x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Terrorist groups still threaten Morocco

In a comment article for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat, Mohammed al Achab wrote that since the 2003 terrorist attack in Casablanca, the authorities in Morocco have foiled many other attempts. Yet this has not made Morocco immune from this phenomenon.

In a comment article for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat, Mohammed al Achab wrote that since the 2003 terrorist attack in Casablanca, the authorities in Morocco have foiled many other attempts. Yet this has not made Morocco immune from this phenomenon. A couple of years ago, Morocco thwarted terrorist acts masterminded by a group of Shiites, which was one of the reasons that led Rabat to severe relations with Tehran. The last episode was the dismantling of a terrorist cell led by a Palestinian. This incident will be less likely to affect Moroccan-Palestinian relations. Morocco explicitly supports the Palestinian Authority, but at the same time, has left the dialogue doors open with Hamas in Gaza.

When Moroccan volunteers joined "the Afghan Arabs", there was a belief that Morocco could be affected by terrorism. At certain times, because of geographic proximity with Algeria, observers held that Morocco was also a place infected by terrorists. It is true that Morocco stands out as an exception among other Arab countries, but this cannot be taken for granted. Terrorism is a cross-border phenomenon that can reach anywhere, anytime. And although its intensity has lessened, terrorism has changed targets. Terrorist groups are active now in recruiting militants to join the resistance in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Somalia.

"Gas could trigger war," argued Satea Noureddine in a comment piece for the Lebanese newspaper Assafir. This came in the context of recent announcements by the Israeli government of the discovery of reserves of gas in the Mediterranean Sea, which would turn the country into a major energy exporter. It is reported that Israel has started making plans to strengthen it naval arsenal to ensure control over the offshore wells.  In responding to accusations that Israel's offshore drilling violated naval territorial lines, the minister of infrastructure, Uzi Landau, warned that his country will not hesitate to use force to protect its gas fields from being claimed by Lebanon. This should not be seen as an overstatement, as Israel has in the past engaged in successive wars for less important reasons.

Encouraged by the belief that Lebanon is unable to react, the Israeli minister's statement expressed his government's determination to fight for wealth in the Mediterranean Sea. It also knows that it can impose its will on the Lebanese, who appear to have missed their opportunity to pioneer the exploration of natural gas in their waters because of bad decision-making. This happened when many political factions rushed to consider the demarcation of land borders with Syria as a priority.

The situation in Iraq might worsen further, noted the UAE newspaper Al Bayan in its lead article. The relative calm is a mirage because there is unlikely to be a breakthrough in the current political impasse since many attempts to form a coalition have failed so far. The political crisis has taken a toll on Iraqis. This is seen in a lack of basic services which adds to the sufferings of the population. There is a growing fear that the cycle of violence will erupt again because of the uncertain situation.  The only short-term solution that may put things in order is to stop the competition for positions among politicians.

In principle, the political map should have been drawn once and for all after the poll results were approved. The current political vacuum could lead to further internal conflict, bringing the crisis to a deadly impasse. Threats to assassinate Iraqi leaders have unleashed a string of mutual recriminations which, in turn, have increased the complexity of existing differences and added to political misunderstanding. In recent days, there have been some efforts to reach a compromise by suggesting one candidate who would be accepted by all the main parties. This is a good step, but the decision should be made quickly.

The central issue the US president Barack Obama will discuss with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week in Washington will be the thorny question of settlements, stated the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram in its editorial.

This is predictable as the Likud party's leadership is likely to resume settlement expansion after the freeze period ends in September. The Israelis had accepted under pressure from the US to stop its expansionist policies for a while to start indirect negotiations with the Palestinians. If they do resume expanding settlements, they would eliminate any hope for continuing talks. For this reason, the US should act decisively on the issue by forcing Israel to stop building settlements anywhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem. The Quartet also needs to positively respond to the request presented by the Egyptian foreign ministry to quickly intervene and halt the expansion of Israeli settlements.

Failing to take swift action would cause both the US and the Quartet to lose their credibility as peace mediators, and it would deal a blow to all international efforts aimed at bringing the parties to talks. * Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae