x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

One editor is gone but the problem remains

In a comment piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat, Iyad Abu Shakra commented on the recent dismissal of CNN's senior Middle Eastern affairs editor, Octavia Nasr.

In a comment piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat, Iyad Abu Shakra commented on the recent dismissal of CNN's senior Middle Eastern affairs editor, Octavia Nasr. The Lebanese-born journalist had worked for CNN for 20 years before posting a message on Twitter lamenting the death of Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah calling him "one of Hizbollah's giants I respect a lot". CNN was swift to release an internal memo stating that Ms Nasr's "credibility had been compromised ? and she will be leaving the company".

"Octavia Nasr was merely saluting a dead personality. If Shiite extremism is to be condemned in the US, why would Washington open the gates of Iraq to extremism following a war that was designed and executed by a lobby with a non-American agenda", says the writer. There is an influence inside the US that insists on holding American public opinion hostage while it plots against Arabs. This is the same faction that referred Rima Fakih becoming Miss USA as a Hizbollah breakthrough. At the same time, there isn't a voice in Washington that would dare to contradict the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's settlement plans. That in itself is the main drive for the for all fanatic movements that are rallying against the US in the Islamic world.

Commenting on the $300 million grant offered by the Egyptian government to the South Sudan government, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial said that this is a step that reflects a surprising Egyptian interest in the Nile source countries. However, as sure as this grant would win Egypt the allegience of South Sudan, it would surely cost it the northern part of the country.

The people of South Sudan are indeed in need of technical and financial aid from all their neighbours to build their infrastructure. However, such a considerable amount would be better spent in Egypt itself. The announcement of this non-refundable grant coincides with increased tensions between Cairo and Khartum following the Egyptian foreign minister's statement that his country would support the partition of Sudan.

It is evident that Egypt believes that the separation is only a matter of time now, which prompted the government to woo the new state and prevent its adherence to the signatory African states in the Nile water distribution agreements. To win the south and lose the north might prove to be risky for Egypt on the long run. The north is more important for Egypt because all the Nile water passes through its territories.

In a comment piece for the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat, Hamza Eliyan indicated that the Algerian Berber activist and pop singer Farhat Mehnni, who called for independence for the Berber tribes in 2001, has now delcared the creation of a "provisional Berber government in exile". The pro-autonomy leader defended his cause before the French National Assembly in 2004, when he sympatised also with the Kurds, and supported the Americans in Iraq. In the same year, he published a book titled La Question Kabyle (The Kbaylie Issue), in which he explained his ideas about Kabyle nationalism.

Even though Berbers are represented in key positions in the government, the army and industry, the cultural and economic issues have emerged as the main motives for the present movement. Berbers demand development incentives, such as tax exemption, adoption of their language as an official language on a par with Arabic, and the acknowledgement of their indigenous cultural identity. The movement has found strong support in Europe, especially in France where Berbers constitute a majority of immigrant Algerians and form a substantial voting bloc.

Are there any implications for Lebanon now that the US president Barack Obama appears to have surrendered to the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu? Saad Mehio poses this question in a comment article for the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej. "Yes. The US friendship with Israel reminds us of the 'green light' given by the former president George W Bush to his friends in Tel Aviv on the basis of which they invaded Lebanon in 2006 and the Gaza Strip in 2008."

Today, in light of news reports in the Israeli press, there are indications that Israel is preparing to attack Lebanon again. "Another question arises out of this: did Netanyahu get the go-ahead from Obama during the last visit to Washington?" There is no way to know at this point, but the joy on Mr Netanyahu's face as he was leaving the White House should cause the Lebanese to stay cautious. Any war in Lebanon could also serve the Americans, because it will weaken Hizbullah's popular support and, in turn, counteract Iran's influence in the region.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha el Mouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae