x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Cost of disputes in the Middle East

Given the deadly history of the Middle East, the region appears to be the scene of most costly local and regional disputes as indicated by a report entitled Cost of Conflict in the Middle East, wrote Abdul Nabi al Akri in an opinion piece for the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat.

Given the deadly history of the Middle East, the region appears to be the scene of most costly local and regional disputes as indicated by a report entitled Cost of Conflict in the Middle East issued jointly by the India-based Strategic Foresight Group and other organisations from Europe and the Middle East, wrote Abdul Nabi al Akri in an opinion piece for the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat.

According to the report, the Israeli-Arab conflict - the main driver of the regional disputes - is  the longest of its kind since the end of World War II. The report also chronicles a number of conflicts that erupted in the region throughout modern history, such as the Lebanese civil war and the two Gulf wars, revealing that the Middle East experienced 25 per cent of the total number of disputes worldwide during the last sixty years. As a result, it incurred losses of $12 trillion between 1990 and 2008.

"The cost included economic aspects, collateral damage and the loss of investment opportunities that stalled growth although the region enjoys huge resources." The Madrid conference and the Oslo accord could have been great opportunities for ensuring a long-lasting peace if they had been properly seized. They could also have reduced the development gap, controlled human exodus and created a high rate of growth.

"Following the decision of the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas not to run for a new mandate, the US secretary of state Hilary Clinton said that she would look forward to cooperating with him regardless of his new position," wrote Saleh al Qalab in an opinion piece for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida.   "She gave the impression that she foresaw a political landscape with no president, no prospective elections, no government and no authority or sovereign institutions,"

Mrs Clinton may have thought the Palestinians were likely to go back to square one, and that Mr Abbas, whether the elections will be held or not, will continue to play the  role of the "revolutionary supreme leader" in the  same way as Ali Khamenei in Iran. "It is likely that from his position as a chairman of both  the Palestinian Liberation Movement (PLO) and Fatah's central committee, Mr Abbas will be the supervisor of negotiations with the Israelis even though he is not directly involved.

"What makes this scenario possible is that the Palestinian Authority as a system remains subsidiary to the PLO, and the same is true for the legislative council and the national council. Thus, if Mr Abbas, being the PLO's higher authority, stays away from the   presidential elections, he will, nevertheless,  remain the actual  head of the Palestinian Authority."

Tariq Alhomayed, in a comment article for the London-based newspaper Al Sahrq al Awsat, wrote that the Syrian president Bashar al Assad surprised Arab public opinion when he advised Turkey to maintain good relations with Israel so that it could undertake a mediation role between Syria and Israel. "Mr al Assad is right because of the popularity Turkey is gaining. As a result, its tense relations with Israel will not be  useful if Ankara would like to be a peace mediator and play a role in settling other issues of the region, including the Iranian nuclear programme.

"Turkey's position towards Israel during the war on Gaza and the Israelis' intransigent attitude concerning the peace process should not, however, disappoint Ankara because there is no such a thing as frustration in politics. Unfortunately, most crucial decisions emerge to be unpopular and the role of decision makers is to explain clearly the benefits of  their actions. In the case of Turkey's role, there are many interests at stake. Most important of all are the prospects of Turkey joining the European Union, which will enable the country to stand as a bridge between the West and the Arab world." If Turkey is keen to be a genuine mediator, it needs to adopt an open policy with all stakeholders, including Israel. Yet this should not mean being involved wholeheartedly with Israel or Iran.

"Under normal circumstances, an election or a law related to it should not be seen as an achievement. But in the case of Iraq, it is. Indeed it meant a lot because of the country's special situation and the stalled political process,"  noted the UAE newspaper Al Bayane in its editorial.

"As the Iraqi parliament agreed on the law and on a formula for the next elections, all Iraqis should rise to the occasion and meet further challenges to reinforce the unity and integrity of the country." The process was not an easy one, and it should not be a final one. But it was enough to spare Iraq a new constitutional crisis and a further postponement of US withdrawal. It is hoped that the parliament's consensus on the law and on how to undertake the elections will have a positive impact on security.

"It is a decision that will reinforce the principles of dialogue and the peaceful settlement of various issues no matter how difficult they might appear."  Likewise, it dealt a blow to those who promoted violence and sedition and, on many occasions, led the country into chaos. Indeed, the parliament has paved the  ground for a clearer political process likely to consolidate national reconciliation.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae