x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The upcoming iron lady of Tunisia

A tribal system of rule, quite common in the Middle East, would seem rather ill-fitting in the context of such a progressive state as Tunisia.

Entitled "The Regent of Carthage: the Hand Clasping Tunisia", a 178-page investigative report by French journalists on the surging influence of the First Lady of Tunisia, Leila Trabelsi, has reopened a debate about the country's current political configuration and its future options after the country's strong man, Zine el Abidine Bin Ali, steps aside, wrote Al Ma'ati Qabal in the Moroccan newspaper Al Massae.

A tribal system of rule, which is quite common in the Middle East, would seem rather ill-fitting and improbable in the context of such a progressive state as Tunisia. However, that turns out to be the case. Since Mr Ben Ali came to power in 1987, he instated a tacit tribal paradigm that made sure all outsider voices are muzzled. Today, his wife's family, the Trabelsis, hold the strings of the most powerful party in the country and are gradually monopolising the economy.

Mrs al Trabelsi, who is chairwoman of the Arab Women's Organisation, is planning to play a major part in the forthcoming elections, slated for October 25, in order to secure her husband's spot for herself. She plays a double-edged role: she leads her tribe and has political ambitions, but seemingly remains the loyal wife committed to her husband's agenda.

The war in Yemen these days between the central government in Sana'a and the Houthi rebels in the northern province of Sa'ada is getting worse, with alarming death toll figures and more areas involved in the fighting, wrote Hussein Shabakshi in the London-based daily Asharq al Awsat. Today, there are "many and compelling" pieces of evidence that point to Iran's direct role in stoking the current war in Yemen by way of "explicit" financial, logistical and military support to the Houthis.

"The escalation of the fighting in Yemen is part of a plan devised by the 'Al Quds Forces' affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, within the framework of what is known as in Farsi as 'Happy Yemen". This stratagem, blessed by Mohammed Jaafari, the chief of the Revolutionary Guard, has been in the works for more than a year now, on a $4 million budget. The objective of the Happy Yemen scheme is to provide military training for the Houthis on how to conduct guerrilla warfare and plant explosive devices in mountains and urban areas . The ultimate aim is to split the country into two states: one under the Shiite rule of the imam, to be led by the Yahya Badreddin al Houthi, and the other to be run by the southern parties.

Egypt's diplomatic efforts to broker an inter-Palestinian reconciliation have faced continual hitches, culminating in the Palestinian Authority's decision to postpone the vote of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council on Richard Goldstone's report which condemns Israeli war crimes in Gaza, noted the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi in its leader. Hamas has dispatched a delegation to Cairo, headed by Moussa Abu Marzouq, the movement's deputy political chief, to request a deferment of the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which was due to be signed on October 25, to deal with the "calamity" of Fatah's vote deferral.

For its part, the higher follow-up committee - which came out of the National Palestinian Conference held in Damascus to represent the various Palestinian factions based in Syria - has also agreed to put off the reconciliation deal after what it termed as the "scandal" and the "crime" involved in the delay of the vote. Now, the authority in Ramallah has lost the confidence of the Palestinian people who feel they are no longer duly represented by the PA's decisions.

"In the light of this tense and hazy atmosphere, it is not clear how any kind of reconciliation deal is to be sealed. Rescheduling remains the best option at present to avoid further schisms."

For the first time in history, the Nobel Prize for Peace has been awarded in consideration of promises not delivery, commented Abdullah K al Shayji, a professor of political sciences at Kuwait University, in the opinion section of the Emirati daily Al Ittihad. The principal goal of the prize jury when they decided to grant the US president Barack Obama this year's Nobel Peace Prize may have been to coax him to bridge the gap between his stated intentions and concrete achievement. Perhaps the jury was prompted into this controversial choice by Mr Obama's recent call for a nuclear-free and ecologically thriving world, or by his decision to pull out all US troops by October 2010, or his readiness to turn a new page with the Arab world and Iran.

But on the ground, Mr Obama cannot be said to have achieved anything concrete and consequential enough to earn him the Nobel Peace Prize. "He remains the first president to be awarded this prize for not achieving anything yet." There is another aspect that was perhaps overshadowed: the prize somehow serves to compensate Mr Obama for flying all the way to Copenhagen to back Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

* Digest compiled by Achraf A ElBahi @Email:aelbahi@thenational.ae