x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Who's who in Kuwait's theatre of the absurd?

The Kuwaiti daily Al Jareeda carried a front-page editorial voicing dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in the Kuwaiti government, and criticising its adamant clinging to power.

The Kuwaiti daily Al Jareeda carried a front-page editorial voicing dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in the Kuwaiti government, and criticising its adamant clinging to power. "It is absurd that, under the banner of Islam and Shariah, the Salafis [reactionary conservatives] should partake in a government, sworn to observe the constitution and the rule of law, and then solicit Shariah, not legislation, in any matter that happens not to suit their taste. Then, these same Salafis would not heed at all that same Shariah in matters that run counter to their political and business interests."

The editorial also finds fault with the double-faced attitude of the parliament speaker who, at one time, publicly opposes the prime minister and joins with his opponents, and, at other times, defends him, doubts allegations levelled at him and calls for appeasement. "It is absurd that multibillion projects be cancelled just after they were deemed worthwhile. It is equally absurd that, when all opinions have converged towards an increase in global spending, the budget project falls short." A constitutional dissolution of parliament would be far better than this situation, Al Jareeda concluded.

"The choice of Turkey as the first Muslim destination that the US president Barack Obama will be visiting was by no means surprising or fortuitous. The Obama foreign affairs team has studied it quite minutely." Thus read the introductory paragraph to a piece by Jihad Elzein, a regular columnist at the Lebanese daily Annahar, in the form of a letter addressed to President Obama.

"Choosing Turkey, as was earlier announced by your secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is such an intelligent decision," Elzein wrote. "This initiative, considering its symbolic charge, is an emblematic acknowledgement of the Turkish progressive experience in culture, politics and economy." Elzein laid out three major points that distinguish the Turkish experience: the Turks have learned from the fundamental mistake that the Russians have committed in the past, and which Iran seems to be slipping into as well; Turkey has a strong army but no expansionist agenda, which bolsters its diplomatic influence; sectarianism in the country is moderate and non-violent. "Mr President, I am not saying that the future of modernity in the Muslim world is being decided in Turkey, but Istanbul is living the oldest story of the will to modernity."

The independent Emirati daily Al Bayane ran a comment article by Mohammed bin Huweidan, a regular contributor, about the outcome of the recent Riyadh summit during which Egypt, Syria, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia held talks in hopes for "a new phase" in their relations.

"A primary analysis suggests that the results of the summit were quite satisfactory to all parties in the sense that each state has merely offered the least concessions," Huweidan wrote. "This new concord does not mean that said states have mended the fissures in their relations, for they have brushed aside their major points of divergence - the relationship with Iran, the Palestinian question and the situation in Lebanon - to only reach agreements of a general order."

Mostly, what is being described as "a new phase" in Arab relations comes down to reintroducing Syria to the Arab sphere, without it directly giving up its ties with Iran or losing its sway in Lebanon. "Saudi Arabia and Egypt saw the times ripe for closer diplomatic relations with Syria, with a view to deterring Hamas from Iranian fundamentalism, fostering reconciliation with Fattah and the Palestinian authority, and facilitating turning the page with the US."

The opinion section of Asharq al Awsat carried a piece by Tariq al Hameed, a regular columnist at the London-based pan-Arab daily, where he examined the recent opening up of the US administration to Taliban moderates, coupled with the new British statement on openness to "political" Hizbollah. "What is left but openness to al Qa'eda?" asked al Hameed. "This is not a cynical statement, for it seems that the West has a quite peculiar conception of what 'openness' means. After it had launched gruelling wars on extremism in the region, the West has now decided to, quite recklessly, interact with extremists."

Iraqi factions, Afghanistan's Taliban and Hizbollah in Lebanon are worlds apart in ideology and strategic interests, which should logically prompt diverse approaches, not a blanket strategy. "Dialogue is necessary and laudable when it is carried out between states, and only with those who do resort to weapons inside their own countries. However, openness just for the sake of it only further complicates matters and conveys the wrong message."

* Digest compiled by Achraf ElBahi AElBahi@thenational.ae