x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Egypt and Algeria's needless squabbling

A leading article for the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi commented on the stiff competition between Egypt and Algeria for the secretary general position at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

A leading article for the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi commented on the stiff competition between Egypt and Algeria for the secretary general position at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. "It is sorry to see this heated competition, which has affected the relations between the two respective countries: Egypt and Algeria."

Egypt has put forward its minister of culture, Farouk Hosni, as a candidate for the position and expressed its dismay at the presence of a challenger from another Arab nation: the former Algerian foreign minister Dr Mohammed Bedjaoui. It consequently called on Algeria to make him withdraw from consideration. "Let's face it Dr Bidjaoui, a world renowned legal expert and a former chairman of the International Court of Justice, applied for the post thanks to his personal achievements and international contacts. He received an official nomination from Cambodia but not from his own country.

Supporters of Dr Bedjaoui are wondering why Egypt is asking the candidate to step down and making such a fuss over the issue." The Algerian nominee is an independent challenger holding no official or unofficial position in his country's government. The paper went on to criticise the needless standoff between the two country, saying that there is no reason for it.

In a piece for London's Al Hayat newspaper, Ghassan Sharbal wrote: "The supreme leader of the Iranian revolution has seen reasons for concern: daily marches by protesters accusing the authorities of rigging poll results, televised debates disclosing scandals and rivals attributing the responsibility of the economic failure and international seclusion to the re-elected president." Sharbal went on to argue that revolutions need a clear conflict to unify its members. But recent events may challenge the Islamic republic's policies, especially after the change in the US administration's attitude towards the Iranian regime.

The supreme leader is aware of this. That Mir Hosein Mousavi led the protest is not the only reason for his worries. The problem runs deeper than domestic challenges to his authority. The majority of Iranians are more concerned with their future and welfare, and they will seize any opportunity to ask the establishment to reconcile with modernity. They are less willing to defend the values of the revolution. This is why the supreme leader was so decisive in confirming the victory of Mr Ahmadinejad. "By doing so he was acting as the spiritual guardian of the revolution. But a question remains: Will the regime concede to the people's demands to foster economic prosperity and coexist with the rest of the world?"

"By securing additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US President Barack Obama's new strategy is being called into doubt," reported the UAE-based daily Al Bayane.

"Unlike in Afghanistan, the US president's strategy in Iraq is ambiguous and far from clear. Mr Obama did not announce a new strategy concerning Iraq, nor did he discuss what his administration would do should Iraq slide into more sectarian violence following the withdrawal of US forces. The new budget plan creates fears that it means a prolonging of the occupation and an indefinite expansion of its military presence in Afghanistan. Mr Obama seeks to reduce his troops in Iraq so that he can consolidate his military presence in Afghanistan where Nato forces are waging war against al Qa'eda and its Taliban allies. But at the same time, he would like to keep forces inside Iraq as emergency backup to the ensure smooth transition of security control."

The new funding appears to contradict Mr Obama's "conciliatory" address in Cairo. It has been considered to have ushered in a new era of peace and a new US strategy for handling conflicts. The US therefore needs to avoid engaging in wars that have tarnished its reputation. The opportunity to achieve that is now available as the security situation has improved in Iraq, concluded the paper.

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida carried a comment piece by Hussein Atwi who discussed areas of disagreement between Israel and Washington.   Unlike Washington, Israel favours the use of force to solve the Iranian nuclear issue. The US sees this option as counterproductive, claiming that it would have fatal repercussions on its interests in the region as well as on the security of Israel. Learning from past experiences, Washington also is against imposing sanctions on Iran. It believes such measures are futile and less likely to force the Islamic regime to concede to western demands.

The US suggests resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It considers this the key to solving other issues, including the Iranian nuclear standoff. Washington proposes that the Israelis and Palestinians enter into direct talks based on the Arab peace plan, Israel thinks quick action should be taken to counter Iran's  ambitions to possess a nuclear bomb. It appears that the US adopts a more comprehensive approach to Middle East issues based on co-operation and dialogue, which requires engaging Syria and Iran because of their regional influence, especially in relation to Iraq and Afghanistan.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha el Mouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae