x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Ahmadinejad in Beirut and strings attached

A columnist in Lebanon welcomes the Iranian president's visit, but called on him to acknowledge that not all its citizens hold favourable impressions of his country.

"We, too, extend our welcome to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Lebanon, as long as his visit concords with the Lebanese perception of a sound relationship between their country and Iran," says MP Nayla Tweini in an opinion article for the Lebanese daily Annahar

The warm welcome that the Iranian guest received at the airport and in the southern suburb of Beirut hardly surprised anyone. Although many, on one hand, took it in with political realism, it depicted on the other hand the strong ties that link a faction of the Lebanese to Iran. But if Iran is truly intent on winning Lebanon's friendship, it must realise that the same perceptions are not shared by all.

As much as I respect this expression of amiability, I have to warn against exploiting it. In truth, there are large factions of people who refuse to accord demonstrations of power and intimidation respect. Iran must recognise the grave underlying danger in viewing Lebanon as a means of settling its matters with its enemies in the region and the world. Lebanon is buckling under the burden of regional and external interferences. It can tolerate them no longer - especially in light of latest serious developments. Iran must prove its intentions towards Lebanon by restricting its support to the Lebanese state, and not to any sub-state actor inside the country.

Compromise in Arab peace negotiations 

"The arts of bargaining and compromise are not our qualities, for we [Arabs] are a people who have been brought up on memories of grandiose victories and thumping defeats of the enemy. We have gotten used to the strict duality of either triumph or martyrdom," said Hameed al Kifa'i, an Iraqi writer, in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat. "Our perennial slogans are 'Woe to the enemy!' We only think along the lines of right and wrong; we have no third approach, and that is the cause of our failures in politics and management."

Take Iraq for instance. Saddam Hussein had never compromised with his opponents and saw execution as the only convenient response to dissent. Some of his adversaries were also hard-headed; some dreamed of an Islamic republic following the supreme leader's model, others wanted to restore the feudal-sectarian system. If Saddam was far from rational, many of his enemies were just the same. 

Take a look at the Arabs' handling of the Palestinian cause or how the extremism of some Sudanese clerics has torn Sudan apart, and you will find that there is a problem of nuance in Arab perspectives.

"We will remain at the bottom of the human evolution scale, if we keep clinging to our hard-line discourses, depriving our thinking from the contours of moderation." 

'Jewish state' hurts Arab Israelis 

Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secretary of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, recently said that the US administration must provide the Palestinians with a map delineating the borders that Israel wants recognised as part of the "Jewish state".

The statement was in response to the US state secretary spokesman Philip J Crowley, who called on the Palestinians last Tuesday to accept Israel's demand for recognition as a Jewish state, according to Asharq al Awsat newspaper. "Before asking us to recognise Israel in a certain way, the US administration must first provide us with a map of the borders of Israel," Mr Abed Rabbo said. 

"Once we've received that map, we'll handle it according to international law." 

His declaration infuriated some Arabs in the Knesset who say their unstable status in Israel is undermined by the insinuation that a Palestinian recognition of the Jewish character of Israel was conceivable.

"No one is entitled to recognise Israel as a Jewish state or a nation for the Jewish people, because that kind of recognition … buries the right of return and legitimises the Jewish narrative over the Palestinian one," said Knesset member Ahmed al Taybi of the Arab Movement for Change. Taking a more intransigent stance, Knesset member Jamal Zahalqa, said Mr Abed Rabbo "must resign right away, and if he doesn't, he must be dismissed by the PLO's executive committee".

Sudan's referendum fallout is dangerous 

If the referendum in Sudan next year leads to separation, serious negative outcomes for both Sudan and the region can be expected, noted The Riyadh newspaper in its editorial. "The South has always lived on the proceeds of the North, and as more than six million northerners reside in the North, they are in a better position. They are safe from the wars and famine that could face them in the South."

If separation occurs, southerners might face problems of national identity, and an influx from the North, burdening an already weak infrastructure. In this quagmire, neighbouring countries, mainly Uganda and Kenya, can, at any time, interfere in southern affairs to serve their own interests. Any regional influence might therefore cause further splits in the south, posing more of a threat to the North and farther to Egypt, especially concerning the distribution of the Nile River waters.

For these reasons, creating new state entities in the region is counterproductive, and should prompt Egypt and Sudan to closely coordinate sustainable efforts to ensure their interests. 

* Digest compiled by the translation desk