Maghreb Union fails to reach its potential

In a comment article for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat, Mohammed al Achab wrote that this year's anniversary of the Maghreb Union went unnoticed amid greater concerns in North Africa.

There is no time now for more creative politics, which the Maghreb Arab Union initially tried to establish through ambitious economic blocs and other forms of political partnerships. Few of these ideas were achieved because of political differences and instability.

Meanwhile, the Union, which was established in the 1980s to face strategic challenges, has emerged less able to adapt itself to the recent rapid political transformations. New political concepts and trends overshadowed the purpose for which it was created in the first place.

By the same token, because of European countries' self-absorption in their own problems, the Maghreb has, since the fall of Berlin Wall, received less attention. Moreover, adopting free market concepts through privatisation schemes did not bring the region hoped-for development.

As a result, political differences have outweighed strategic options, leading member states to falter in their cooperation in an integrated economic system that could rival its European counterpart and complement the GCC.

Iraq is also vulnerable to popular protests

"Comparing the situation of Tunisia and Egypt with that of Iraq, we can assume that there are some similarities. In Iraq there is also a strong motivation for popular revolt against the political system," wrote Ziyad al Munjid in an opinion piece for the London-based newspaper Al Quds.

Poverty, hunger, repression and the denial of freedom are all direct factors that have triggered the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt. These motives are present in today's Iraq, yet on a different scale.

Iraqis can at any time stage an uprising because of the following: first, US troops are still there, and mostly seen as occupiers. They are believed to have determined the future of the country according to the US agenda contrary to people's aspirations.

Second, successive governments have failed in providing basic civil services to Iraqis inside the country or helping millions of refugees, many of whom live in harsh living conditions abroad.

Third, there is a general trend supported by the Americans to deepen the sectarian chasm in Iraq. This is seen in policies adopted by the ruling parties and the quota system, which results in excluding many from government positions.

Last, there are agreements signed between the US and the government that harness Iraq's resources to benefit the former.

Crisis increases need for unity in Lebanon

The ongoing turmoil in the Arab world requires Lebanese political forces in conflict to adopt a new approach and behaviour to spare the country further division, noted the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial.

This is a situation that may prompt Israel to interfere regardless of who represents the opposition or the government. And herein lies a danger that threatens all factions, and may plunge the country into crises.

The region is boiling. So it is the interest of every Lebanese to end the endless, fruitless political retrenchment on every issue that emerges. This should stop and all stakeholders should join efforts to form a new, effective government that is able put Lebanon back on the right track, and focus on solving internal problems.

"Unfortunately, there are some politicians who act like they are the centre of the universe and their wishes should be attended to no matter what. Those forces need to re-evaluate their attitudes for the sake of the country, which has suffered enough from internal and external conflicts. After decades of disputes, it is time to sit down and reach a compromise inside Lebanon instead of one being imposed from outside."

Veto shows US hurts Palestinian interests

"The Palestinian Authority has relied on the US administration since the Oslo conference, leading to it waiving the resistance as a means to liberate the Occupied Palestinian Territories," declared the UAE daily Akhbar al Arab in its lead article.

Washington has promised to find a solution to the Palestinian issue, which has earned it some political acclaim, but it came at a price: the Palestinians have since then been losing land as a result of continuing settlement policies by the Israelis.

In response to this increasing risk, the PA rejected direct negotiations in a bid to put pressure on the international community to protect the Palestinian Territories from further plunder. Yet Israel has rejected initiatives aimed at freezing colony expansion, especially after the takeover of the US House of Representatives by the Republicans.

In a daring move, the PA backed by Arab countries resorted to the UN Security Council to condemn the colonies and assert their illegality. But once again, the US stood as the gatekeeper, protecting its Israeli ally by voting against the proposal.

This proves that Washington cannot play the role of a peace mediator as long as it is so biased.

* Digest compiled by Mustapha El Mouloudi

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