x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Morocco and Algeria no closer to friendship

The greatest consequence of their feuding has been a lack of security co-ordination in fighting transnational terrorist threats, says an opinion piece in Al Hayat.

For a variety of reasons, Morocco and Algeria are still at odds, wrote Mohammed al Achab in an opinion piece for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. The greatest consequence of their feuding has been a lack of security co-ordination in fighting transnational terrorist threats, an issue in which Morocco and Algeria should have shared interests. Instead, Morocco has acted unilaterally, and so has Algeria. For example, both countries recently held multinational military exercises, but excluded each other.

In the past, the health of the their bilateral relations was gauged by their actions in the Western Sahara. Today, many more factors are involved. While many, including the Algerian prime minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem believes the Sahara is the stumbling block between Rabat and Algiers, Morocco declared that the crisis between the two countries goes far beyond that issue. The divergent views between Morocco and Algeria unfortunately will continue to affect the politics of the region, Mr Al Achab argued.

In an opinion article for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda, Salah al Qallab highlighted the irony that Iraqi parties should continue to demand that US troops leave the country on schedule. Political forces incessantly call for a withdrawal, yet they continue to give every reason for those troops to stay.

As long as various political actors are driven by sectarian feelings, there is a strong likelihood that the country will remain unstable. The recent attempts by Nouri al Maliki to hijack the political process by getting rid of Ayad Allawi and other political opponents are counterproductive. They only lead to further damage the unity of the country. This situation will make the process of establishing a new government even more complex and delay it even further, as noted by the US ambassador to Baghdad Christopher Hill. Mr Hill has already mentioned the possibility of a delay in the troop withdrawal schedule.

Here's how Israel plans to invade Lebanon Have the drums of war started in Lebanon? This was the question Saad Mehio posed in a comment piece for the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej. Statements by the Israeli government were clear signals that it is preparing for large military action as a result of the reported transfer of missiles to Hizbollah. This is the first time since 1948 that Israel has telegraphed its military intentions. This could possibly signal that the next war will be a long-lasting one.

Based on what is in the Israeli press, the new war will consist of two phases. First Israel will deploy 100,000 soldiers to penetrate as deep as 40km into southern Lebanon, which will displace a million people. The aim would be to destroy Lebanese infrastructure and cut off access to Beirut for Damascus. In the event that Hizbollah refuses a ceasefire, the Israeli military will then strike Beirut's suburbs to force the Lebanese to question the feasibility of the war.

If the first leg of the plan fails, then Israel will put pressure on Syria, threatening it with violence if Damascus continues to support Hizbollah. At this point, some would argue, Israelis might reject the idea of opening two fronts, yet others might consider the confrontation with Syria an easy task thanks to the accessibility of Damascus from the Golan.

"Under the motto of 'secularism is the solution', about 1,000 students from the American University of Beirut demonstrated this week calling for the abolition of political sectarianism. They accused such a system for being the cause of the civil war that ravaged the country for 15 years," wrote Hassan Younes in a comment piece for the Qatari Al Watan newspaper. The parliament speaker Nabih Berri called earlier this year for abolishing sectarianism, arguing that this issue is a national goal set by the constitution.

But for many, to turn "unsectarian" means deprivation of countless privileges. That is why some politicians asked first for a self-study of how psychologically prepared the country was for the transition. In fact, this is a way to buy for more time and is disadvantageous to Lebanese politics, the paper argued. The status quo serves a group of political families, which base their legitimacy on a "rotten" sectarian system, and tend to protect it with the help of religious leaders. They do so by picturing a bleak future if ever a dominant sect emerges to control the country's politics. The diversity in Lebanon should be seen as a strength that can enrich the country politically as well as culturally, Mr Younes argued.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi Meimouloudi@thenational.ae