x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

US wants Lebanon quiet on Shebaa Farms

"Americans do not want the Lebanese to take part in talks with Israel over Shebaa Farms on the grounds that the issue, which is not too complicated, ought to be solved through international resolutions," opined Tariq al Homayed, editor-in-chief of the London-based, pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat.

"Americans do not want the Lebanese to take part in talks with Israel over Shebaa Farms on the grounds that the issue, which is not too complicated, ought to be solved through international resolutions," opined Tariq al Homayed, editor-in-chief of the London-based, pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat. Washington recommends that Lebanon stays out of the peace talks - recently called for by George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, in his last visit to Israel - and wait until an Arab-Israeli peace deal is ready for signing before taking part.

Some Lebanese observers venture that Washington's goal is to spare the Lebanese government internal turmoil, as Hizbollah would use any Lebanese involvement in peace negotiations with Israel to its own advantage domestically. Syria has previously asked Lebanon to join it at the negotiations table as soon as direct talks with Israel begin. "To me, the main objective is rather to clip Syria's wings so that it must anchor its negotiations demands in reality. It is to make sure Damascus is reasonable and realistic, as Washington believes the Syrian ego is a bit too overblown," al Homayed said.

Lebanon is basically being used against Syria, as Beirut's absence from the negotiations would deprive Damascus of quite a handy negotiations card.

Thanks to a general will for national reconciliation and mature dialogue, Mauritania is slowly emerging out of a tense political crisis which lasted for the last 10 months, commented Mamdouh Taha in the Emirati daily Al Bayane. "With the signing of the Dakar Agreement, brokered by the Senegalese president, Abdullah Wad, and endorsed by the African Union, the Arab League, the Islamic Conference Organisation and the Francophonie, the parties of the crisis agreed to turn the page in the interest of constitutional legitimacy," he said. There have been three major sides in the conflict, each with their own vision for the future of a democratic Mauritanian republic after the military coup of August 6, 2008.

First, Gen Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, supported by a parliamentary majority, calls for global reform, the application of the constitution and the dismissal or resignation of the deposed president, Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdallahi. Second, Abdallahi's supporters demand that their democratically elected president return to office and the coup is invalidated. Third, opposition leader and former presidential candidate, Ahmed Ould Daddah, has opposed the candidacies of Abdallahi and Gen Abdel Aziz in the upcoming presidential elections, calling for the creation of a national unity government to supervise the elections.

Despite the global religious cloak that Iranian politics, culture and society are swathed in, this term's presidential elections have broken the routine in the Islamic Republic, wrote Iliyas Harfoush in the opinion pages of the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat. "The political debates were extremely sharp in a country where critical differences are usually quite limited. The verbal attacks against the incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have never been launched against any other president before, especially coming from major religious figures such as Sheikh Hashemi Rafsanjani," he said.

The presidential elections have, indeed, reflected a wide public dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad. Some commentators and correspondents started talking about a "new revolution" or a "green tsunami", in reference to the characteristic colour of Mir Hossein Mousavi's reform campaign. Others likened what has become of Iran under Ahmadinejad to the US under George W Bush, in the sense that both have attracted international animosity, highlighted the use of force and brushed aside diplomatic channels in solving conflicts.

The inner struggle latent in Iran has come out to the surface, and criticism has been all-inclusive: ranging from the economy and foreign policies to the dress code and social liberties. Nothing will be the same after these elections, regardless of the result.

The recent Syrian position concerning the last Lebanese elections begs for closer scrutiny considering that Syria's political opponents have won, yet Damascus openly hailed the results and endorsed national consensus and dialogue, wrote Bassam Daw in the comment section of the Qatari daily Al Watan. Perhaps, for the first time ever, election watchdogs did not note a Syrian intrusion into Lebanese elections, although more than a third of the MPs come from two main provinces on the border with Syria: the North and the Bekaa Valley. Damascus wants to consummate its exit from Lebanon and to pre-empt any ready-made allegations that its opponents may advance. Syria is thus making ever clearer its openness to the international community, which also gives the heads-up to Lebanon that it should get used to self-reliance.

"But, more importantly, this Syrian's unprecedented attitude sends out clear messages to Washington, Riyadh and Cairo: the first having opened a dialogue with Damascus, which ought to be preserved; the second has been breaking the ice with Syria since the Kuwait Summit; and the third, a once-strong partner, may well be encouraged to revive relations with its old Levant ally," Daw said. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi

aelbahi@thenational.ae