x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Israel-Iran war talk remains just that: talk

Israel keeps threatening to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, to which Tehran responds with threats of even more forceful retaliation.

It appears that Iran is enjoying its quasi-daily psychological duels with Israel, commented Zouhir Qosaibati, the editing manager of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat. Israel keeps threatening to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, to which Tehran responds with threats of even more forceful retaliation. The Iranians must be jubilant at the frustration of the former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, as Israel still hesitates to seize "the opportunity", as he termed it, to raid the Islamic Republic's nuclear reactor in Bushehr, which is due to be inaugurated tomorrow.

As to the trite question about whether a war will take place or not, it simply can't be answered. One thing can be inferred from the situation as it stands now: the wily desire in both the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government to see the other launch the first missile on Iran. In a rare occurrence, Israeli television has spoken recently about the Israeli army's joint training sessions with the US Marines in preparation for the eventuality of a military operation that may be called for by "alterations in the Middle East" against "a common enemy", the editor quoted Israeli television as saying. In the meantime, the prospect of actual war recedes behind all the warmongering and high-flown hopes that the sanctions against Iran would bring it to its knees.

"I liked the appeal by the Lebanese defence minister to collect donations for his army," wrote Abdul Rahman al Rashed in the opinion pages of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. "This is the first time I've heard of an army that intends to fund its weapon stores through donations."

In fact, the Lebanese army is one of the most disenfranchised and neglected in the world. It uses old Soviet-made weapons and outmoded US artillery, while its budget still heavily relies on donations from France, Britain, Syria, Iran and the UAE. After rejecting a $100 million donation from the US, arguing that it was beset with preconditions, the Lebanese defence minister, Elias Murr, deposited his own funds of $600,000 into a bank account newly opened to serve the purposes of supplying the army.

Nevertheless, the Lebanese army's problem, fundamentally, is not supplies or funding. The Lebanese army rather suffers from a status crisis; it lacks formal recognition as the only institution in the country that is allowed to possess arms.   How is it possible for an army to undertake its role properly, while it functions side by side with other militias, some of which, like Hizbollah, are even better armed and greater in numbers? Well, perhaps, had its military been a nationally revered body, Lebanon wouldn't have had to go through so many wars.

The fledgling democracy in the Kingdom of Bahrain is coming under threat by certain factions that are capitalising on a government-backed movement towards political openness and national cohesion in order to foment public unrest and raise security concerns, wrote Mohamad N Amayreh, a columnist with the Omani newspaper Al Watan.

Over the past decade, Bahrain has made major strides to reform its political system. The Bahraini constitution now sanctions political parties and parliamentary efficiency. Bahrain is a multi-ethnic Muslim country with a Shiite majority. But some groups of hard-line religious persuasions, acting outside this framework and funded by foreign parties to serve a suspicious agenda, have been tampering with the country's national security. These factions have been setting tyres on fire, throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers and vandalising public property to protest what they call sectarian discrimination and arbitrary incarcerations.

"In a broader context of public liberties, they have used all available media, especially online forums, to launch campaigns against the political system and the rulers, stoking up sectarian sentiment and damaging the image of the country abroad." A group of those rabble-rousers have been apprehended and are going on trial, and this is likely to be long process.

In a much-awaited move, the Lebanese parliament finally approved a bill granting Palestinian refugees labour rights equal to those granted to all foreigners. The bill also entitles them to social security support through a special fund that will be established for this purpose. "Such a development is an important positive step towards giving Palestinian refugees some of the rights that were denied them until now for various reason," commented the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi.

The decision came after heated discussions with all sides in the country and amid strong opposition from leading political factions. Lebanon harbors approximately 400,000 refugees whose presence is linked to many sensitivities touching on sectarian balance and a fear of permanent nationalisation, which prompted the government to deny them ownership rights. However, Palestinian refugees have confirmed repeatedly that they refuse to be nationalised in Lebanon and that Palestine is their country of choice.

In any case, now that the law has been approved, its implementation is the next phase that needs follow-up. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi @Email:aelbahi@thenational.ae