Writing in the Arabic newspaper Al Hayat, Jame El Theyabi questions the What are Oman’s motives for publicly rejecting the Gulf currency union. Other Digest topics: Iran, Israel and Palestine

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Arabic News Digest

What are Oman’s motives for publicly rejecting the Gulf union and threatening to withdraw from the Gulf Cooperation Council if such a union is formed? This was the question posed by Jame El Theyabi in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

The Omani stance against upgrading the six-member GCC to a political union is not new and was voiced by Muscat immediately after Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz called for increased military and political cooperation between the GCC States during the 2011 GCC summit.

Asked by the writer about why Oman was unwelcoming to the Gulf Union, Omani foreign minister Yusuf bin Alawi said on the sidelines of Gulf Summit in Bahrain last year that: “Several other fields require integration before rushing into the Union.”

Despite the writer’s attempts to bring up Iran’s interference and the Syrian tragedy, the Omani minister argued: “We must steer clear of regional and international conflicts. We in Oman see that achieving peace starts by not entering conflicts and militarising the region and people.”

Without informing any of the GCC states, Oman hosted secret talks between Washington and Tehran, which resulted in the Geneva deal between Iran and the P5+1 group.

And now on the eve of the Kuwait summit, Oman assertively announced its opposition to the proposed union, threatening to leave the GCC if this occurs.

Article Four of the GCC Charter stresses “coordination, integration and inter-connection among the Member States in all fields in order to achieve unity”. So what would prompt Oman to make its threat?

Does Oman feel any repudiation or marginalisation from its sisterly states? Is it dismayed by the GCC’s incompatible policies? Or is all part of efforts to dismantle the current Gulf body and instead cooperate with Iran, with which Oman shares the world’s most strategic oil route, Strait of Hormuz, in a bid to force the Gulf states to accept a regional body that includes Iraq and Iran?

Oman’s opposition is mainly politically driven. The country fears that the union might abolish its sovereignty or plunge it into unwanted conflicts.

Oman also has business interests and a non-aggression pact with Iran.

There is no doubt that a Gulf confederation will be much better and safer for Oman, amid growing challenges and successful alliances worldwide. The European Union has set a good example, despite the huge challenges it has faced.

The union will be a turning point in the welfare and the strength of the Gulf people. Oman, being a small country, should accept it because it can only add to its economic and social growth. Hence the need to deter Oman from departure and convince it to join the union, he writer said.

The real faces of Israel and Iran are on show

Following the Israeli president’s statement on Sunday that he would be prepared to meet his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi wrote: “This wasn’t the first [Israeli] communication with Iran and, anyway, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

At the height of the animosity between Iran and the US, Israel’s biggest ally, when Iranian media portrayed the Reagan administration as “the great Satan”, the US provided Iran with weapons for its war on Iraq in exchange for the release of five Americans that were held hostage by Hizbollah in Lebanon.

Soon after, Israeli aircraft delivered 176 US missiles to Tehran.

“The agreement, known today as the Iran-Contra Affair, was proof of the Islamic Republic’s flexibility even at the peak of its ideological upsurge,” it said.

“If America’s need to free five of its citizens that were held by Hizbollah drove them to strike such a huge deal with Iran, one could imagine the lesson the Iranians learned from the deal: what would America pay if Iran were to hold and entire country, like Lebanon, hostage?”

This is the real Iran without its ideological propaganda and its theatrical threats: the bigger the hostage the heftier the ransom.

Israel and Iran supported the dictatorial regime in Syria.

Based on this, it is easy to understand why Peres addressed Iranians saying: “You are not our enemies.”

Is a Palestinian-Israeli agreement looming?

Close examination of recent speeches by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry reveals the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations will yield results at the end of their nine-month span, columnist Mazen Hammad noted in the Qatari daily Al Watan.

Israeli daily Haaretz suggests that both sides are deliberating over a framework agreement to be implemented in phases.

“Statements like these must bother Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman who wants the talks to reach a dead end,” the writer said.

Mr Obama’s speech insinuated there will be a transition during which Israel would handle security control over areas in the West Bank and the US would play a key role in ensuring security along the Israeli-Jordanian border.

“Leaked information from these secret talks suggest that Israel would submit to a number of references including the 1967 two-state lines and would allow for Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and there would be mutual recognition of the Israeli and Palestinian states,” the writer added.

Obama and Kerry have not claimed that the two sides had reached agreement on such a framework, but the general context of the proposed final settlement would surely include these items, he concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk