x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Tribal coup against Yemen's president

A round-up of the region's press from Arabic newspapers

The decision of the two tribes of Hashid and Bakeel to stand by the rebels to oust the regime of the Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh is a serious development because of their position within Yemeni society, observed Saleh al Qallab in a commentary for the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai.

The two tribes derive their strength not from their population but from their political influence and decisive role in choosing top officials.

This is even more significant if we realise that Mr Saleh belongs to the Hashid tribe, the majority of whom have condemned the president at this critical time. Until recently, the tribal leader, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hussein al Ahmar, supported Mr Saleh even though there was frequent friction between the two.

The decision of the two major tribes to support the opposition whose demands have shifted from mere reforms to regime change only worsens the system's crisis. Meanwhile, cities with high populations in the North like Taaz and Al Hadida have increasingly witnessed stronger opposition to the regime.

To understand this shift of attitude, it is worthwhile to consider the rising fear among the country's tribes of the potential split that is looming ahead. So it is a decision to sideline a long-time ally for the sake of unity and stability.

Nationalism rises high over tribalism in Iraq

"Overnight, Iraqis toppled all the forts of sectarianism, which the US occupation erected and were later reflected in the political quota system applied since 2003," noted Saad Mehio in an opinion piece for the UAE daily Al Khaleej.

Iraqis overlookedcalls by clan leaders not to take to the streets in a day of rage. People protested and expressed a national unity at odds with the prevailing sectarian strife.

This week protests featured demonstrators who once opposed Saddam Hussein openly saying that they are full citizens with a will and no longer mere subjects of clan and tribe leaders. They also demonstrated to what extent they understand the close relationship between the sectarian system and entrenched corruption.

Few would believe how demonstrations have united Iraqis regardless of their tribal and sectarian affiliations, and so opened a window for possible national unity.

"The Iraqi nationhood revolution achieved a giant leap by surpassing religious, sectarian and tribal loyalties. Left-wing forces, which deviated from their agenda need now to embrace its genuine nationalist and secular approach."

Iraqis are in a good position to benefit from experiences of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya to resist divisions and reinforce national unity peacefully to achieve democracy.

Lebanon may soon be at a crossroads

"In a few weeks, it is assumed that the Lebanese will debate the effects of the Arab revolutions on the future of Lebanon," wrote Satea Nourredine in an opinion piece for the Lebanese newspaper Assafir.

It is less likely that any local force will ignore the implications of the latest developments on the politcal scene. Although the uprisings are for freedom, democracy, pluralism and social justice, some Lebanese may argue that these will not apply immediately to Lebanon.

It should be noted that the above principles "can help the country to build a modern state that has long been awaited for since independence. They can also positively alter its tragic regional status as a site of external interests on many fronts."

There are some indications that the current revolutions are likely to produce an extreme liberalism similar to religious extremism, which still threatens the Muslim world's stability. However, the neo-liberals might not be as "extremist" as the old or new Islamists.

In Lebanon, there is a need of a generation of youth different than those who were affected by Sunni or Shiite political ideology. What we need is a generation like the one that overthrew the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, or the one is currently striving to oust the political systems in Libya and Yemen. "We need this process to be peaceful."

Arab social structure in the making

"The Arab social makeup is mostly tribal and clannish in nature. Sometimes, loyalty to the tribe is stronger than to religion or doctrine," noted the Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh newspaper.

Perhaps, Arab countries, such as Libya, Yemen and Iraq were primarily established on a tribal system. But following the expansion of education and the emergence of urban, civic life, new concepts crept into social and political thinking, although some tribal values have survived.

In the recent political and social outbursts, starting from Somalia, which has witnessed strife between clans over vital interests, to Libya, to Iraq, and to Yemen, the tribal movement has taken a new shape. The confrontations between the people and the regimes yielded new alliances where tribes are increasingly less reliable to back leaders, even though leaders come from them.

Whether in Iraq, Libya or Yemen, social and political reforms are the core of protesters' demands, which have united the people, regardless of their tribal or sectarian affiliation. The concept of a nation state has emerged strongly and outweighs any other considerations, especially the deeply-seated sectarian culture.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi