x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Time for Iraq's leaders to get serious

Other Arab editorials also comment on Saleh's immunity terms in Yemen and the risk of war over closure of Strait of Hormuz.

Escalation in Iraq shows how lightly Baghdad's chiefs are taking a volatile crisis

"I've written before in this page a column titled The US withdrawal from Iraq: A beginning or an end?" stated Ahmed Youssef Ahmed, the director of the Cairo-based Arab Institute for Studies and Research, in the opinion section of the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad yesterday.

"I wrote: 'With the gloomy years of the [US] invasion now over … Iraq is still facing a perilous future. The first challenge rearing its head already is the one looking Iraq's security apparatus in the eye. And the second challenge is rebuilding the patriotic bond between all Iraqis,'" he wrote.

It wasn't long before Iraq witnessed a series of blasts and suicide attacks which left more than 180 people between dead and wounded last week, the writer went on. It was clear that the attacks targeted predominantly Shiite districts, thus escalating already soaring sectarian tensions between the country's Shiites and Sunnis.

This physical violence came to blow the lid off enduring political hostilities. Only days earlier, the Iraqi (Shiite) prime minister, Nouri Maliki, had accused the Iraqi (Sunni) vice president, Tareq Al Hashimi, of plotting a terrorist attack in the country.

The vice president sought refuge from prosecution in the autonomous Iraqi province of Kurdistan, inevitably dragging the Kurds into the fray. Making matters no less complicated, a hardline member of parliament with the ruling Shiite-led coalition accused the Kurdish president of involvement in terrorism for sheltering the wanted vice president.

All this turmoil is obviously wedging deeper divisions within the country's already frail socio-confessional fabric, while the politicians seem to take it rather lightly, the writer said.

"These and other indicators show that [Iraqi] officials are underestimating this political crisis. And I think - regardless of whether the charges against the vice president are founded or not - that the crisis could have been managed with a higher sense of responsibility.

"The prime minister acted as though Iraq was perfectly fine and could handle crisis-stoking decisions … This is not to say that a culprit should be let off the hook, but I believe a more political approach to this predicament was required, considering the specificities of the situation in Iraq today."

The country suffers from structural political weaknesses. Take the post of prime minister, for instance. Iraq is perhaps the only country where the prime minister does everything.

"Mr Maliki leads the government, the army, the defence and interior ministries, the counter-terrorism apparatus, national security and more," the writer added. "That so many threads of responsibility should be handled by the same hand is in itself a proof of institutional weakness."

Saleh's trapped and immunity terms illegal

Yemen's crisis, its future and the sacrifices of its people have all come down to one single matter: the wellfare of president Ali Abdullah Saleh's person, said the columnist Mazen Hammad in an article for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. The comment was in reaction to the draft law that the Yemeni cabinet approved on Sunday granting immunity from prosecution to Mr Saleh and anyone who worked with him in civil service, security and military.

The draft law, which comes as part of the GCC-brokered deal to end the crisis in Yemen, has been met by strong popular protests in various cities.

"The cabinet's conundrum, which Mr Saleh is well aware of, is that no one has the right to grant him immunity and the popular requests for his prosecution will eventually prevail."

The terms of immunity as provided for in the GCC initiative constitute a violation of international law, which states that any exemption deal for a president would be illegal if it prohibits the prosecution of individuals who may be responsible for international crimes.

"President Saleh could travel to the US for treatment or otherwise, but no matter where he goes, he will surely be haunted by legal pursuit. The Yemenis who are taking to the streets every day will not rest until they see him standing trial," added the writer. "This means that the crisis in Yemen is subject to further escalation in the future."

Iran risks war with Hormuz threats

A cold war is in the works between Iran, which threatens to close down the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation to a Western embargo on its oil on one hand, and Europe and the US that deem it necessary that their forces be on full alert in the Arabian Gulf waters on the other hand, said the Saudi newspaper Arriyadh in its editorial.

"Iran is attempting to monopolise power in the Arabian Gulf waters. But such a line of thought is unreasonable since this sensitive and strategic waterway, through which 40 per cent of the world's oil is transported, can't be used in political bargaining."

Tehran may be under the impression that the US, with its financial crisis and its military situation in Afghanistan, can't venture into a new war. But this scenario would change should reasons for a new war be given; in this case it would be Iran's attempt to exert pressure on the world by cutting off its oil. In this case, the world wouldn't hesitate to support any measures, no matter how drastic, to prevent the deterioration of global economy.

"We don't believe that it would be capable of twisting the arm of all these world powers. It would be wise at this moment for Iran to know the real and exact extent of its power and to weigh its steps accordingly."


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk