x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Somalia and Yemen: the Arabs' Afghanistan

The present US administration has been trapped by the wars on terror in the same way that its predecessor had been trapped.

In a comment piece for the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai, Hassan al Barari referred to a column by Thomas Friedman that compared the increasingly vitriolic domestic opposition to Barack Obama to the atmosphere that preceded the assassination of Yitzak Rabin. Friedman had warned that radicals on the Right in the US might encourage some to kill the president Barack Obama with their verbal abuse.

"This could be discounted, but since it was written by one of the most prominent journalists in the US, his words may be taken seriously by many in US security circles. It appears that those who rally against Mr Obama are in fact Israeli lobbyists acting in retaliation for his attitude towards the peace." Attempts to campaign against Mr Obama demonstrates to what extent the Israelis are unhappy with the US-led peace initiatives. But no one knows yet how Mr Obama will react to Israel's provocations. "It is not known whether he is going to put more pressure on the Israeli government or if he will withdraw to avoid further conflict with the Israelis. In the US, many reports speak of the dwindling ability of the Israeli lobby to influence the decisions of the president. As such, it is possible that Mr Obama will continue to press the Israeli government, which lead us to wonder whether Benjamin Nethanyahu's government could stand much more pressure."

Abdullah Iskandar opined in a piece for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat that the present US administration has been trapped by the wars on terror in the same way that its predecessor had been trapped. The US is torn between its wishes to withdraw and continue. The situation in Iraq allows a possible retreat of troops, but in Afghanistan, this option is almost impossible, forcing the US to continue an absurd war.

"The repercussions of the war in Afghanistan are not confined only to that country, but they can extend to the whole region. It could determine the security situation of neighbouring Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation, as well as the its relations with India, also a member of the nuclear club. On a wider scale, it could determine the outcome of the Iranian nuclear debate, and, by extension, US relations with the international community, especially with China and Russia." Similar challenges also face Arab countries. In Somalia and Yemen, for instance, multiple conflicts are ongoing despite outside efforts to douse the flames. The unrest in both places is likely to cause major concern for neighbouring countries at a time when the governments in both Somalia and Yemen are not able to adequately control their borders.

Everyone is looking forward to the outcome of the meeting on Iran's nuclear programme in Vienna next week. There are many possible outcomes, wrote Abdul Arrahman al Rashed in a piece for the London-based newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat.

If Tehran decides not to waive enrichment, this could lead to economic sanctions. Some observers say that this would serve Iran's purposes, because it would give them time to produce a nuclear bomb and spare them from military action. If Iran says it will comply with the proposal to outsource its nuclear fuel, Iranian authorities, could still possibly object to thorough inspections. They would continue enriching their uranium secretly as the proposal does not require Iran to hand over all of its uranium reserves.

"The third possibility is to stop the project altogether in fear of a potential embargo, military action, or out of a desire by Iranian government to devote more attention to internal unrest. In this case, the outcome would be beneficial for both Iranians and for the whole world. If this happens, Iran should not compensate for this by increasing its regional interference."

Omar Hilmi al Ghoul commented on George Mitchell's latest trip to the Middle East in a piece for the UAE newspaper Akhbar al Arab. "I anticipate the outcome of the new visit by George Mitchell to the region, but stress that it aims only to convince Arabs that the US administration is still keen to push the peace process forward. Yet wishes alone are not enough to achieve a true peace between Palestinians and Israelis."

The desire to achieve a lasting peace has always been hampered by war crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians. This has been aided over six decades by the silence of Europe and especially the support of the US. The lack of a firm and unified strategic vision among the Arabs has also contributed to the dismal state of the Palestinian cause. Mr Mitchell's visit is less likely to bring anything new since this is not an atmosphere conducive to achieving peace and settling the deep-rooted differences between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Having said this, in order to succeed in forcing Israel to comply with the demands of the international community the US and Arabs need to change strategy. * Digest compiled by Mostapha el Mouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae