x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Yemen volcano is spewing smoke

A daily roundup of the region's news translated from the Arabic press.

In a pre-emptive attempt to placate eventual protests, the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, pledged he would not stand for a new presidential term or hand over power to his son, observed the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

This partially appeased the public after calls by opposition forces to organise wide-scale demonstrations against the regime under the motto of "Day of Rage".

"Yet it is unlikely that the Yemeni opposition will change its plan and retreat after the president's statement. The Yemeni people no longer trust the system and its promises, as seen in the protests which have not subsided over the last few weeks."

Mr Saleh succeeded in uniting the North and the South of the country and adopting an approach of political pluralism. Yet this success has dwindled because of rampant corruption within the government and the use of security forces to repress opposition.

Mr Saleh used to boast that Yemen had 165 publications but democracy has shrunk, as press institutions decreased in number while journalists were prosecuted.

Yemen has become one of the poorest and the most corrupt countries in the world, and currently it is facing tough rebellions in the South and the North. That is why constitutional concessions are less likely to counter the explosion of Yemen volcano, which has already spewed thick smoke.

Israel makes the wrong assumption on Egypt

"Israel is worried about the stability of the Middle East as a whole, and has called on the US and the EU to stop criticising the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, linking the maintenance of peace in the region with Egypt," wrote Waleed Abi Murshid in a commentary for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly sent cables to the US and a number of European countries, asking them to support the Egyptian president by refraining from publicly commenting on him.

Israel is very concerned about losing another strong ally after  the collapse of its strategic alliance with Turkey. Although Israeli-Egyptian relations remain at a  minimum level, they have allowed Israel to secure its southern borders. Thus, it focused on wars on the northern front with Lebanon, while securing colony expansions in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This has also helped Israel to reduce its military spending and allocate more funds for settlements and other economic development.

The Israeli stance towards events in Egypt is short-sighted, as it considers the role of Mr Mubarak as the sole guarantor of peace. This is a wrong assumption since the military institution can play a major role at present to ensure a transition towards democracy in line with the aspirations of Egyptians.

New wave of takeovers requires careful study

In an opinion article carried by the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad, the economist Mohammed Assoumi reviewed the takeovers undertaken by GCC countries in the US and Europe in the last decade, which amounted to more than 250 operations at a value of about $40 billion.

These acquisitions were not limited to sovereign funds, but also undertaken by firms and investment banks. In spite of the importance of these investments to European, American and Asian markets in the long term for both the buyers and the sellers, they were not welcome at all times. Some countries were cautious, while many transactions were hampered.

Yet not all the takeovers - supported by enormous oil revenue thanks to the high oil prices before the 2008 great recession - were successful. Many of them turned out to be a heavy burden on the new buyers, especially after the great losses that hit the financial and real estate markets in the West.

Now that oil prices have rebounded, we anticipate new GCC acquisitions driven by financial facilities coupled with good investment opportunities because of low asset prices worldwide. Therefore, investors should be prudent. They need to evaluate past takeovers and new legal aspects if they plan for new ones. This will also help them maximise gains and minimise losses.

New models needed in modern Arab politics

Is it true that the Arab countries in the Middle East are progressing towards new forms of dictatorship to replace the current authoritarian governments? This question was posed by the political analyst Saad Mehio in an opinion piece for the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej.

One party in the region believes that: Israel. It maintains that religious regimes will take over, warning against the repeat of the Iranian revolution that has brought hardliners into power.

"This set of cautious notes are meant to alert the West to stand against Arab civil movements."

The truth lies elsewhere. There is no room for a second Iranian revolution in the Arab world. This is not because there are no religious leaders, but because Arab societies have evolved tremendously over the last four decades. Now they have become more pluralist and tolerant about various political and thought trends.

It is true that Islamic movements are not mature enough politically. Nonetheless, they have increasingly accepted the peaceful alternation of power.

The likely models for Arab revolutions will be the Indonesian and the Turkish ones. In both cases, the army has reevaluated its role and introduced internal reforms to ensure a transition to democratic government.


* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi