x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Social divisions deepened by Arab revolts

Arabic newspapers say that in the wake of the Arab Spring, divisions are widening among people. Other topics include US detention camps, and having two candidates from the GCC states for the Asian Football Confederation.

As chaos lingers in the Arab region, divisions widen among people - from Iraq to Libya

"The current political scene in the Arab region is painful and worrying, with developments on the ground presaging momentous dangers," wrote Ghazi Aridi, Lebanon's minister of public works and transportation, in an opinion article in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad yesterday.

In Iraq, a wave of bombings has killed and wounded hundreds of people in the aftermath of Sunni-Shiite sectarian clashes. A general sentiment that all decision-making in Baghdad has inextricably fallen into the hands of Shiite officials is making the Sunnis furious and revengeful, as they feel marginalised and discriminated against.

Making hopes dwindle further, a number of Iraqi candidates for the forthcoming elections have been assassinated. Abroad, Baghdad's leaders are even more determined to join their efforts with Iran and Hizbollah in supporting the regime of President Bashar Al Assad.

There is no need to go into detail about the level of material destruction that Syria has experienced since the uprising began more than two years ago, letting through the spectre of division that now looms large. It's enough to say that reconstruction is going to require "dozens of billions of dollars".

But what about Lebanon?

"Well, it is still suffering from a serious internal rift since the assassination of [prime minister] Rafik Hariri," the author noted. "And there is great concern that a Sunni-Shiite sectarian storm is waiting to unfold. The security situation is unstable and the performance of government institutions is diminishing."

Let's move on to Egypt, where political and economic chaos rules, the minister added. "There is fear for whatever remains of the state, and its judicial and security institutions. Journalists and artists are being targeted."

Then there is Libya, where instability, chaos and loose weapons prevail. The country seems to be going down the Iraqi trajectory. The killing of the dictator, Col Muammar Qaddafi in late 2011, was followed by serious calls for provincial autonomy.

For its part, Sudan, which has been officially divided into two states, is a constant reminder about the gravity of festering, internal conflict.

Tunisia and Jordan are not doing great either. Tunisia is still struggling with sticky constitutional and security issues, while Jordan is caught up between "the blaze in Syria and the fire in Iraq … not to mention its own economic woes", the minister noted.

This is a grim picture, indeed. The turmoil across the Arab world is making the possibility of some nations breaking up look real.

"In east or west, we are getting scattered into denominations, sects, factions, splinter groups and clans, as if nothing holds us together."

US detention camps will not curb terrorism

The Boston bombing last month came as another reminder that the United States' policy of keeping suspects locked up without charge in notorious detention camps, such as Guantanamo Bay prison, is not going to bring an end to terrorist attacks on US soil, the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram said in an editorial yesterday.

"In fact these camps, and the horrendous activities that take place behind their walls, have strengthened anti-American sentiment in various parts of the world, and encouraged extremist groups to target US interests and citizens," the newspaper said.

Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama declared that his administration would do everything it could to shut down Guantanamo, in another attempt to deliver on a campaign promise he made more than four years ago.

Mr Obama deserves credit for pushing for the closure, the paper said. "He understands that Gitmo will bring him more worries in the future. Moreover, 100 of its 166 inmates have gone on a hunger strike since February."

For the US to eventually spare itself from the evils of terrorism, it must show greater "respect for the creeds and ideas of others, and avoid linking terrorism with religion, particularly Islam", the editorial observed.

The US must also lessen its support for Israel and its policies, and become a genuine partner for peace in the Middle East.

GCC is much bigger than a football post

"I wish the GCC countries did not come out in the way they did during the election of the new president of the Asian Football Confederation [on Thursday] … I wished the GCC states agreed on one candidate from the very beginning," columnist Hashim Abdo Hashim wrote in yesterday's edition of the Saudi newspaper Okaz.

Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, representing Bahrain, won 33 of the 46 votes, beating the UAE's Yousuf Al Serkal and another contestant from Thailand. The Saudi candidate, Hafed Al Medlej, withdrew before the end of the race.

Through their competition for the post, the concerned GCC states conveyed an "inaccurate message" about the Gulf region.

Outsiders would get the impression that GCC members disagree even on the smallest of things that a supposedly homogenous bloc should not disagree on, the writer said.

The GCC is "much bigger and much more complex" than a simple seat in a football organisation, he wrote.

"if there is a lack of consensus on who should run for a transient post like this, what is to become of more consequential decisions?" the Hashim asked.




* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk