auspices. This will make the two-state solution practical.

Yet, to strengthen the Palestinian stance ahead of the UN General Assembly in September, both Hamas and Fatah must overcome their differences to ensure national unity and to focus on the statehood challenge.


Mubarak's trial will change Egypt's status

When the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak opens on Wednesday, Egypt will enter a new phase in its history, the Egyptian daily Al Ahram said editorially.

This is a period historians may wish to call the "era of the president's trial", like the "era of pyramid builders" or the "era of dynasties".

"More than that, [the trial means] Egypt will be a leading Arab country, where a ruler can step down from his ivory tower, going from being a tyrant Pharaoh to an ordinary citizen … and be condemned if evidence show he has broken the rules."

As well as being a symbol of the success of the revolution last January, Mr Mubarak's trial will put Egypt among the countries which draw their strength from the rules of law.

"This will have positive effects on the flow of investments, but also and most importantly, it means Egyptians will at long last breath fine, clean air.

"After all, the trial is likely to be the focus of the attention of the world for months to come.

Accordingly, Egyptians should show the world that they are not prosecuting the ousted president out of a sense of revenge or vengeance. Rather, it should be for truth and justice, no more, no less."


* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi