Iraq faces fragmentation amid bickering

An Arabic-language columnist says the politicians in Baghdad must put their differences aside as the security situation gets worse. Other topics: Egypt and Israel.

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Iraq faces further fragmentation as politicians continue to bicker and bombs take more lives

Iraq is continuing its slide into the unknown as the security situation across the country is turning into a disaster, while politicians keep holding on to their narrow agendas, unmoved by the daily death toll from countless bomb attacks, columnist Abdul Zahra Al Rekabi wrote in yesterday’s edition of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

The security failure in Iraq under prime minister Nouri Al Maliki is decidedly chronic, and there is “not a glimmer of hope” that the situation will improve, the writer said. “The death toll in Iraq from terrorist attacks during the past month alone, according to the United Nations, has reached 979, while the number of the injured went above 2,100.”

Among the dead, 219 were members of the security forces, 127 of them killed off duty. “Clearly, losses at this scale in a single month are a grim measure of just how flawed the security system is – a system that is by no means understaffed or under-armed, but one that is deeply penetrated,” Al Rekabi wrote, referring to Al Qaeda operatives.

“In light of this persisting political and security reality, Iraq is descending into the unknown,” the author said, citing an earlier warning from Martin Kobler, the UN secretary general’s special representative for Iraq.

Last July, Mr Kobler called on Iraq’s political leaders to act quickly to stop what he termed the “carnage” plaguing the nation.

“This carnage must stop,” Mr Kobler said at the time, after a battery of deadly attacks rocked cities across the country, killing scores of innocent civilians.

“I once again urge the Iraqi authorities to do their utmost and take all necessary measures to protect the people of Iraq from more bloodshed,” he said.

In June that summer, 761 Iraqis were killed and more than 1,700 were injured in acts of terror, according to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, which is led by Mr Kobler.

A large part of the problem is that Iraqi politicians continue to be “subsumed by their narrow, private interests, leaving the country in the throes of lingering, large-scale chaos”, the columnist said.

Mr Kobler’s mission urged Iraqi leaders to engage in a national dialogue as a way out of the political stalemate that has gripped the nation for months, cautioning them against giving terrorist groups more room to manoeuvre.

In the meantime, a report by the US National Intelligence Council on global trends in 2013 said that Iraq and Syria both face the possibility of fragmentation along sectarian and ethnic lines, the author wrote.

Indeed, the clan mentality and provincialism are fracturing Iraqi society at a deep level, which is only exacerbated by the Iraqi people’s wide distrust in whatever the government has to say about the dire state of affairs in the country, the writer said.

Tape fuels Israelis’ suspicion of El Sisi

Israel’s political and security chiefs are on their toes, watching every move by Egypt’s defence minister, Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi, and looking out for any semblance of change in their neighbour’s regional foreign policy, wrote Professor Ibrahim El Bahrawy, who teaches Hebrew Studies at Cairo’s Ain Shams University, in the UAE-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

The news website Debka, which is known to have close ties with Israel’s intelligence community, has recently reported on a sense of anxiety felt in Israel’s government back rooms after the revelation of a recorded conversation in which Gen El Sisi, speaking to close aides, purportedly said that the time was not yet right to declare hostility towards Israel.

The subtext of Gen El Sisi’s words, which is that Egyptian hostility towards Israel is only a matter of time, has drawn the attention of top Israeli leaders, including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Professor El Bahrawy wrote yesterday.

Some commentators and journalists in Egypt take great pains to draw positive parallel between Egypt’s new strongman and the late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose stances against western domination and in favour of pan-Arab nationalism are well known.

That is what worries Israel about Gen El Sisi: this resemblance to Nasser – in terms of style – which is unfounded, the author added.

Israel must engage in Iran nuclear talks

“We say to Israel: stop faking fear, stop being so affectedly arrogant and get down from your treehouse and help the West reach a nuclear agreement with Iran,” wrote columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan yesterday.

“But Israel will be Israel, ever capable of scuttling, freezing or delaying any peace effort,” he wrote.

“We say this in light of the air of optimism that has been felt after two days of talks between Tehran and the G5+1 in Geneva,” the author said, in reference to last week’s negotiations between Iran and the group of five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, UK, France, Russia and China – plus Germany.

“And there are, in fact, reasons to be optimistic,” Hammad wrote. “First, Iran has presented a settlement proposal to the G5+1 and asked its interlocutors to keep the details of the talks confidential, in what seems to be an attempt to pre-empt any disruptions from the conservative camp in Tehran as the talks progress.”

A second positive sign is that Iran went straight to the point, agreeing to unannounced visits by UN nuclear inspectors and clinging to its right to enrich uranium for peaceful ends, the author went on. In previous talks, Iran’s positions were vague at best, he said.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi