x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Muslim world faces transborder crises

'Most outstanding is the Palestinian cause which has seen little commitment by the international community to devising a final settlement.'

"Too many issues await the Muslim world to address next year, some of them, would have deep effects regionally and internationally," Waleed Nouyahed wrote in an opinion piece for the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat. Most outstanding is the Palestinian cause, which has seen little commitment by the international community to devising a final settlement. As many countries did not live up their promises, Israeli diplomacy was in a race to block all possible solutions to the effect that no possible settlement of the conflict looms ahead. This is made worse with the divisive Palestinian political scene, which is likely to continue and a constitutional vacuum to persist.

Pakistan and Afghanistan crises seem to be interconnected as the military build-up is at its height. Nato and behind it the US have determinedly favoured force, overlooking other solutions touching on such social aspects as education and health services, that could help the two countries. Next year there will also be developments on the Iranian issues. They will continue to attract the attention of the international community and will remain a major security concern for all because they lie at the juncture of many other crises across the Muslim world, including the latest events in Yemen. "In most cases issues that will continue facing the Muslim world are interconnected and in many cases are transborder crises by nature."

"Book fairs, no matter how exciting, are less likely to stop the change affecting modes and mediums of circulating information," Satea Noureddine observed in a comment piece for the Lebanese newspaper Al Safeer. The 53rd Arab book fair last week in Beirut failed again to stimulate readers into Arabic and generally to highlight the concept of the book being "the best companion". The number of book readers in Lebanon and across the Arab world is in constant decline, although they have always been among the lowest worldwide.

It has been assumed that Arab readers are there somewhere, and it is easy to persuade them to return to the old tradition of reading printed books. But all these efforts ended into failure. These desperate attempts are more like folklore than a genuine move to protect social behaviour and develop a cultural awareness. In any book fair, the whole event turns into a commercial activity with the buzzword: bestselling. On the sidelines, the publishing community gather to celebrate while they overlook that the problem lies in the failure of Arabic content to adapt with the spirit of the present time. Arabs still read, though less than their counterparts elsewhere, but they do so using digital environments. "Unfortunately little content that meets their interests is available in Arabic, so most turn to other languages."

In an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan, Bassam al Dhaw discussed the relations between Syria and Lebanon and their implications for the position of each country.

"It should be admitted that Syria is strong in Lebanon. This is for two reasons: first, Lebanon in terms of geopolitics is surrounded by Syria from North and East. It was throughout history an extension of the political and economic mandate of Damascus. After independence in 1943 there emerged two factions: those who advocated maintaining good relations with Syria and others who wanted to break away. Second, Lebanon is a small country and is indirectly affected by Syria and its international issues."

From this perspective, Lebanon is caught in a situation that it should stay always with Syria, under any circumstances. That may imply that Lebanon, in the process, may have lost the true meaning of its independence, but the real answer to this should be with various political powers who have failed in crystallising a national unity within a modern state. Now after five years of mutual mistrust between Beirut and Damascus, the latest visit of the Lebanese premier Saad al Hariri came to acknowledge the interrelated roles of the two countries and explicitly demonstrated that the strength of Syrian-Lebanese relations lies in standing with each other.

Iraq is intensifying its diplomatic efforts to win Arab support to surmount its present crisis as it is gripped by violent internal conflicts, the UAE newspaper Al Bayan wrote in its editorial. Iraq is also witnessing a critical time in its history as it prepares for legislative elections, while it has launched efforts to reopen Arab countries' embassies in addition to normalising relations with Arab Gulf states. This was clearly seen in the concurrent visits of the Iraqi vice president Tariq al Hashimi to Doha, and the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki to Cairo. From there, he announced that his country was aiming at an Arab role, and he had no intention to cause any tension with Syria. He also stressed his ultimate wish to settle existing problems with Arab countries.

As the Iraqis explicitly expressed such goodwill, and to consider the recent Iranian incursion on to Iraqi territories, an urgent Arab initiative is needed now to strongly support Iraq. The Iraqi move towards Arab states is a good start and should be welcomed by Arabs as it is likely to have a positive impact on settling some internal crises that battered this country. * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae