Hizbollah stands to benefit from tribunal

The UN tribunal for Lebanon can be good for Hizbollah, observed Abdul Rahman al Rashed in a commentary for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

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The UN tribunal for Lebanon can be good for Hizbollah, observed Abdul Rahman al Rashed in a commentary for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

"This isn't cynicism. The court will benefit all, and mostly those accused of assassinating Rafiq al Hariri."

Speculation is mounting that if Hizbollah were condemned, it would turn against the government, and take over the state. This would cause chaos in various parts of the country, leading to an occupation of political strongholds inside and outside Beirut. The party would block vital infrastructure points, target political leaders, and possibly re-occupy central Beirut.

If that happens, it would speed up the prosecution process, and no country would dare to oppose it. "The scope of the crime will further enlarge, prompting a swift international reaction."

The situation looks dim not because of the initial crime, but because of the acts of the day. Hizbollah has adopted a new threatening discourse. It says it only accepts a Saudi-Syrian deal and claims a provocation might spark a crisis between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon. Yet any misstep by Hizbollah can lead to sectarian strife that could prompt its closest ally, Iran, to take a firm stance against it. This is a real danger that cannot be compared with trying a few party members.

"The tribunal will indeed help Hizbollah by putting a wrap the assassination issue."

Israeli-Turkish standoff continues over flotilla

"Israeli and Turkish officials said they had been working on reaching an agreement to enhance their diplomatic relations. Yet talks are still stalled on some issues, mainly the killing of nine Turks on board of the Gaza Flotilla by Israelis," noted Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Jordanian newspaper Addustoor.

This prompted Ankara to recall its ambassador to Israel, then strive for strengthening its relations with Iran and Syria. The Carmel Forest blaze a week ago forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek international assistance to put out the fire. Turkey took the initiative by sending two planes, whose pilots were reminded by Mr Netanyahu of the help Israel had provided to Turkey after the 1999 earthquake.

"Israelis must be wrong to think that the present circumstances are conducive to improving relations. The phone call Netanyahu made didn't change Turkey's position."

So far, both countries have stuck to their guns. Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan insists that his country will not send its ambassador back until Israel provides appropriate compensation for the victims' families and formally apologises for the aggression. Israel says it is willing to pay compensation, but refuses to issue an apology, arguing that its soldiers were on a defensive situation.

Kurds demand self-determination

"It came as no surprise that the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani reiterated at his party conference opening - and in the presence of Iraq's president and the prime minister - the right of Kurdistan to decide its political fate," observed Salah al Qallab in an opinion article for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda.

Of course, Mr Barzani based his claim on Article 140 of the constitution, which gives any part of Iraq in a specific situation the right to self-determination. He also referred to the same law to include oil-rich Kirkuk, regardless whether or not the Kurds achieve independence.

We must wait to see whether this call can be consolidated further. The Kurdish Democratic Party has since its inception in early 1960s demanded secession from Iraq, but has never rigorously followed through.

"It is likely, however, that Kurdish issue will follow the pattern of South Sudan. Both problems are leftovers of the British colonial era. They are also outcomes of arbitrary annexations that continues to have bad repercussions for both countries.

Now as it has become clear that annexing a people against its will to an entity that does not represent its political and economic aspirations is a big mistake. If Kurds were treated fairly either in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, they would not think of independence.

Israeli intransigence is not a new response

"The Israeli minister of environment, Gilad Erdan, told the Americans and Arabs that it was not logical, nor in Israel's interests to negotiate while holding a stopwatch at hand," noted the UAE newspaper Al Bayan.

Mr Erdan overlooked the years passed since the peace negotiations began in Oslo. During this period, geopolitical factors across the world have changed. Yet the occupation authorities still consider time passed in relative terms, saying they are not ready to enter negotiations under the pressure of deadlines.

The statement of Mr Erdan, a close ally of Benjamin Netanyahu, came in response to a call by the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton for resuming indirect peace talks in order to revive the stalled peace process. She asked both parties to promptly find a solution.

The Israeli response was not intended to link talks with any timeframe, or with outcomes. This implies the occupation is not willing to reach a consensus, which will ensure the rights of Palestinians.

Faced with the Israeli intransigence, the US once again throws the ball in the Arabs' court, adding to the burdens upon the Palestinian Authority.

*Digest compiled by Moustapha El Mouloudi