Arab News Digest: Iran does back down under pressure

The reversal of the decision to stone Sakineh Ashtiani was undoubtedly due to swelling international pressure and denunciation.

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Sakineh Ashtiani, an Iranian woman in her forties accused of adultery, was condemned to death by stoning earlier this year. Iranian authorities later recanted and announced publicly that the stoning sentence was suspended. The reversal of the decision was undoubtedly due to swelling international pressure and denunciation, wrote Abdulrahman al Rashed in an article for the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat.

This step reveals a great deal about Iranian conduct, especially as to how to the system backs down under threatening pressure. Will the current economic pressure imposed on it succeed in deterring its nuclear plans? And will threats of military intervention compel the Iranian leadership to reassess their positions? The Iranian authorities may have given evidence of resilience in the case of Mrs Ashtiani, but years of pressure have yet to push it to yield to international demands. However, the first retraction suggests a high level of intelligence and resilience.

While Tehran's authorities adopt stern language, they recant with smart discourse. The sanctions were put into effect and Iran announced its willingness to negotiate. Such pragmatism suggests some hope that on the twenty-third hour, Tehran will turn around and take a stance that puts an end to the crisis by halting uranium enrichment activities.

The will to make peace validates all talks 

The Syrian foreign minister Walid al Muallem offered a free lesson on how to deal with the peace issue that is worth replicating, wrote Treq al Homayed, editor-in-chief of the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

While the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, is keen on ensuring Arab support for every step he makes with Israel, the Syrian foreign minister roamed New York to serve his country's interests, without any thought to international or Arab public opinion. At the recent UN conference in New York, Mr Muallem showed interest in re-launching the Syrian-Israeli talks. During his meeting with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, it was reported that the focus was on the mutual interests of their respective countries.

"This is the bottom line that Mr Abbas has yet to understand. Everyone looks after their own interests. The cause is reduced to a mere slogan." This is evidenced by Hamas's sudden turn toward Iran, Syria and even the US. The most important part of Mr Muallem's speech in New York is: "We have the will to make peace and the decision is ours." President Abbas should have the will and the decision-making power, as he must also remember that his cause enjoys international support. The international community is in fact applauding and awaiting the opportunity to witness the birth of an independent Palestinian state.

Time for UAE youth to fulfil national duty 

The UAE needs to adopt a new policy whereby Emirati students graduating high school spend a year acquiring military training, discipline and national values, wrote Mohammed al Hammadi in the opinion pages of the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad. "I like to refer to this process as 'national duty' because the phrase 'mandatory military service' has some negative overtones," the writer said. "Plus, 'national duty' is not limited to military service, physical exercise and weapon training; it is much more than that."

In light of the general nonchalance that we see among some Emirati youths, their lack of personality and indisposition to take responsibility, military training – which is part of national duty – is of crucial importance. The good life these youths have is precariously taken for granted. "We must not forget that we have become a consumerist society that relies on the other. The demographic structure of the UAE and the security and political challenges in the region warrant further contemplation of this 'national duty' scheme."

This process will not only boost a certain common consciousness among the citizens of the UAE, but also push forward a nationalist, federal conviction that sets the sustainable existence of this nation as the top priority.

Arab League needs to make a brave decision 

We don't know what are the "historical decisions" that the Arab League is expected to issue this coming Monday, wrote columnist Mazen Hammad for the Qatari daily Al Watan.

"We know however, that the decisions will not be historical in any way." The Arab Council "permitted" the Palestinian authority to go into direct talks with Israel. The same council is now required to opt for one of two decisions: either to stop the talks as punishment for Israel or to give the Palestinian a chance by going through with negotiations despite continued settlement efforts. A third option would be to revive the 2002 Arab peace initiative which supports naturalisation with Israel in return for complete withdrawal to 1967 borderlines.

Such options can hardly be described as historical, unless the Arab representatives were to surprise the world with breaking ties with Israel. "At this delicate and serious phase in the history of the Palestinian cause, we call on the Arab nation as a whole to dare, for once, to make decisions that are commensurate with the period and declare the Palestinian side's withdrawal from talks pending Israeli acquiescence to Arab demands."

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem