x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

US picks and chooses our Arab leaders

Mostafa el Feki, the chairman of the foreign relations committee at the Egyptian parliament, started a big controversy when he told the Egyptian newspaper Al Masry al Youm that "US approval of, and Israel's no-objection to, Egypt's next president are necessary," wrote the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi.

Mostafa el Feki, the chairman of the foreign relations committee at the Egyptian parliament, started a big controversy when he told the Egyptian newspaper Al Masry al Youm that "US approval of, and Israel's no-objection to, Egypt's next president are necessary," wrote the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi, Abdelbari Atwan, in his front-page column.

"What Mr el Feki said is extremely serious; it explains in plain and candid language many policies and positions that the majority of Arab regimes are currently adopting, such as placid acceptance of the US hegemony projects and wars, and avoidance of measures that may upset the White House or Israel," he wrote. "The steel, separation wall that the Egyptian government is building on the border with Gaza is based on a US-Israeli agreement that was signed behind Cairo's back," he said. "US army engineers have visited the wall [on Friday] to check its compliance with the requirements." For his part, the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who killed the peace initiative fostered by Egypt, has paid two visits to Cairo in less than six months and was met with warm greetings regardless. It can be deduced from Mr el Feki's declaration that the vast majority of Arab leaders, the newer ones especially, are either appointed or endorsed by the US administration.

For his part, the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who killed the peace initiative fostered by Egypt, has paid two visits to Cairo in less than six months and was met with warm greetings regardless. It can be deduced from Mr el Feki's declaration that the vast majority of Arab leaders, the newer ones especially, are either appointed or endorsed by the US administration.

The pre-election phase in Iraq is bringing with it political turmoil and insecurity, which casts serious doubts about the progression and outcome of the legislative elections due in March, the Dubai-based newspaper Al Khaleej noted in its editorial. "An election process that is preceded by decisions to ban candidate leaders and whole political entities carries no promise of a new Iraq that enjoys more security and a sense of national reconciliation," the newspaper said. "It rather bears witness to the existence of established policies to eliminate certain political groups [-] especially those who have opinions against the occupation, sectarianism and corruption."

The decision taken by Iraq's Independent Higher Elections Commission to bar almost 500 candidates belies the repeated claims made by Iraqi officials about the country's commitment to democratic processes. "The decision rather justifies suspicions regarding the very foundations of the elections process, and exposes parties who want candidates to fit into a set of criteria and adhere to certain policies," the newspaper added. Tying down the elections process is typical of a dictatorship; a dictatorship that many Iraqis had been complaining about in the past. The mercurial bomb attacks here and there in the country are showing no sign of abating, which would only make matters worse.

It is unfortunate that many clerics in the Arab world do not realise the danger of their involvement in the political affairs of their respective countries, opined Tariq al Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

The statement that 150 Yemeni clerics have recently issued is a handy case in point. The clerics proscribe all security or military agreements with "any foreign party that violates the Islamic Sharia law and prejudices the state's interests," the editor said, quoting the statement. Does that mean that the Yemeni government must sever all its relations with the international community? Or is it that the statement wants to provide a cover for al Qa'eda affiliates?

"This is not meant as an insult to Yemen's clerics," the editor said, "but the question persists: what is the difference between what they are saying and what the Taliban, under Mullah Omar, had said in defence of Osama bin Laden?" "It is quite strange indeed that 150 clerics should issue a statement calling for jihad against whoever offers assistance or interferes in Yemen security affairs, despite US denial of any intention to send troops to the country." Yemen is in an urgent need for a political makeover initiative, for its crisis threatens to spill into the region, the editor concluded.

"It seems that the second decade of the 21st century is ushering in a crackdown on the press freedoms that [Arab journalists] have been pull off back in the 1950s," wrote Nidal Hamdan in the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan. After the media pact that has been ratified by the Arab information ministers two years ago, there is an insidious follow-up movement now to besiege the free media space.

Lebanon, which used to be considered the Arab oasis of press freedom, is seeing its free media outlets on the wane because of contrived sectarian sensitivities. Even Kuwait - which in 2007 ranked top Arab state in press freedom according to the annual report issued by Freedom House, the US watchdog - is now mulling over amendments to its media laws, namely the publishing and audio-visual regulations, which is predictably meant to narrow, not enlarge, the margin of freedoms.

Then, last Wednesday, the Jordanian court of cassation issued an ordinance by virtue of which all websites that are allowed in the country will be subjected to the Jordanian publishing law. There are some 150 countries in the world where the press does not complain about crackdowns and the government does not denounce press freedom abuses, why not us? the writer asked. * Digest compiled by Achraf ElBahi

@Email:aelbahi@thenational.ae