x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Sanctions on Syria are extended by a year

"The US administration's decision to extend sanctions on Syria by one year comes as no surprise" wrote Abdallah Iskandar in an opinion piece for pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

"The US administration's decision to extend sanctions on Syria by one year comes as no surprise" wrote Abdallah Iskandar in an opinion piece for pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat. "Although the statement issued by the White House did contain praise for the progress made by Damascus in suppressing the infiltration of suicide bombers into Iraq, this progress wasn't enough."

Washington considers its standoff with Syria in Lebanon as a matter directly tied to its national security, especially after the recent return of Hizbollah to the forefront of Lebanese politics. This indicates that Damascus has succeeded in regaining much of its power in the country following its withdrawal in 2005. Washington clearly expressed its concern about Syria's continuing support for Hizbollah which infringes on its national security and gives it a strong excuse to extend sanctions.

"It could be that the current campaign against Syria comes as a result of American recognition of the fact that its integration policy did not succeed in changing Syria's behaviour towards Hizbollah." The US administration is also frustrated by Syria's opposition to efforts to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Therefore, the recent sanctions can be viewed as a message to Syria to demonstrate more discipline in Lebanon as well as toward the Palestinian issue.

In an article for the London-based Al Quds al Arabi newspaper, the Moroccan writer Munsfi al Tamsamani Saiid wrote about thenecessity of economic strategies in Arab countries. The economy is the basis of developed nations and the criterion by which their progress is determined. "Does the economy receive enough consideration in Arab countries? Do we have economic strategies for the long and medium terms?"

In truth, the media often neglects the economy and most Arab thinkers focus their analysis on the political. As to political parties, they don't take the time to explain their economic programmes to their constituencies. "Economic dialogue takes second place to political theories, as if politics and economy aren't intertwined." At present, the economy controls politics. Market mechanisms are the factor that decides the fate of any society and generates political programmes. Therefore, it is crucial for Arab countries to develop alternative economic strategies that would help them escape the iron grip of world powers. This is an ambition that needs political will and decision-making. The current situation seems to be most opportune for forging Arab economic alliances that would mean an economic liberation and a stronger ability to make political decisions.

"In spite of suspicions and political dissent, economic movement between Iran and the six GCC countries has not stopped," wrote Abdel Rahman al Rashed in an opinion piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat. Traffic between Iran and the Gulf still continues on a daily basis. And in spite of a quiet animosity between Tehran's fanatic regime and Gulf governments, a fine line still connects them.

The unraveling of Iranian spy cells in Kuwait confirms suspicions that Tehran does not foresee a peaceful relationship with its neighbours. It emphasised the necessity for Kuwait to re-discuss its relationship with Iran. "Should it diminish communication with Tehran to convince the authorities that they will be the biggest losers once the gates to the Gulf, their main gateway to the world, are finally closed?"

Regardless of all the anger in the Kuwait affair, the Iranian regime will not discontinue using its airlines, banks and commercial institutions to acquire spying services because this is the nature of the regime that is founded on security activities. Tehran, for its part, does not hide its readiness to target the Gulf nations as a means of pressure in case of US aggression against it. It is not threatened by them and deems them as small states that don't menace its security. This is why a peaceful relationship with Iran and the Gulf will be difficult and unlikely.

In a comment piece in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan, Ahmad Amrabi wrote that the splitting of Sudan was imminent. "But the self-determination referendum is unlikely to be an easy job." There is no doubt that both the ruling party, the National Congress, and the South's Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) are committed to holding the referendum  next year. However, some unpredictable issues might emerge to obstruct the process. The most important of these could be the demarcation of the border between the North and the South.

The problem does not lie in identifying the geographic coordinates, but rather in the ethnic, economic and cultural implications of frontier's delineation. Many Muslim tribes of Arab origin and others of non-Muslim Africans share the same border areas and, of course, natural resources. Shared oilfields lying in the critical geographic areas are a problem that might lead to endless debates on a national level and probably to a conflict to determine which side owns them.

No less important is the status of southerners settled in the North and whether the northern authorities would allow them to continue living there after the establishment of the southern state. * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem rmakarem@thenational.ae