x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Future Forum has lost sense of reality

Over the years, the Future Forum has changed its agenda, but without achieving its initial goals of promoting democracy and culture of human rights in the Middle East, wrote Reem Khalifa in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Raya.

Over the years, the Future Forum has changed its agenda, but without achieving its initial goals of promoting democracy and culture of human rights in the Middle East, wrote Reem Khalifa in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Raya. This year's edition emerged with new set of low profile objectives that focused on such issues as individuals empowerment and building the future. "The US secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, argued that the US president Barack Obama was seeking to crystalise his vision of a new relationship with the region. She maintained that enabling individuals to secure their rights and involving others in sustainable partnerships could emerge to be beneficial for the region.  

To achieve this broad plan of action, Ms Clinton assured the participants that the US would coordinate efforts with all stakeholders, adopting a long term approach and engaging governments and non-governmental organisations to provide local resources for comprehensive development.  What Ms Clinton put forward sounds more poetic lyrics than reality. This is because even if the individual is empowered, his or her political and civil rights are likely to remain out of reach. The evolution of societies occurs only through local dynamism, which can be reinforced by political  openness and enlarging margins of freedoms.

It is easy to wage wars but it is hard to silence guns, especially when conflicts are spreading everywhere," noted Youssef al Kuweilt in a lead article for the Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh.  The Houthis would like to establish a state - with the capacity for expansion - within an established state, inspired by an irrational ideology. In this they resemble traditional revolutions, which all collapsed because of their own unrealistic systems of thought. 

The facts on the grounds suggest that the war in Yemen is most likely being masterminded,  under variety of pretexts, by a regime that is "still living on the memories of old, dead civilisations. In many aspects, it resembles the one waged by the Taliban, al Qa'eda and other terrorist groups, a conflict that may have far-reaching effects on the whole region." It seems that some Arab and Muslim groups are still obsessed with absurd deadly disputes, and the Houthis are just the by-product of such a mode of thinking. As the Houthis  started the war against the kingdom, one can notice how an internal dispute has extended to a neutral state, forcing it to hit back in self-defence. It is clear that the the Houtis are not the main player but they are used to fight as a proxy for the Iranians. The same thing is happening elsewhere in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, while Tehran would like to defuse its internal crises.

Abdul Rahman al Rashed, in a comment piece for the London-based newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat, wrote that no matter who is the president in the West Bank, the person chosen will be the guardian of the Palestinian cause and a legitimate representative of Palestinians in various political venues.  "The decision of Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestinian Authority, came as a surprise, leaving no room  for various parties to fully verbalise their reactions. Yet, most probably, it seems that the US as well as Arab countries would like him to stay in office, or at least until Palestinian internal conflicts are settled".

Yet, one may ask whether it is possible that next January will come without Mr Abbas as president. The answer is yes. The transition is likely to be hard because political succession is a very critical process in a community that is accustomed to the top-down appointment of leaders. A democratic culture has not yet taken deep roots, and it is likely that elections would bring about adverse effects as happened in the last Palestinian polls. "Mr Abbas's decision has thrown political leaders into a quandary because they had assessed the next phase of the political process on the basis that he would the president. The pressing question now is who will be the next president?" So far, there is no consensus over a single leader.

It is crystal clear that the US administration is not serious enough to bring a solution to the pending issues of the region because it is under the influence of Israeli lobbyists in various US institutions, argued the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej. "There is no doubt that US attitudes go hand-in-hand with those of the Israeli government. As such, Arabs who insist on a peaceful solution and have no intention to resort to showing all their cards yet need to lead a diplomatic surge towards establishing an independent Palestinian state." They need especially to pull the Palestinian cause away from the unfruitful mediation efforts led by George Mitchell, the US envoy for the Middle East, which are stalled by the issue of settlement expansion."But how can the Arabs achieve that? They need to present the UN Security Council with a well-prepared proposal to set up a Palestinian state, and push for a resolution related to this. The plan must specify the state's borders, the scope of authority, laws and regulations, the capital city and the sovereignty over its territories. This way they can test to what extent the international community is genuine in its pursuit regarding the Palestinian cause.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi