x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

US leaving a struggling Iraq

The US is abandoning Iraq to Iran, an Arabic-language editor says. Elsewhere in today's digest: the Quartet's vagueness on Palestinian statehood, endgame in Yemen and elections in Tunisia.

The retreat from Iraq is happening in haste

The US decision to withdraw from Iraq at year's end raises an important question: how could the US give away Iraq to Iran after paying such as hefty cost in money and lives? Editor-in-chief Tareq Alhomayed wrote in a commentary for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

For the time being, Iraq is not qualified militarily nor able politically to face the challenges of the future. Baghdad's air force is not ready for action. And the Iraqi government is sectarian by nature and is loyal to Iran.

"The government has failed in achieving a true reconciliation among various political forces. Moreover, it continues adopting discriminatory policies … Now it is the most prominent supporter of Bashar Al Assad's regime … So can this government be trusted to ensure stability in Iraq or neighbouring countries? I doubt it."

The US tries to assure everybody that it will take all the necessary measures to help Iraq have a smooth democratic transition and to keep Iran at bay, but the facts on the ground tell a different story. Tehran's influence in Iraq grows stronger even in the presence of the Americans.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told CNN that he did not expect a change in his country's relations with Iraq after the retreat of US troops. On the contrary, he said: "we have strong relations with the government and Iraqi MPs … and we are strengthening our relations with them day after day."

The Quartet should strike the balance

The Palestinian position was always clear, that there would be no negotiations without fulfilment of our conditions: stopping settlement expansion, establishing a state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as a capital, and granting refugees the right to return, the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds said in its main editorial.

We will refuse to sit with the Israelis as long as they deny our legitimate rights and insist on their settlement policies. But this week the office of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu daringly called for the resumption of "unconditioned" talks.

The Quartet, meanwhile, has been unclear in its positions. Most of its statements have been vague, lending themselves to more than one interpretation.

Meanwhile, the international community expressed various views. Russia had a different stance than the US, while the EU countries were divided on how to handle the peace process.

Amid this jungle of opinions and close interests of single countries, the Palestinian leadership decided to approach the UN to obtain full recognition of statehood. As we approach the November UN meeting to decide about the PA request, Palestinians are under increasing pressure to stop the process.

The Quartet should have a say in this by exerting pressure against Israeli expansion policies and taking concrete measures to correct the demographic and geographic make-up of Jerusalem.

Saleh has no more room for manoeuvre

The UN Security Council has called on Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh to accept the Gulf initiative, and the Yemeni regime has no excuse to justify its reticence to do so, the Emirati daily Al Bayan said in an editorial.

The regime now faces the test of its credibility before the world in achieving peace without oppression for Yemen.

The decision makes it impossible for Mr Saleh to manoeuvre and delay as he did before. The Security Council made it clear that the Yemen issue will remain under review and that it will be monitoring the timely implementation of the initiative, which indicates a serious stance by the international community.

The GCC initiative offers an important opportunity for a necessary peace. The challenge lies in the ability to implement it as a substitute for combat.

"Rival parties have tried armed confrontations, which brought nothing but blood and more waste of the country's capabilities," the paper said. "All Yemeni parties and above all Mr Saleh must not pass on this historical opportunity … for peace and stability."

Now Yemen must learn the lessons of the past; its situation is fragile and explosive. There is no more room for manoeuvre when innocent civilians are killed every day. Resistance will only pave the way for foreign interference, and then, the rules of the game would change.

Tunisia's only option is coexistence

In an editorial entitled Tunisia's democratic wedding, the London-based paper Al Quds Al Arabi said: "Millions of Tunisians flooded to the polls on Sunday to elect a national assembly [to write] a new constitution and elect a president for a one-year transitional period as well as forming a government that manages the country's affairs before a new parliament is elected for four years."

The turnout was unprecedented and exceeded expectations. People waited in interminable queues to cast their votes in the first free elections in Tunisian history.

"Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab revolutions, has begun reaping the first fruits of democracy," said the editorial. "The competition between the Islamic and the secular remained within the confines of democracy and all the signs so far indicate that it will continue to be so."

Islamists, favoured to be the big winners in these elections, can't rule the country on their own, and the seculars can't remove the Islamists from the political map.

"All of Tunisia's political blocs and movements must coexist and agree in the national assembly, that is to lead to a democratically elected parliament, if they truly seek to bring hope and prosperity to their people."


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk