A tangled web around Turkey and Iraq

Turkey's famous 'zero problems' abroad has run up against the realities of a region in crisis, an Arabic-language columnist writes. Other topics in today's roundup: no laughing matter in Egyptian court, and Israel's southern border.

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Turkey's famous 'zero problems' abroad has run up against the realities of a region in crisis

In the mire of the Iraqi-Turkish disagreement, which escalated to the point of exchanging accusations and threats, Tehran issued gleeful statements that celebrated the "new" Iraq as it acceded to a different standing and assumed a new role. The praise extended to the government and its prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, and went as far as to call for a complete union between the two countries.

It was an obvious expression of the heated struggle over the Arab region between two rising regional poles, said the columnist Areeb Al Rantawi in the Jordanian newspaper Addustour.

"Whether willingly or not, Turkey found itself in the same ditch with Sunni states, kingdoms and movements," said the writer. "On its part, Iran would never deviate from its 'fate' that put it at the forefront of a cross-border regional Shiite axis."

The conflict in the region is taking on the aspect of a Sunni-Shia struggle, thus, both countries, Iran and Turkey, suddenly became leaders of two diverging blocs.

Turkey's famous "zero problems" foreign policy theory disintegrated. In fact, Turkey is embroiled in a cold war with almost all of its neighbours, from Syria to Iran, Iraq and even Greece.

As for Iran, it is no secret that it has been in a state of perpetual conflict with its surroundings at least since the prevalence of the Islamic Revolution, which came with ideas of exporting the revolution and leading the camp of the underprivileged against global imperialism.

"The coexistence that lasted between both regional powers for years so far is facing its most difficult test nowadays on the grounds of the Syrian crisis that is inching ever so closely to Iraq," added the writer.

Iraqi prime minister Al Maliki faces a broad front of local and regional adversaries. Internally, he confronts a coalition of rivals who are "fed up" with his egocentricity and his dictatorial tendencies. Regionally, the man is up against an alliance that extends from Ankara to Riyadh and on to Doha. These are the capitals that publicly denounce his regime and his bias to Iran, and to the Assad regime in Syria, and that despise his marginalisation of the Sunni component in the Iraqi national equation.

By defending Bashar Al Assad and his regime, Mr Al Maliki blatantly defied Turkey and the Arab Gulf states, which now see his toppling as a necessary requirement if they are ever to bring Al Assad down.

It is for this reason precisely, and because the battle over Syria is a matter of life and death for Iran's power in the region, that Mr Al Maliki's head has become a precious taboo that Tehran would fight anyone to defend.

The developments of the Syrian crisis and its Iraqi repercussions promise to pit the two main regional powers further against each other in the near future.

Imam case is a prelude to Islamist revenge

A misdemeanours court in Giza upheld on Tuesday a ruling against Adel Imam, one of Egypt's and the Arab world's most iconic comedians, on charges of deriding Islam in some of his movies and stage comedies, reported the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat yesterday.

The verdict orders Mr Imam to three months in prison and hard labour, in addition to a 1,000 Egyptian pound fine (Dh600).

"I will appeal," the comedian told the paper. "I trust Egyptian justice," he added.

The case was filed against Mr Imam in February 2011 by a "Salafist lawyer" named Asran Mansour, the paper said. In his plea, Mr Mansour accused the comedian of poking fun at characters in loose-fitting robes and women wearing niqab with such disdain as to constitute an affront to Islam.

Online journalist Ilham Nagib wrote in the news website Masreat: "This looks like a prelude to a war between intellectuals and artists on one side, and the advocates of political Islam on the other. The latter seem to be getting ready to settle old scores with all those who have stood against them once in the past."

Mr Imam's lawyer, Khaled Abu Bakr, described the verdict as a form of censorship and the whole case as an over-the-top move by some hard-line Islamist forces. The Egyptian film industry is said to be outraged.

Israel is never at ease with a strong Egypt

What worries Israel most and forces it to revisit its policies is seeing Egypt restore its sovereignty and pre-Camp David weight lost since the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, wrote the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej yesterday.

A powerful Egypt makes a big difference regionally. "Decades have elapsed and Israel's plotting against Egypt shows no sign of abating." Backed by the US, Israel has always been bent on undermining Egypt through espionage, plotting and masquerades, with the objective of "hollowing it out", the editorial went on. The gas crisis that re-emerged this week between the two countries is only a "drop in the ocean".

Since the revolution, Israel has shown its neighbour its true colours. Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, notoriously called for the re-establishment of the Israeli Southern Command, an army corps that fought various major wars against Egypt and was dismantled after Camp David.

But such threats won't fly any more. "If anyone comes near Egypt's border, we will break their legs" was the response of the Egyptian army chief. Equally expressive is the statement of Major General Mohamed Hegazy, Commander of the Second Field Army, when he warned that potential aggressors should "reconsider before thinking of attacking Egypt."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk