x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Turkey's new era with Iraq's Kurds

A daily roundup of the region's news translated from the Arabic press.

Adhering to a moderate foreign policy, Turkey's premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently invested efforts in strengthening relations with Iraq's Kurdistan region, noted Arian Ibrahim Shawkat in a commentary for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

The effort came in response to earlier initiatives by northern Iraq aimed at strengthening diplomatic and trade relations between Erbil and Ankara. Both parties realised that mutual interests should by underscored by a political rapprochement.

Turkey's position towards Iraqi Kurds and consequently Iraq has evolved immensely. Through Kurdistan, Turkey can play a greater role in Iraq while striking a balance of power regionally. It can do so by placating the rising influence of Iran by empowering the Kurds.

It's also in line with US interests on the Kurdish issue, and can stem political conflicts. Washington believes that instability will affect troop withdrawal, which may harm vital US interests there.

Yet, for Turkey to benefit from its openness with Kurdistan, it needs to maintain good relations with Baghdad and listen to Erbil's demands on how to export Kurdistan's oil: will it solely be through Turkey? Washington may prefer a compromise between Erbil, Baghdad and Ankara.

Overall, Mr Erdogan has acted positively, earning positive recognition from the Americans.

Royal Moroccan protocol under review

"Media sources said that the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, might introduce fundamental changes to the royal protocol. An essential part is the habit of kissing the monarch's hand by citizens. The royal court, it is said, will issue a communiqué to finally and officially abolish this practice," reported Mahmoud Maarfouf in the London-based newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

Earlier, officials had called for a simpler and more practical royal protocol at a time when the role of the monarchy is under discussion within a constitutional reform framework, as Mohammed VI highlighted last month.

The Moroccan newspaper Al Osboa said that official sources from the royal palace confirmed that some customs were outdated. It is expected to release a statement on the matter shortly.

The minister of state and deputy prime minister Mohammed el Yazghi agreed, adding that there is no reason not to propose a new set of protocols that are acceptable to both king and country.

Kissing the king's hand was the subject of a special dossier published on Saturday by the Al Ittihad al Ishtiraki newspaper, an affiliate to the Socialist Union Party, where it called for new protocols that cancel outdated practices. They should keep up with the evolution of society, but without disrespecting Moroccans' esteem for the person of the king, said Moulay Ismail Alaoui, a senior official at the Party of Progress and Socialism.

Syria's address falls short of expectations

If Syrian MPs were wise, they should have told president Bashar al Assad to remove the statements of threat in his address to the nation, commented Saleh al Qallab in an opinion piece for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda.

It would have been safer and practically better if the president's closest assistants had advised him to deliver a different address in terms of both the form and content. If Syria is targeted, then its unity will be at stake. This, indeed, is a serious matter, which should prompt officials to meet demands such as the immediate repeal of the emergency law in force since 1963.

The leadership should also immediately remove the monopoly of the Baath party in political life, and give way to true political pluralism .

Syrians expected last Wednesday to hear different news, and looked forward to the launch of urgent reforms. But the address was frustrating, as it neither hinted at radical changes, nor promised to change the status quo or the role of the Baath Party in Syria's system of government.

Mr al Assad should have proposed a crystal-clear plan for reform that met the demands of most Syrians. The discourse with which he addressed the people is no longer valid for today's world, where the desire for change is rumbling, and cannot be stopped.

'Eyewitness' is the new truth-teller in media

Never before in the history of Arab media has the term "eyewitness" had so much attention as in the ongoing reporting of Arab uprisings, observed Youssed Damra in a commentary for the Emirati newspaper Emarat al Youm.

By relying on this source of information, media outlets have found themselves in a crisis of veracity. As a principle, information provided by witnesses is most likely to be consistent with their attitudes. And on many occasions, it appears that information collected this way is false or inaccurate.

But media outlets should resort to witnesses. Traditionally, well-established media institutions have had their own field reporters, many of them are specialised. They also have correspondents, who report from the battle lines in order to present the facts as they unfold.

Arab media, mainly the satellite channels, host retired officers who explain the facts on maps in studios, using graphics and speaking with utmost confidence. This way, Arab channels escape any accountability towards the information they air if it ever happens that it's untrue.

They also use this strategy to manipulate public opinion by forcing their point of view through a third party, thus distancing themselves from the content.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi