x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Iraq's ex-premier decries 'Baath phobia'

In an interview with the London-based daily Al Hayat, Ayad Allawi, a former Iraqi prime minister who is currently the leader of a faction in parliament, confirmed that he had been offered the position of prime minister, but said he would not enter into a coalition that would trade Iraqi interests for the executive chair.

In an interview with the London-based daily Al Hayat, Ayad Allawi, a former Iraqi prime minister who is currently the leader of a faction in parliament, confirmed that he had been offered the position of prime minister, but said he would not enter into a coalition that would trade Iraqi interests for the executive chair. Asked if his parliamentary bloc had found coalition partners, Mr Allawi answered: "There are a host of ideas out there circulating among Iraqi political groups. For instance, there is an extensive national list under consideration, incorporating Islamic, liberal, Arab and Kurdish parties. But these are still ideas that have not yet evolved into agreements."

In response to a question about his purported links with the Baath Party, Mr Allawi said: "This is really 'Baath phobia' in action; it has nothing to do with the actual status of the Baathists. I have been fighting the Baathist Party for 30 years, since it was at its zenith, so there's no way for me now, after seven years of change and the fall of Saddam's regime, to worry about the Baathists. If the Baath Party really still has momentum... that simply means that the political forces in Iraq have failed to offer a better alternative."

About a decade ago, the Egyptian government made a brave move to condition its adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty upon Israel's, the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi stated in its leader. Every Arab government later relinquished demands to subject the Israeli nuclear programme to international inspection. The paradox is that they had been keen to urge the late Saddam Hussein to let international inspectors carry out their task freely in order to locate and destroy Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Today Arab states are asking Iran to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, with hardly any mention of Israel's constantly evolving nuclear arsenal. But the Iranian government has proven wary of introducing an "international approach" in its nuclear negotiations. "We cannot talk about a nuclear-free Middle East without getting into some 200 nuclear heads owned by the Zionist regime," said the spokesman of the Iranian foreign ministry, Hassan Qashqavi, some days ago. "This Iranian position is highly intelligent and deserves the full support of all Arab and Islamic governments, as it is both reasonable and responsible," the daily opined.

The current dispute between the Palestinian Bar Association and the Hamas-affiliated judiciary authority in Gaza - whose pro-Palestinian Authority members have all been banishe - foreshadows the kind of system and way of life that Hamas wants for its people, commented Ali Ibrahim in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat.

Nothing justifies a recent decision by the higher judicial council to impose a dress code on female barristers since most women in Gaza wear the hijab and are already conservative. Moreover, for most Gazan citizens basic needs such as food, health care and education are hard enough to meet; looking fashionable is not a pressing concern. "The Hamas government is merely trying to say 'We are here.' But it seems that, like any other political Islamic movement, Hamas is under pressure from even more hardline groups."

Recently a "radical group" besieged some Hamas members in the Gazan city of Khan Yunis for not enforcing Shariah law. So Hamas is basically trying to appease such groups by proving that it is not loosening its strict Islamic character while opening up, as it has been trying to do recently, to the international community.

Now that the presidential elections in Mauritania are over, with Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz elected president, let us evaluate what kind of change has been brought to the country, suggested Khaled al Sergani in the opinion section of the Emirati daily Al Bayan. "Well, precisely nothing," he wrote. "The new president has simply doffed his coup leader's fatigues and donned an elected president's attire. Now no regional or foreign power can challenge his position." Still, the challenges facing Mr Abdel Aziz are many. The most important, besides restoring order and stability after a series of coups led or endorsed by himself, is the al Qa'eda threat. If Mauritania has gained democratic legitimacy with the last elections, one should keep in mind that such a change was highly unlikely without joint international pressure from the African Union, the European Union and the US.

Now, with the accession of a military strong man to the highest political office in the country, Mauritania embodies a "leading" and "fresh" example of how a coup leader can become a legitimate president in an age when the international community, on paper at least, rebuffs such a model. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi aelbahi@thenational.ae