x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

West now more open to Islamists

A pan-Arab newspaper columnist observes that the old firewall against Western dealings with Islamist parties has broken down. Other subjects in today's roundup: Lebanon's new peril, Bahrain's new hope, and the vast budget of the US embassy in Baghdad

The West is willing to partner with Islamists

With the fall of the old regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, the path to power has come open for Islamic political organisations, remarked Abdul Rahman al Rashed in an opinion piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

The west is now likely ready to deal with these groups, and may find doing so less risky than initially expected.

"One time I heard a western politician saying that political regimes in the region warn us of dealing with Islamists, and perhaps we have to communicate with them only indirectly," the writer noted.

Now it seems that both sides are ready to change their positions. Western governments are ready to communicate with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt, while the MB itself has become committed to moderate discourse conducive to engaging in democracy.

In fact Egypt's MB leaders have not recently threatened Israel, nor did they vow to cancel the Camp David Treaty. Rather, many pledged to respect any previous accords, including the existing gas agreement, although they criticised the selling price.

The old regimes in Tunisia and Egypt pictured Islamists as ideologically different, so much so that the West could not deal with them.

Both regimes ignored the fact that western countries are pragmatic and ready to establish relations with any party as long as doing so serves their interests.

Lebanon is no better after the indictment

After the Special Tribunal for Lebanon indicted four senior members of Hizbollah, and while a similar indictment might soon point to Syrians and Palestinians, the political situation has become tense, observed Saleh al Qallab in a commentary for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda.

There is fear of eventual civil strife between Shia and Sunnis, he said, and any internal conflict of the sort could evolve into an wider war.

Former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in the first place because of his great achievement in unifying and strengthening the Sunni community in Lebanon, a feat that angered both Syria and Iran, which were behind the creation of Hizbollah as a counter power.

Then, the political edge of Hariri, and his success in getting along with the Maronites to form a strong political front, annoyed the Syrians, as this worked against their interests, namely their military presence in Lebanon. Syria's interests overlapped with Hizbollah's, and with Iran's agenda in the region, which also worked through the party.

This explains the series of assassinations that targeted a number of political leaders, writers and journalists, the aim being to spread terror in order to enforce intervening countries' plans.

As Hassan Nasrallah flatly rejected handing over the accused, Syria is expected to seek to spark a civil war in Lebanon to escape from its internal crisis.

Bahraini reconciliation process starts well

Bahrain's parliament speaker and chairman of the national dialogue, Khalifa Ahmed al Dhahrani, delivered a crystal-clear road map to help the country out of its crisis in his speech to the opening session of the national dialogue, the Qatari newspaper Al Raya noted in its editorial.

Al Dhahrani stressed that the dialogue is meant to be conditions-free and with no ceilings. The main goal, he said, is to reach common principles to launch anew the process of political reforms.

Indeed, the participation of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest Shiite opposition group in the kingdom, in addition to other political forces, will likely enrich the dialogue and give it credibility among Bahrainis.

The opportunity is now available for all to present their views concerning political, social and economic reform. It is also a forum to debate various attitudes about civil rights and the status of foreign residents in Bahrain, or what is known as the issue of naturalisation.

The initiative by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to form an independent inquiry committee came to consolidate good intentions towards meeting the protesters' demands and consolidating the unity and stability of the country.

It is a historic opportunity to find a consensus and overcome the crisis.

Huge embassy budget raises Iraqi eyebrows

The US ambassador to Baghdad, James Jeffrey, has asked for US$6.2 billion (Dh20.7 billion) as a budget for the US embassy for 2012. This raised eyebrows in Iraq, not only because of the sum, but also because of its purpose, noted the Emirati newspaper Akhbar al Arab in its editorial.

Mr Jeffery revealed that his embassy had plans to increase the number of employees in 2012 to 16,000, in order to take over many of the tasks that are currently assigned to US soldiers.

According to the withdrawal schedule, 50,000 troops are to leave Iraq by this year's end.

"What is suggested by Mr Jeffery is, indeed, a sort of strategy aimed at going around the withdrawal plan, which casts doubt on the possibility of Iraq getting its independence … Keeping US employees in this number, and in charge of security affairs in the country, may represent a provocation to Iraqis and may stir the fear of neighbouring countries.

It is true that keeping troop number up for a while may help maintain security in the country, since tension and violence are still strongly prevalent.

But this kind of presence is not desirable and is likely to further destabilise the country that already continuously experiences protest movements and cycles of violence.

 

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi

melmouloudi@thenational.ae