x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The real reason for Obama's visit

The US president is concerned more in Israel's security than the Palestinians' suffering, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: an insult to the UAE and sectarian strife in Pakistan,

Obama's visit may be the preamble to another US military involvement in the Middle East

The US president, Barack Obama, didn't come to the Middle East for rest and recreation, the pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi said in an editorial on Wednesday.

He didn't come to enjoy a tour around Bethlehem and Jerusalem churches, nor to marvel at Petra in Jordan, either.

"Obama landed in the region to rebut accusations of antagonism toward Israel. He is here to reiterate his friendship towards Jews in general, and more specifically, American Jews," said the paper.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has claimed that the US president harbours animosity towards the Jews - a clear attempt to pressure him to renounce demands to halt settlement building - and Mr Obama is keen on denying such claims.

"The White House didn't need to issue an official statement to confirm that President Obama doesn't have a plan for peace and for ending the Arab-Israeli conflict," the paper said. "The 20-year-old US-led peace process is defunct, along with the two-state solution and the infamous Oslo Accords."

The Palestinian cause is disappearing at a rapid rate from the US president's agenda. At the moment, he is preoccupied with two more pressing matters in the Middle East.

He has yet to figure out how his administration is going to deal with the Syrian crisis and, more importantly, develop plans with his Israeli allies to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

It is clear that Mr Obama is still weighing his options carefully when it comes to Syria. He prefers not to get involved in any confrontation in the Middle East. This explains his administration's approval of French and British plans to supply the Syrian opposition with modern weapons that could tip the balance in the rebels' favour.

"But his foremost concern is Syria's chemical weapons arsenal and stopping it from falling into the hands of extremists who might use the weapons against Israel," the paper said.

At the same time, Mr Obama has an interest in ensuring that Syria doesn't fail as a state. Should it fail it would, like Libya, become an attractive hub for Islamist radicals who would flock to it from all over the world to fight Israel.

The weakest link in the US president's Middle East tour is certainly the Palestinian Authority and its president Mahmoud Abbas. Obama's meeting with the Mr Abbas was no more than a formality and a photo opportunity, as the US visitor wasn't willing to listen to any complaints over Israeli settlements and the Netanyahu government's expansion plans.

"It may still be too early to judge the tour and its outcomes. But, judging from statements made so far, we can deduce that it aims to pave the way for a war, either on Iran or the Syrian regime, or both," the paper concluded.

Egypt owes UAE an apology for comments

During a visit to Gaza on Wednesday, Safwat Hijazi, the secretary general of the Revolutionary Council in Egypt, verbally attacked the UAE and its leaders.

In comment, Sami Al Rayami, editor-in-chief of the Dubai-based daily Al Emarat Al Youm, wrote: "If Safwat Hijazi's extremely derogatory statements against the UAE represent him personally, then they show only how petty a man he is. But if they represent the Muslim Brotherhood, to which he and the Egyptian president both belong, then the fact that this group is at the helm of a country that represents the very heart of the Arab world is a real catastrophe.

"It is true that the UAE is small in surface and population, and there is no shame in that. The time when a country's influence and power were measured by its area and population are long gone. The country that [Mr Hijazi] qualifies as smaller than the 'Shobra neighbourhood' [in Cairo] is the second-largest Arab economic power," he wrote. "Its people are the happiest among Arab peoples," he added.

Egypt should offer an apology for such an affront against the UAE, the writer said.

"The UAE gives no weight whatsoever to Hijazi himself, but it certainly does give a lot of consideration to the Egyptian government's position regarding this assault that breaks with political custom and seriously harms the relations between our two countries," he concluded.

How to trigger ugly sectarian strife

To instigate sectarian strife, Amjad Arrar wrote in the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej, all it takes is a man given a sum of money and manipulated from behind the scenes.

Thousands of people set fire to more than 100 houses belonging to people of another faith in Pakistan's Lahore over blasphemous remarks by a single man from their faith, the writer noted.

The enraged mob ruled out any possibility of the issue being a rumour or false accusation, or that the person in question was ignorant, or that his actions might have been instigated by some party to trigger a violent outbreak.

Even if the person were the actual originator of the insult, it does not make sense to punish 100 innocent families over an offence they did not commit.

Sectarianism feeds on uncontrolled religious sermons and people hired to incite violence against their fellow citizens. The outcome is death - people killed for their faith and bombs that target public markets, schools and hospitals, the writer said.

One is perplexed at the ideological and moral reference points that allow a man to murder his fellow man. There are some who feed on ignorance and some who like to be the "wood for a fire that burns the nations".


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk