x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Expert group weighs in on Lebanese volatility

A recent report by the International Crises Group said that any new skirmish on Lebanese-Israeli borders would end differently than the last time.

A recent report by the International Crises Group said that any new skirmish on Lebanese-Israeli borders would end differently than the last time, says Mazen Hammad in Qatari daily Al Watan. Following interviews with Hizbollah, Israeli and Syrian officials, the Group concluded that in the absence of any serious efforts to deal with the roots of conflict, mistakes from all sides could spark an explosion leaving many casualties. The Group belives that the main hindrance to a new war is that all sides are afraid of greater consequences than seen before. Hizbollah confirm that the missiles in their arsenal are capable of deterring Israel from waging another war.

However, one of the think-tank's experts believes that war can't be avoided as Israel insists on flexing its military power in the region. The report recommended not dismissing Hizbollah's statements as morale-boosting show-off. Washington for its part talks of an integration of armament networks between Syria, Iran and Hizbollah, which would mean that Syria might be dragged into a war between Israel and the Lebanese resistance, further strengthening Syria's alliance with Iran. Serious negotiations between Israel, Syria and Lebanon, backed by international mediation efforts, are the best assurance against a new war erupting soon.

In reaction to former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton's recent statement that Israel has 8 days to stop Iran's nuclear reactor, Pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi wrote that "this a blatant instigation to attack a member nation of the UN".

Further, they argue, the incitement comes as no surprise from Bolton, a leading figure in the Bush administration, known for his blind allegiance to Israel. Bolton set the deadline to strike the nuclear reactor after Russia announced that it would provide it with nuclear fuel required for its operation by the end of this month. Any military strike at the Bushehr reactor, based across from the UAE in Iran, after that date could spread radiation and would be extremely dangerous.

Tel Aviv has not provided an official reply although one Israeli news network has published a report that predicted a strike at the facility before week's end. In response, the Iranian government announced that it would retaliate strongly to any Israeli aggression against the facility, which it qualifies as a civilian hub for power generation. Any attack on the nuclear reactor would certainly destroy it, but would ignite a destructive regional war. A new war would be very costly for Israel. Retaliation wouldn't only come from Iran; Iran's Syrian allies might also take part as would Hizbollah.

Ongoing incidents on the Melilla borders caused diplomatic relations deteriorate between Morocco and Spain.The opposition Popular Party (PP)statements against the Spanish government, criticising its soft policy towards Rabat, reports Hussein Majdoubi in the London-based Al Quds al Arabi.

Moroccan activists protesting alleged Spanish police brutality on the border of the enclave have prevented cross-border food deliveries. During his recent visit to Melilla, the PP's deputy secretary of communications, Esteban Gonzalez Pons, said that the situation was at maximum tension and called on the Spanish minister of interior, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, to first visit Melilla and ask Morocco to respect its commitments, instead of simply appeasing the Moroccan government.

The ruling Socialist Party says the opposition is counterproductive, adopting extreme stances that prolong the crisis. It instead urged dialogue, rejecting mounting opposition pressure. Moroccan activist in neighbouring Moroccan city of Nadour, Abdul Munaim Shawqi said that the ongoing protests were led by local associations and were not politically driven. He added that they were not anti-Spain, but aimed at pushing Madrid to correct police treatment of Moroccan visitors.

In the commentary of UAE newspaper Al Khaleej, Saad Mehio quoted the Financial Times as saying that the White House had warned Turkey's stance on Iran could jeopardise the purchase of unmanned aircrafts. The warning, according to the newspaper, came during the last summit between president Barack Obama and Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington. This was an unusual move and was carefully planned, said the newspaper.

The American attitude contradicts its 70 year-long policy of considering Ankara its main ally in the Middle East. Yet it finds no motivation in the new Turkish orientation towards the East. The step may be aimed at causing an internal conflict between the Muslim-led government and the secular army, that fears losing the deal and perhaps further purchases of advanced weapon from US. Yet, if the situation remains calm, both the civil and military establishments are on good terms; Turkish foreign policy forms a consensus among all parties. As such, Turkey could still preserve its position as a focal point in the region.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem and Moustapha el Mouloudi @Email:rmakarem@thenational.ae melmouloudi@thenational.ae