x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Honourable terms for Hariri's resignation


During an interview for Al Hayat newspaper, the Syrian president Bashar al Assad thwarted the likelihood of the Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri's resignation from office by saying: "We believe that Saad Hariri is capable of overcoming the present situation."

"Mr Assad's answer should suffice to convince Mr Hariri and his supporters of the necessity of immediate resignation," observed Tareq Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat.

What does it mean that Mr Hariri is capable of overcoming the situation and that he is the most convenient person for this difficult phase? It means Mr Hariri is the only person capable of defacing the International Tribunal. He is the victim's next of kin, the leader of Lebanon's Sunnis and the country's prime minister. If he relinquishes his father's cause or questions the tribunal, his followers would be neutralised.

He is the heir to Rafiq Hariri's project. To have him question the tribunal would be fatal to aspirations for a stable future for Lebanon, especially since the tribunal doesn't pertain only to Rafiq Hariri's assassination but also to a number of other persons who were killed during the same period, many of them Christian.

Mr Hariri's strength today would be in resignation. It would serve Lebanon's best interests as it would uphold the respect of the position itself and pull the rug from underneath the feet of those seeking to defame the tribunal.

The US and Iran agree on Iraq

In an opinion article for the pan-Arab Al Hayat newspaper, the columnist Daoud al Sharyan commented on an interview with Dr Adel Abdul Mahdi,the vice president of Iraq's Supreme Islamic Council in which he said: "Mr Nouri al Maliki's grip on executive power added to the passiveness of regional states while the express and explicit Shiite and Kurdish positions support his accession as the head of government."

The factors mentioned by Dr Mahdi are known, but the key factor in Mr al Maliki's victory would be a US-Iranian convergence to achieve this purpose and agree on a prime minister for Iraq despite the differences that threaten to enflame the region.

"Mr al Maliki can be described as a point of convergence for two opposed policies," said the Iraqi official.

Washington's and Tehran's policies in Iraq aren't opposed. Facts on the ground indicate that both countries are in agreement concerning this issue.

However, does this mean that Washington supports Iran's expansionist aspirations?

In fact, US policy isn't concerned with expansionism as long as it serves its interests. Add to that, the interest game between Washington and Tehran remains unchanged. All the apparent differences between them are nothing but void negotiations and any wager on a US role in protecting Iraq from Iran would be in vain.


A provocative rightist demonstration in Israel

In a comment on Wednesday's events in the Arab town of Umm al Fahm in Israel that saw dozens of extreme rightists hold a protest against the Islamic Movement in the town, the editorial of the Emirati daily Al Bayan declared: "Israel doesn't miss a chance to display its plans to abolish Palestinian history and identity".

The protest, which was approved by the Israeli supreme court, was a provocation to the Palestinian crowd and the remaining Arab minority in Israel. It was an attempt at de-legitimising the Arab presence in Israel.

The movement wasn't random. It actually reflects the rightist radicalism that distinguishes the present Israeli government.

The protest at Umm al Fahm is but an episode in a series of racial aggressions and ethnic cleansing policies seeking to drive away the Arabs of 1948 in order to fulfill the ultimate promise of a Jewish state.

Israel's attempts at forming domestic public opinion and persuading the world of its points of view were mostly supported by false justifications. For this reason, the Palestinians are required to develop a strategy for an anti-campaign that would refute any Israeli allegations.

The Palestinians are required to join hands and unite in the face of occupation. The Arab world is also required to show more support for this cause. The cause of Jerusalem isn't uniquely a Palestinian responsibility; it is one of all Muslims and Arabs.


Mayor starts 'Shisha war' in Egyptian cafés

Tensions are rising in the outdoor cafes of the Egyptian city of Alexandria after the city mayor, Adil Labeeb, recently "ruined the mood of shisha smokers" when he issued a ban on hookah consumption in coffee shops and cafeterias, reported Ahmed Sabri, a correspondent for the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat. 

Cafe owners now face a 30,000 Egyptian pound fine (Dh19,100) if they fail to observe the new regulation. Customers will not be spared; they will have to pay 1,000 pounds (Dh630) if they are caught smoking shisha in a public place. The law is said to be part of a "Smoke-Free Alexandria" campaign.

Law-enforcement officials have until now inspected as many as 1,000 cafes around town. Thousands of hookahs have been confiscated and a large number of coffee shops have been fined or shut down. 

"Yet cafe owners are not giving up in this 'shisha war', as they call it." Many are now adopting creative ways to dupe the inspectors. Some have started hiring scouts to keep watch on various street corners and sound the alarm when they spot inspectors.


* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem