Iranians are crippled by their own rules

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is not an important public figure, and her conviction is not political in origin. Yet it became so after it stirred international condemnation, which has threatened the government's relations with the world.

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"Iran executed 12 drug traffickers in one day this week, and 170 others accused of political crimes last year, but it has been unable for four years to carry out any executions of women convicted of adultery," observed Abdul Rahman al Rashed in an opinion piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

The last case in point is the stoning sentence on Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani three years ago, who was convicted in 2006 of an illicit relationship outside of wedlock. So what makes the Ashtiani case so defiant for the iron-fisted regime in Tehran?

Ms Ashtiani is not an important public figure, and her conviction is not political in origin. Yet it became so after it stirred international condemnation, which has threatened the government's relations with the world.

Because of the campaign led by human rights organisations, the Iranian regime has found itself besieged even by some countries with which it has traditionally close relations, such as Latin American states and China.

Even though the regime has tried to picture Ms Ashtiani as involved in the murder of her husband, it failed in its arguments. This demonstrates the extent to which Tehran is desperate to counter the rising anger of women's and human rights groups. It fears especially the present wide-scale campaign may prompt a concerted international war action against Iran.

Attacking Christians is a crude political act

"The barbaric murder of Christians in Iraq and Egypt has many causes including religious intolerance, misunderstandings of the true principles of Islam, and the political ambitions of some parties," wrote Saleh al Qallab in a commentary for the Jordanian newspaper Al Jareeda.

There is no doubt that this mounting violence is instigated by a false interpretation of Islam based on writings of some thinkers that condemn other members of the community of apostasy. But the ultimate goal remains political, as those responsible for these crimes believe that by targeting eastern Christians, it will be easier to strike at the political systems in Iraq and Egypt and gain access to power.

Apparently, these forces do not care whether Egypt, being the lever of the Arab world and a symbol of its cohesion, or Iraq turn into failed states. To reach their end, they are ready to kill innocent women and children, priests and clerics.

But who is the real beneficiary of this situation? Of course there are remote parties, who would like to see a divided Arab world. Some believe that Israel would like to show to the world that Arabs are keen to picture their countries as exclusively Islamic, which will ultimately serve its claim that Palestinians should, in return, acknowledge the Jewish nature of the state of Israel.

Peace in Sudan is now becoming less likely

In an opinion piece for the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad, Shamlan Youssef al Issa questioned whether the parties to the dispute in Sudan would accept the referendum's results so as to usher in peace and stability.

Most academic and intelligence reports expect, however, acts of violence to rise and last for a long time between the North and the South.

Had successive governments promoted democratic practices since independence in the last century, the split would not have been an option. Throughout Sudan's modern history, no serious efforts have been invested to develop the country economically and distribute the wealth evenly.

This has been accompanied also by an abuse of power, which prevented serious initiatives by the opposition forces from the North and South to achieve national unity.

Observers believe that the ideological differences between the North and the South makes the separation likely. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement calls for a new Sudan based on an African secular political system, while the leadership in the North focuses on Sharia and Arabism. This situation has not been conducive to creating an atmosphere of mutual trust, and that has thwarted all attempts to reach a long-lasting peace.

With pending issues over oil and borders, Sudan will likely face challenges this year.

Palestinians need to unite against dangers

"It is clear that an Israeli plan is being implemented to stir tensions with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by targeting unarmed civilians," noted the Qatari daily Al Raya in a lead article.

A new wave of war crimes should prompt the international community to condemn them by enforcing international human rights law to protect the civilians from the Israeli military machine.

"Certainly, Israel took advantage of a lack of international opposition to achieve its deadly plots after it succeeded in courting the US, which has become unable to stand neutral."

Amid this situation, Israel began to carry out a new scheme aimed this time at destabilising security in order to drag the Palestinians into direct military confrontation. This would allow it to occupy more land. This plan will only further obstruct the peace process and, at the same time, cause other pressing regional problems to last longer.

This newspaper considers the latest developments as serious and calls on the international community to be firm and promptly intervene, and for the Palestinians to be united to ward off the common threat.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi