Ethiopia crosses swords with Cairo

The Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, left Cairo in a stunned state when he spoke of Egypt's ambitions in the Horn of Africa, wrote Hassan Haidar in the commentary of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

The Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, left Cairo in a stunned state when he spoke of Egypt's ambitions in the Horn of Africa, wrote Hassan Haidar in the commentary of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

Egypt was quick to deny any intentions of waging war against Addis Ababa over differences in distribution of the river Nile's water at source and in states downstream. Cairo also rebutted allegations that it was providing support to Ethiopian opposition groups to secure its water needs.

"The Ethiopian attitude raises question marks about its timing, content and intent, and of course about who is inciting the attitude," the writer said.

Since the beginning of the year, Ethiopian newspapers have taken to publishing various scenarios of a probable Egyptian war. The goal behind most of these stories is twofold: first, to justify Addis Ababa's unilateral measures to build dams on the Nile without conferring with the downstream states, Sudan and Egypt; and second, to spread the idea among Ethiopians that 85 per cent of Nile water originates in their country and as such, they are entitled to exploit it however they please.

It gets more complicated however, as Cairo suspects an Israeli hand is involved in an attempt to undermine Egypt's stated policy not to channel a drop of Nile water to Israel.

Arms race costly, but inevitable in the region

"Iran-inspired anxiety is the main reason that the Arabian Gulf states have invested in huge arms deals estimated at $120 billion over the next five years, making them the biggest buyers of weapons and modern fighter jets in the world," commented Dr AbdulKhaleq Abdullah, a political science professor at UAE University, in the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

Such huge Gulf spending on weaponry also comes in preparation for the post-US withdrawal from Iraq and the challenges that dwindling US supremacy in the region and the world will leave behind. But the "fact remains that Iran's unfriendly actions, its expansionist policies and its provocative statements are to be blamed for the current arms race in the Arabian Gulf," he wrote.

"The Arabian Gulf states will never accept that the Gulf be transformed into a Persian Gulf, not in the literal or historical sense, but in a deeper strategic and geopolitical sense. Accepting the 'Persianisation' of this vital water strait will imply the recognition of Iran as the centre of political gravity and the strategic referent [in the region]."

In view of Iraq's absence on the regional scene, the Gulf Cooperation Council states are left to carry the burden of stopping Iran from becoming the region's policeman.

That is why the ongoing arms race, however costly, is necessary, the writer said.

Questions raised as to agenda of tribunal

When Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon, asks the Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, to publicly denounce the International Tribunal's probe into the assassination of the late premier Rafik Hariri, Mr Hariri Junior must listen, stated the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

Mr Jumblatt, who until recently has been a key player in Mr Hariri's March 14 Coalition, knows the agenda of this "politicised court" well - and that of the parties behind it.

"Mr Jumblatt's words are of particular importance as they coincide with a meeting of the Israel cabinet to discuss the situation in Lebanon and ways to ratchet up tensions with Hizbollah. They also coincide with leaks that were featured in a documentary aired by Canada's CBC channel two days ago, which explicitly pointed the finger at Hizbollah as the party behind the assassination."

Indeed, the prospective indictment by the tribunal is part of a plan to tear Lebanon apart once again, the newspaper said.

"What kind of tribunal is this that leaks its reports to newspapers, magazines and television stations? And what credibility does it have when evidence for the indictment is circulated before the official indictment is issued?"

By all measures, this court is not only politically motivated; it is also infiltrated by CIA agents, in the very same way international committees inspecting weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were.

Death of two major pro-Palestinian Jews

It is no exaggeration to say that Arab culture and the civil struggle for democracy have incurred a big loss with the death of two prominent Moroccan Jews this month: Edmond Amran el Maleh, 93, and Abraham el Sarfati, 84, wrote Moen al Biyari in an obit for the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan.

Each in his own way - el Maleh, a writer and intellectual; el Sarafati, a political and union activist - have stood up against Israel and the Zionist movement for decades.

"I interviewed [el Maleh] in Rabat 17 years ago," the writer said. "He stressed that Israel was actually colonising the Jewish religion itself." And during the war on Gaza, the man who always opposed the exploitation of the Holocaust as an excuse for Zionism said Israel was "at the edge of humanity".

In 1974, he was tried on charges of sourcing weapons for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and had to spend 17 years in Moroccan prisons.

El Maleh, who has been described by Israel as a fanatic and an anti-Semite Jew, has long dreamed of praying in Jerusalem once it is liberated, the writer said. It is indeed good news that his articles on the Palestinian cause will soon be published in an Arabic anthology.

* Digest compiled by Achraf el Bahi