x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Will the Arab League join the Arab Spring?

Arab thinkers want to see change in the Arab League, the newspaper Al Khaleej reports. Elsewhere in our opinion roundup: a new satellite news channel, Yemen on the brink, and Nato's love for Libya.

Will the Arab League join the Arab Spring?

Yesterday the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej published the first instalment of a poll sounding out Arab academics, diplomats and analysts about the Arab League and its current position in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Abdul Majid Saif Al Khaja, a UAE University professor, said the Arab world is going through a critical phase that leaves no other choice for the Arab League but to break with its history of wavering in decision-making.

"The Arab League is compelled to stop hiding under the cover of meetings … and to start to take serious measures and exert pressure on repressive regimes," Prof Al Khaja said.

For Mohammed Ould Ahdhana, a Mauritanian thinker, the Arab League has always been the product of Arab regimes, for Arab regimes.

"Now, the Arab League is trying to make some manoeuvres to avoid falling with falling regimes. So far it's just an attempt to jump ship. The League may have some peripheral influence here or there, but that will never rise to the occasion [of the Arab Spring]," Mr Ould Ahdhana noted.

Saeed Allawandi, an international relations expert at Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said the Arab League may under the current circumstances be in a position to finally start representing the Arab world, not the interests of individual governments.

Al Arab - the latest of Arabic media ventures

In the pan-Arab paper Asharq Al Awsat, columnist Hussein Shabakshi commented on news of a new satellite news channel.

The outlet, Al Arab, will be a joint venture between Saudi business magnate Prince Waleed bin Talal and Bloomberg, the international business news broadcaster, the parties said last week.

The columnist said the Arabic media landscape might be crowded, but the new channel has plenty of potential, especially with the involvement of Bloomberg, a trendsetting news platform with a clean reputation.

There is more to the Arabic media landscape than Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, which have defined consumption of audio-visual media products in the Arab world.

But other Arabic news channels have been launched by non-Arab countries. These include the US-funded Al Hurra, the UK's BBC Arabic, the US's CNN Arabic, France 24 Arabic, Russia Al Youm, China's CCTV Arabic and Turkey's TRT Arabic.

Clearly, competition is not in short supply. But there is optimism that Al Arab will manage to make a niche for itself, the columnist argued. Editorially, the veteran Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is taking the helm. Financially, the channel will be cushioned by an "ambitious funding scheme" aiming to cover its spending for the next ten years. "Let the viewer and the market have their say," he concluded.


Spectre of civil war threatens Yemen again

The political situation in Yemen keeps getting worse, threatening to ignite a civil war and cripple the already-suffering nation, the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan said in its editorial yesterday.

"Yemen is gradually descending into a civil war zone, with areas of military tension spreading everywhere, and bloody clashes in the Arhab region - 30km from Sanaa - between the Republican Guard … and pro-revolution tribes, leaving hundreds dead or wounded."

It is not only Yemen's unity that is at stake, the newspaper observed. The involvement of Al Qaeda-affiliated elements in fights between citizens and police and army forces in the southern provinces is adding new dimensions to the country's instability.

"And between the south and the north dwells a population crushed by poverty," the paper noted.

All the ingredients are there; the current state of affairs makes everyone psychologically prepared for a civil war. "Plus, forget not that Yemen is a veritable arms depot. There's hardly any house without at least one gun. Some tribes actually own medium weapons."

Thus, to regain stability, the last thing the government in Sanaa ought to think about is military action. What other options are there? The GCC initiative for the peaceful transfer of power is still on the table for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign.

Nato leaders drooling over 'the Libyan pie'

It was no surprise that the first western leaders to visit Libya after the ouster of Col Muammar Qaddafi were the British prime minister, David Cameron, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, wrote Abdelbari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

The two men lobbied as aggressively as they could - in the United Nations and in the European Union - to have a no-fly zone enforced over Libya to prevent Qaddafi forces from bombing civilians. Now they want a share of "the huge Libyan oil pie", the editor said.

In a press conference, Mr Sarkozy made sure to dismiss the idea that "economic ambitions" had been the main driver behind his staunch support for military intervention, and cited humanitarian reasons as Nato's only motive for action.

The head of the Libyan National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, was candid about it. He said countries that have helped Libya get rid of the old regime will be given priority in commercial and oil-related deals.

"Mr Sarkozy and Mr Cameron want to give us the impression that they are on a charitable mission," the editor said. In fact, the two European officials represent "western neo-colonialism in its clearest manifestations".


* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi