x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Al Houthis set a trap for Yemen's south

The al Houthi group, which is fighting government troops in the northern province of Sa'ada, has released soldiers from south Yemen, an initiative loaded with political and cultural implications, said the Saudi newspaper Al Watan in yesterday's editorial.

The al Houthi group, which is fighting government troops in the northern province of Sa'ada, has released soldiers from south Yemen, an initiative loaded with political and cultural implications, said the Saudi newspaper Al Watan in yesterday's editorial. The move demonstrates without ambiguity the thoughts of the rebel movement, which has launched a war against the authority and legitimacy of the state without an explicit motivation or target.

One might wonder about the real objectives of the rebels' initiative, unless it is a bribe for the southern region in the hope that it will keep the central government and its troops busy. In any case, it is not a confidence-building initiative in the peaceful settlement of the ongoing war. It is rather an attempt to drag the south into the war against the state and serve a foreign agenda to transform Yemen into a new Somalia or Afghanistan. Let's just hope that the south will not fall into the trap and will opt for dialogue instead of a confrontation with the government. Conflict would not benefit its causes, which are mainly linked to development and local policy issues that can be solved at the negotiation table.

Who is seeking to shift the attention of the international community away from the Middle East peace process and the Palestinian cause to Iran's nuclear capabilities? asked Saleh al Qallab in an opinion article published by the Arabic daily Al Rai.

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to shift priorities in the region to evade his country's commitments in the peace process and growing international pressure. He needs to convince the world that the immediate challenge is the Iranian issue, while the Middle East issue can wait another 10 years or more. The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad needs to mobilise public opinion to overpower his reformist opponents. The Iranian uranium enrichment programme, nuclear reactors and atomic military capacity are exactly the issues that can serve this objective.

During his previous mandate, from 1996 to 1999, Mr Netanyahu opened secret channels with Tehran, as both parties had - and maybe still have - the common objective of undermining the Middle East peace process. The Iranian president is fully aware of this. Yet he chose to unveil the existence of a second nuclear plant near Qom and engaged in a missile show that gave more credit to the Israeli prime minister's allegations and manoeuvres.

The Palestinian cause has been transformed into an international legal issue, a criminal case filed against a number of Israeli officials in other countries, wrote Satii Nureddine in the Lebanese Arabic newspaper Al Safir. The Palestinian issue has lost all national, patriotic and even ethnic and religious dimensions. The only aspects remaining are the humanitarian and ethical ones.

A few Israeli figures have been summoned to appear in court, but international law has been unable so far to effect the miracle of summoning the state of Israel. What is left for Palestinians are only the tribunes provided by political international organisations to condemn the occupation. The issue has been downgraded from the cause of a people with an identity, a flag and a land to a problem of a number of individuals who were in the wrong place in the wrong time. The story now is simply that a battle broke out between a group of Israeli fighters, identified as an army, and a group of Palestinian fighters with no identity who are likened terrorists or even average criminals.

The Doha Press Freedom Centre is free to invite the Iraqi shoe-thrower and support him, but it cannot claim that what the journalist did was part of the freedom of expression that the centre advocates, wrote Tariq al Nuaimi in an opinion piece run by the Qatari daily Al Raya. If anybody wants to consider Muntadhar al Zeidi a hero, as the Doha centre wrote in its statement, it's their right, but they cannot convince us that throwing a shoe is a way of expressing an opinion and therefore an act of individual liberty.

The centre is sending the wrong message by linking the Iraqi journalist's name to the core principles for which it was created. The centre should have made it clear that the invitation was motivated solely by sympathy for the Iraqi journalist. The centre's position can be considered a licence for others to throw shoes at people, including al Zeidi himself during the planned press conference. If the Doha centre wants to pay tribute to heroes and symbols, Iraq and the whole Arab world is full of many who are suffering daily oppression to do their jobs. But if the aim is to promote press freedom, the centre is missing the point.

* Digest compiled by Mohamed Naji mnaji@thenational.ae