x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Power centralisation in a different disguise

In a comment piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat, Abdul Rahman al Rashed highlighted the complex issue of state-controlled enterprises in the Middle East.

In a comment piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat, Abdul Rahman al Rashed highlighted the complex issue of state-controlled enterprises in the Middle East, pointing out that Egpt has ended years of a privatisation policy, while Iran has just initiated one. "Egypt did the right thing because it could not persuade Egyptians to queue every morning to salute private companies' flags." Apparently, Egyptians have more affinity with state-owned institutions, the author wrote.

Iran is currently moving its economy to the private sector. Yet the concept of privatisation is somewhat different. The new owners are the Revolutionary Guards, who have established oil, telecoms and shippings companies. The ownership swap ensured the regime elite kept a grip on key economic activities. Perhaps this change could still serve employees' interests. Last week, for example, the government, as a show of concern, ordered more than two million employees to stay at home because of the soaring temperatures. This also explains how bureaucratic governments depend on their army of faithful - but for the most part "unproductive" employees - in order to ensure the prestige of the state apparatus and their power.

"It is only possible to understand the return of the Iranian physicist Shahram Amiri to his country in light of the upsurge in espionage that reminds us of the Cold war era," wrote Salah al Qallab in an opinion piece for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda.

After the demise of the communist bloc, which ended the Cold War, it was taught that "spy wars" were no longer necessary. But as soon as Russia recovered and strove for a position equal to the US, it emerged that spying is not solely motivated by ideological reasons. Espionage reflects a conflict of interest, even among countries that should in principle stand on the same ground. At any rate, the epic of Mr Amiri cannot be accidental. It is fabricated. This was shown when the US demanded that Tehran release Americans under arrest after illegally entering the country. It is unlikely that those Americans were only tourists. Similarly, it is impossible to believe that Washington simply kidnapped Mr Amiri while he was in Mecca for a pilgrimage. The kidnapping plot is expected to unfold in the coming days. This is the onset of a season of spying.

In a report in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat, Mohammed al Achab writes that the European Union was still waiting for Morocco's response regarding a new fishing agreement proposal. Europe called on Morocco to invest income generated from such an agreement in development projects that would benefit the residents of the coastal Sahara provinces.

Rabat has not yet replied to European suggestions, although it has previously obliged the European fleet to meet stringent conditions on fishing quotas, nets and equipment. Moroccan authorities have already said that part of the agreement called for income to be channeled towards development programmes in the disputed Sahara. Kris Peeters, the president of EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, described the agreement, which expires next year, as very important to many countries in Europe, particularly Spain.

Meanwhile, observers accuse Spain of using the Western Sahara dispute as a bargaining chip. This has prompted Moroccan authorities to consider the fishing issue in light of the entire EU to avoid "Spanish harassment". Rabat has also pushed for status as a special trade partner with Europe, which would help to balance its relations with Spain and defend its economic rights with its European partners.