x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Blast attacks free speech in Baghdad

The suicide attack that targeted Al Arabiya's bureau in the Iraqi capital was not the first of its kind and won't be the last, given Iraq's deteriorating political and security situation.

The suicide attack that targeted Al Arabiya's bureau in the Iraqi capital was not the first of its kind and won't be the last, given Iraq's deteriorating political and security situation, said the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial. Seven years into the US-led occupation of Iraq, the country is submerged in chaos and is far from being a viable democratic state. Corruption is widespread and the authorities are unable to provide citizens with a minimum of basic services.

Al Arabiya's suffering is yet another attempt to gag freedom of speech, terrorise journalists and deny Iraqis and outsiders access to the truth. Iraq's political elite cannot tolerate the presence of a dissenting news channel such as Al Arabiya in its midst, in part because of the channel's open support of regime change. Al Arabiya has adopted Iyad Allwai's bloc as the most able to form a new government, an attitude shared by all Gulf countries as well as Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The network is paying the price for both advocating Arab government-led attitudes as well as its own stance of backing regime change.

The current state of Iran's oil and gas industry is evocative of Saddam Hussein's era of sanctions. In the commentary of pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat, Randa Takiyeddine wrote that Iran's gas reserves, the second largest globally, are under duress.

"President Ahmadinejad should draw upon contemporary history and realise that his regime is paving the way for the destruction of Iran's oil industry for many years to come - all in exchange for a nuclear bomb that only exacerbates poverty in a country rich with resources." Iran has yet to feel the impact of international sanctions on industry, but the country's capacity for oil production has suffered for years due to crippling financial sanctions.

Iran is importing gas from Turkmenistan in quantities that exceed exports to Turkey, because the government's subsidisation of gas and fuel has led to high levels of internal consumption. However, the recent imposition of sanctions means that Iran will suffer massive shortages that drive prices up and negatively impact the population as well as the ruling regime. How will the government explain to its people that one of OPEC's largest members cannot provide its people with enough fuel or electricity?

The US special envoy George Mitchell, despite 17 rounds of talks, has failed to persuade the Israeli government to reply to preconditions for direct talks with the Palestinians. His role has been transformed to that of a bearer of bad news as a result, says Rajeh al Khouri in Lebanese daily Annahar. Mr Mitchell handed President Mahmoud Abbas a 36-page demand that he agree to engage in direct talks. The irony, however, is that his ultimatum was addressed to the victim rather than the occupier.

The 36-page letter said nothing of US efforts toward meeting Palestinian needs. Nor did it make any mention of a halt on settlements in Jerusalem. Effectively, the ultimatum is Mr Obama's election manifesto to America's Jewish constituency, to lure them into voting for Democratic Party candidates in the upcoming congressional elections in November. The Palestinian Authority isn't rejecting the possibility of a return to direct negotiations. All it seeks is an assurance that such negotiations won't be yet more rounds of wasted time for Israel's benefit. Talks cannot in any way be expected to yield positive results unless the Palestinians are assured of serious commitments towards peace.

"To prevent Fairuz from singing in the name of copyright royalties is a moral scandal," says Tareq Masarwa in a comment article for the Jordanian daily Al Rai. The plaintiffs in a case against the great Lebanese diva are the sons of the composer, Mansour al Rahbani. The pair claim that she has none of the legal rights needed to perform their late father's musical creations. But they fail to realise that she was no mere spectator in the creative process. It was her voice that carried the tune, music and the lyrics of his songs.

Both now face a huge wave of dismay from all around the world as thousands of Arab artists voice their support for Fairuz. Musical copyright issues are governed by a special institution in Paris that defends the rights of writers, composers and singers. Judicial courts wouldn't be able to determine an equitable distribution of rights in this case, as Mansour, his brother Assi as well as Fairuz all contributed to the success of each masterpiece.

Mansour al Rahbani's sons must withdraw from the scandal if they are to truly to live up to their name and status in the Arab art scene. The author asks: where would the world's artistic heritage be today if inheritors of great composers such as Mozart or Abdel Wahab were to stop artists from performing their works? * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem @Email:rmakarem@thenational.ae