x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Kuwaiti elections: a vicious circle

Contrary to many observers, the writer predicted wide participation and about 30 per cent change in the parliament's composition.

The London-based newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat carried a comment piece by Sa'ad bin Tafla on the eve of the legislative elections in Kuwait. Contrary to many observers, the writer predicted wide participation and about 30 per cent change in the parliament's composition. Yet the most appealing change likely to occur is the election of the first woman MP in the history of the country. If this happens, "many major impeding social concepts would collapse, and women would emerge victorious. That would  be a significant step towards empowering women to further engage in various roles within Kuwaiti society."

Though sought for, this change does not, however, reflect a healthy political life since the main blocs, civil or religious, are caught with their hands in the till. Indeed, "this year's election, the third of its kind in three years - 2006, 2008 and 2009 - was seen as void of a clear political agenda and only marked by unproductive  duplicate  narrative discourses." "The imperfect climate in which the election was run has been a stumbling block towards democracy. This situation only delights democracy opponents who would like to see the democratic experience in Kuwait trapped for ever in a vicious circle."

The Saudi-based newspaper Al Watan wrote in its leader:  "The international community welcomed the good intentions expressed by the US president Barack Obama as he entered the White House to shut down the Guantanamo detention centre. But things seem going the other way around as President Obama decided this week to retain military committees formerly set up to try the detainees."

No less important, President Obama rejected the release of photographs  that exposed the mistreatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan on the grounds of national security. "This latest attitude by the US president can only be explained in light of his reluctance to deal seriously  with human rights offences." It has been observed that President Obama has abandoned many of his initiatives, which will only affect the US's reputation and will offer a foretaste of how the new US administration will deal with other pending issues relative to North Korea, Iran's nuclear programmes and the peace process in the Middle East. Many questions will come to surface, most of all: will Obama stick to his promises or will he make a step back?

The UAE newspaper Al Ittihad featured an opinion piece by Dr Saleh Abderrhman al Manea who wrote that some hardline forces in Iran have tried to obstruct the latest overtures between Iran and the US by such acts as detaining the American journalist Roxana Saberi and issuing provocative statements.  He added that indirect unofficial  negotiations in which Iran and the US are engaged is risky for it may allow a large margin for Iran to manoeuvre. Thus Iran might opt for bargaining with US by resorting to its proxies in Iraq or in Afghanistan to strike at US interests.

The US has in fact gone in the same direction by supporting some Iranian opposition parties based outside Iran. In this situation, "Israel in turn would be expected to put some pressure on the US so as not to go forward in negotiations in fear that Iran would reach a level of 20 per cent of uranium enrichment". The Iranian nuclear programme constitutes a threat to all neighbouring countries, including central Asia. Iran can play a very positive role in the peace process in the region. "Yet if Iran insists on acquiring nuclear weapons, that may lead the whole region in a non-traditional military race."

Abderrahman al Rashed, a regular columnist, wrote a comment piece for the London-based Al Sharq al Awasat in which he rang the alarm bell about the deteriorating situation in Yemen amid fear of  al Qa'eda movements towards the northern borders, coupled with secession sentiment in the south. Yet, the writer highlighted a fundamental question:  how to bring help to a country with such a rugged terrain, loose central government and with limited resources?  

The present state of Yemen is pathetic, a byproduct of Yemen's lax attitude in dealing with terror in the first place in real time. "Yemen used to consider al Qa'eda an external threat which only concerned the Americans and there was no reason to intervene to stop it. It felt assured that by taking such an approach it would allay the al Qa'eda threat as it considered itself not involved in the war against terror."

Now, al Qa'eda, taking advantage of  the prevailing state of anarchy, is intent on taking over the country or at least some of its provinces.  * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi melmouldi@the national.ae