Systematic violence returns to Iraq

In the power vacuum caused by political wrangling at the top, a new wave of violence is surging into Iraq, writes an Arabic-language editorialist. Other topics in today's round-up: How oil threatens to beat Muammar Qaddafi, how Ethiopia is disappointing its neighbours, and the problems of the Arab Spring.

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Iraq slides into a new cycle of violence

Assassinations and other violent acts are on the increase in Iraq, and there is no sign the situation will get better, the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi said in its editorial.

On Wednesday, a leader of the Awakening Forces was killed in a bomb attack near his house. Three days earlier, 11 people had been killed or injured after a suicide bomber on a wheelchair blew up a police station.

"Attacks on US troops have also risen in recent months after a lull of almost two years, which suggests that new armed organisations are active in targeting the occupation forces. al Qa'eda has also reinvented itself remarkably."

Meanwhile, Iraq endures a political vacuum because of the growing differences between leaders of political blocs, especially the prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, and Dr Iyad Allawi. This confrontation has disrupted both the parliament and government services.

Dr Allawi has boycotted parliament sessions since the last elections, and has had no contact with the Iraqi prime minister.

Mr Al Maliki is widely criticised for running the country as a sectarian dictatorship. He is also blamed for excluding those who disagree with him.

As well as Iranian influence, the internal political congestion is likely to lead to more violent acts as long as many factions are excluded from the political process.

Oil: the blessing that turns into a curse

"After 100 days of fighting between Col Muammar Qaddafi's forces and rebels, the situation in Libya is getting clearer," observed Abdul Rahman al Rashed in an opinion piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

"Mr Qaddafi is still standing but he is gradually losing power and his rule is approaching an end."

There have been two important developments, the writer said.

First, almost all of Col Qaddafi's main allies have deserted him. Second, his forces may eventually surrender not because of lack of troops or equipment, but because of the rebel blockade around the oil pipelines. More and more people in Tripoli have parked their cars and are using bicycles, as a result of fuel shortages. Thus Col Qaddafi may fall because of lack of oil supply as well as diplomatic constraints.

Diplomatically, the Russians used to say they would remain by his side, but they ultimately abandoned him. The Germans also changed their attitude, when they send an envoy to the rebel stronghold city of Benghazi, conveying a significant message that the rules of the game have changed.

Ironically, Col Qaddafi is likely to lose the war because of the same weapon he used to threaten his opponents throughout his long years of rule: oil.

Rebels are wise to besieging the sources of oil. And now the price of a gallon of gasoline in Tripoli is 50 times higher than in rebel-controlled territories.

Nile countries are at the mercy of Ethiopia

Active public diplomacy won a promise from the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, to form a technical committee to look into the effect of a planned new dam on Ethiopia's neighbours. But this success seems to have been short-lived, the Egyptian daily Al Ahram noted in its editorial.

In principle, Ethiopia agreed to make any necessary changes to the initial plan for the Millennium Dam on the Blue Nile river, if it emerges that the project will affect the interests of downstream countries, mainly Sudan and Egypt.

However, the dam project manager confirmed recently that his country will step up efforts to continue its construction. It will be in partial operation in six months, he said, and there are plans for four more dams to generate electricity. The first dam is aimed at storing in its lake 63 billion cubic metres of water.

Weeks after the visit of a public delegation to Addis Ababa, there was no initiative to set up the international committee to assess the effects of construction of the upstream dam.

"We are wondering whether Ethiopia withdrew from its commitment or if Sudan and Egypt failed to follow up this agreement."

If Ethiopia is responsible for that, then it has breached its promise to wait until the committee makes recommendations before proceeding with construction.

Political changes are in a difficult phase

Many Arab countries have been going through critical phases of change marked by revolutions and popular movements.

While revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were able to move well along the road toward comprehensive change, Libya, Yemen and Syria are caught in a limbo, noted the Emirati newspaper Akhbar al Arab in a leader article.

Overall, all these countries remain in a hard and uncertain situation. In Egypt, for instance, fears rose as a result of relentless efforts by remnants of the old regime to restore some of their power, or at least to cause some political instability that can freeze the reform process. The revolution has not yet settled into a form which allows it to determine how to address public demands and design a long-term strategic vision for the country. This explains why there is some tension between individual and national interests.

At the same time, there is so far no clear approach to consolidating all the "scattered" views on how to govern Egypt in the post-revolution phase.

The real challenge now is to maintain a high level of self-restraint and engage in positive dialogue to avoid sliding into any form of political and doctrinal extremism.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi