x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Morocco and Algeria move closer together

Algeria has been put under pressure by western states to create security co-ordination in North Africa with Morocco that would efficiently thwart al Qa'eda's plans in the region.

Four Caribbean states decided last week to withdraw their recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic that was unilaterally announced by the Polisario Front in 1976 with the support of Algeria, reported Khalid al Sarjani in an opinion article for Emirati daily Al Bayan. The move confirms that important developments are occurring in the Sahara issue, which reflect diplomatic activity on the part of Morocco and indicate a slight change in the Algerian diplomatic position that is traditionally supportive of the Polisario Front.

A retraction of recognition by numerous countries over the last three years can only mean one of two things: Algeria has decided to reinforce its relations with Morocco and reach a state of complete naturalisation of relations, or Algeria's political and international weight has regressed dramatically. Algeria has been reportedly pressured as of late by western states seeking a naturalisation of relations in order to create security co-ordination in North Africa between Algeria and Morocco that would efficiently thwart al Qa'eda's plans in the region. Morocco for its part seems keen on reaching a solution through negotiations, as it realises also that the international community will not allow it to implement any unilateral plans that would bring tensions once again to this strategic region of North Africa.

In comment about last Tuesday's violent incident that seemed to bring back images of the civil war in Beirut, Nayla Tueini wrote in Lebanese daily Annahar: "It doesn't matter to which sect the perpetrators of the incident belonged. The confrontation proves that a third party is seeking to create sedition in Lebanon."

The burned Sunni mosque wasn't targeted as such, nor was the Hizbollah official singled out in person. The purpose was clear: to incite sedition among both sects which would give fundamentalists a pretext to react in a way that would push the Lebanese once again into internal battlefields. Some have interpreted the results of the incident as an effort to drive Hizbollah's weapons out of the capital, which would also heighten Sunni-Shiite tension.

Syria for its part has an indirect interest in a renewed state of chaos. It had announced a while before, through one of its most adamant supporters, that it wouldn't hesitate to interfere militarily to put an end to any Sunni-Shiite sedition. This means that Damascus is anticipating an opportunity to return militarily to Lebanon. Given the instability of Lebanese security, Syria presents itself as the sole authority capable of controlling the situation. All the Lebanese factions have the responsibility of thwarting a possible provocation notwithstanding their political or sectarian affiliations.

Despite the tensions that preceded the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations planned to start tomorrow and despite the apparent frustration of the Palestinian team, the world is in fact witnessing the first important negotiations between the two sides in 10 years, wrote Abdulrahman al Rashed in a comment article for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat.

The much anticipated talks are being held under the patronage of the US president Barack Obama who has earned the respect of all sides, Arab and western alike. They occur in a climate of a rare global support for the Palestinians, which is evidenced by the Quartet's consensus. Unfortunately for the Arab side, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli negotiator, is one of the most difficult of Israeli politicians to confer with the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. He is also the prime minister of a brittle government made up of conflicting political fundamentalists. Regardless, numerous factors could drive the negotiations forwards.

"The Arab and Iranian oppositions will not hesitate to exert every effort to sabotage any breakthrough and there are voices in Israel that fiercely oppose peace." The next round of talks requires great responsibility on the part of the negotiators and more support from Arab states and the US if they are to lead into a positive outcome for the Palestinians.

The end of the US combat mission in Iraq was formally announced yesterday. More than 90,000 US troops have returned home since the US president Obama entered the White House, wrote Ahmad Khalil in an opinion piece for Qatari daily Al Watan. In his speech, President Obama stated: "The war is ending and Baghdad is in a position to chart its own course." He also announced that the remaining troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

However, before the US invasion of Iraq, al Qa'eda had no presence in the country. Now, seven years later, with a dismantled army and police force, Iraq has become one of Al Qa'eda's most prominent strongholds in the region. The departure of US troops from Iraq came as the result of Washington's failure to establish a sustainable regime in Baghdad after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's rule. The outcome of the American invasion has been, in fact, Iranian dominance over the current political elite in Iraq.

"The US war on Iraq had no justification other than the dreams of neo-conservatives to control the world. These dreams have faded with the troop withdrawal, leaving the country in disarray and chaos." * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem @Email:rmakarem@thenational.ae