x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Arab water resources are dwindling

Negotiations over the Nile River exclude Egypt and Sudan, while overuse of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers has shrunk Iraq's arable land.

Arab potable water resources are in peril, wrote Mohammed al Dlimi in a comment piece published in the UAE newspaper Al Bayan. This statement of caution came amid an ongoing debate between countries lying upstream and downstream of the Nile River. At issue is an attempt by the seven upstream countries to sign a new treaty on the flow of the river, without involving the downstream states: Sudan and Egypt.

The seven non-Arab countries would like to agree on terms that are unfavourable to Sudan and Egypt, both of which will be greatly affected by any changes in the initial agreement regulating the Nile water basin concluded in the 1950s. The situation in the east of the Mediterranean Sea is no less alarming. The two great rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, running through Iraq and flowing from Turkey, have witnessed a great deterioration as Turkey has failed to respect the threshold flow of 500 cubic metres per second. As a result, arable land has shrunk and more and more farmers have deserted their land for cities. Arabs need to develop a comprehensive plan to curb this situation, and better promote their relations with upstream countries on the basis of mutual interest to ensure a vital flow of such a precious resource.

In its lead article, the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi stated its position regarding the British legislative elections to be held tomorrow. The paper decried the performance of both the Conservatives and the Labour parties as being insufficiently committed to the causes of Arab and Muslim communities in Britain. It especially criticised the Labour-led government, which shifted its leftist policy to espouse the US approach in addressing transnational terrorism. As a result, Arab and Muslim communities in Britain have suffered from security harassment and discrimination in terms of employment and unfair public attitudes.

Looking into the different party manifestos, the paper favoured that of the Liberal Democrats as it supports a more balanced foreign policy, humane treatment of illegal refugees and strongly opposes military action in Iraq. The party would like to work on reducing UK dependency on the US by strengthening Britain's bonds with the European Union. Throughout the electoral campaign, the Liberal Democrats under the leadership of Nick Clegg defended religious and cultural rights of various communities living in Britain. For this reason and others, this paper considers that the Liberal Democrats can best serve the interests of Arabs and Muslims and thus calls for them to vote for the party.

"It has become a tradition that Israel increases the level of tension with Lebanon as the summer season approaches. This is done intentionally as part of an economic war," argued Mohammed Diyab in the opinion section of the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat. The aim is to hit tourism, which normally reaches a peak during this time of year and constitutes a major source of income. It has become a pattern that starting in April, Israel sends hostile remarks with the aim of intimidating tourists to change their destination.

"Israel has always been keen to batter Lebanon's economy, but mostly it has failed because of the defiant attitude of the Lebanese people who throw caution to the winds and carry on with their lives in a spirit of optimism." So despite threats, Lebanon makes itself ready each year to receive its guests, who share with the Lebanese the same qualities. They keep coming, indifferent to the menacing tone of Israel.

Anticipating this year's tourist season, Israel once again sent alarming signals against Lebanon, putting forward various pretexts to justify its actions. But Israel should know that no matter hard it tries, it cannot stop "flocks of tourists migrating to Lebanon every summer. Nor can it trigger an internal crisis anymore. Lebanese politics have undergone beneficial changes and can dodge Israeli manipulation."

"If Iran were to possess nuclear weapons, other countries in the region may follow suit." This is the warning repeated by the US state secretary Hillary Clinton during the UN Conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, wrote Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Qatari daily Al Watan. The Obama administration was busy recently in its campaign to convince Middle Eastern and other countries not to use Iran's nuclear programme as an excuse for an arms race. In fact, US diplomats have spent a large amount of time seeking to forge agreements that would allow countries to develop nuclear power without the production of nuclear fuel that can be transformed into weapons.

Washington fears that dread of an Iranian threat might drive countries to develop nuclear weapons, a probability that the US has sought to eliminate since the Bush administration. For this reason, the US is trying to convince Middle Eastern countries to buy nuclear fuel from international markets rather than enrich it internally. However, other countries will seek to force Israel to reveal its nuclear arsenal and sign the non-proliferation treaty, which might prove unlikely during the New York conference.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi @Email:melmouloudi@thenational.ae