x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Change in tactics on Afghan corruption

Relations between the US administration and the Afghan president Hamid Karzai are undergoing a series of changes regarding issues of widespread corruption in Kabul, wrote Mazen Hammad in an article for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

Relations between the US administration and the Afghan president Hamid Karzai are undergoing a series of changes regarding issues of widespread corruption in Kabul, wrote Mazen Hammad in an article for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. Although Washington is blaming a number of government officials for financial corruption within the government, the Obama administration is looking into the likelihood of turning Mr Karzai into a central player in the fight against corruption.

The significance is that it reflects an essential modification in Washington's strategy of blaming Mr Karzai himself for the proliferation of corruption. Add to that, an escalation of tensions between the US and the president in Kabul at this point could prove harmful to the anti-Taliban campaign. The US president Barack Obama had asked his aides to make explicit decisions to contain the corruption that is generating anger among Afghans and pushing many to join the ranks of Taliban.

US civilian and military leadership is in disagreement on how to deal with the Afghan president. US officials believe that a change in anti-corruption tactics might prove beneficial to the Taliban, whereas others are saying that a change would be viewed as a goodwill gesture by the Karzai government and would stifle suspicions inside the presidential palace.

In a comment article for the Emirati daily Al Khaleej, Hussam Kanafani wrote that the French, American and Jordanian diplomatic activities are defining the next phase as negotiations shift to the Syrian front. The international diplomatic movement brings to mind the period that preceded the 2007 Annapolis convention in which Syria participated after a significant French-Syrian rapprochement and mediation efforts by King Abdullah of Jordan.

Last week, King Abdullah made a similar visit to Damascus in the wake of the re-launch of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. His message was clear: to reassure the Syrian president Bashar Assad of Barack Obama's commitment to a comprehensive peace settlement. The same message reverberated at the US envoy George Mitchell's press conference in which he reaffirmed the US administration's desire to reach a peace settlement in the whole Middle East region, not only between Israelis and Palestinians. Mr Mitchell is expected in Damascus this Thursday. For his part, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy assured President Assad of his efforts to include Turkey in the peace process. Negotiations are only a matter of time now, especially if news about an Israeli offer to withdraw from Syrian Golan Heights proves to be true.

Benjamin Netanyahu chose a fraudulent slogan to abort current negotiations and restrain the Obama administration: "Two states for two peoples", wrote Rajeh al Khouri in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

For Barack Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the slogan might translate as if Mr Netanyahu and his entourage have finally complied with the requirements of an equitable settlement that entails the establishment of a much-awaited Palestinian state. The apparent equitable settlement has two major elements that must be rejected at any price. First is the final abortion of the Palestinian refugees' right to return to 1948 territories in exchange for an optional return to the Palestinian state territories. The second is of graver consequences. It implies the displacement of Palestinians residing in 1948 territories under pressure, stifled civil rights and discrimination.

An Israeli state for Jewish people means that residents who aren't Jewish in that state are only numbers on the transfer waiting list. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will surely reject such a formula, despite Mr Netanyahu's efforts to promote it as a solution, while at the same time intimidating Palestinians with continued settlement threats. These negotiations are also the US administration's last chance to revive shaky peace agreements in the Middle East.

In anticipation of the fourth round of the Chinese-Arab dialogue which will be held in Beijing at the end of this month, Samir Habashna wrote in Jordanian daily Al Dustour that China today is a power equivalent to that of the US on the global level. The Chinese have succeeded in achieving harmony between the necessary social role of the public sector in people's lives and the private sector as a dynamic economic force. They were able to adapt their political system to absorb private initiatives and put them at the service of the country's interests.

At the same time, China adopted a calm foreign policy that allowed it to build balanced ties with all international and regional powers, notwithstanding ideological or political differences. The Chinese model is worthy of duplication in the Arab world as long as corruption is controlled and individual initiatives are supported for the benefit of respective states. This requires Arab states to review their economic rules and to avoid blind adherence to foreign or western models. The Arab world must create its own model that corresponds to its political and social objectives.

The Arab world and China share a long history of good relations in all domains. It is a heritage that must be wisely maintained and developed. * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem rmakarem@thenational.ae