Iraq has failed to protect Christians

The targeting of miniroities could lead to the fragmentation of Iraq and the disruption of its cultural and political fabric.

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In October 2008, Tareq Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat wrote: "It is the obligation of all Iraqis, not only the government in Baghdad, to protect Iraq's Christians from killing, displacement and oppression."

At the time, this call was met with much criticism and a defamatory media campaign from Iraqi government supporters. "Here we are today, witnessing another brutal massacre by an organised armed attack on Our Lady of Salvation church for Catholic Syriacs in Baghdad that left 52 killed."

What is most alarming is that one priest intimated that the operation has been in the works for some time, while another priest confirmed that his congregation would surely be leaving Iraq.

The question now is: what were the government's measures since 2008 to preserve one of Iraq's components from oppression and violence?

Unfortunately, nothing has been done. It is easy to accuse al Qa'eda of brutal massacres, but the country's Christians are publicly targeted and are beseeching the government to provide their security, but what did Nouri al Maliki's government offer them?

The targeting of minorities could lead to the fragmentation of Iraq and the disruption of its cultural and political fabric. No one can guarantee that the Lebanese Christians won't be targeted in the future.

US strategic options in Lebanon and Iran

In an article for the Emirati daily Al Khaleej, the columnist Saad Mehio asked: "What are the possible strategic dimensions for the US awakening to the rise in Syrian and Iranian power in Lebanon?"

The present political situation necessitates an intersection of interests between Damascus and Tehran, mainly in the matter of the International Tribunal, which holds more significance for Damascus than Hizbollah and Iran, since they are already being scrutinised by the UN Security Council. Syria, which has just emerged from a five-year western siege, wouldn't accept to take the same heat.

This intersection of interests seems to drive the US president Barack Obama to revert to his predecessor's policy. Mr Obama hasn't severed relations with Damascus yet, but he is nearing that point.

However, the US domestic political and economic situation might motivate Mr Obama to seek great achievements in foreign policy that would reflect positively on his term, achievements that only Iran could offer.

Escalation in Afghanistan will not help, even with Obama's decision to withdraw. The same goes for Iraq and Palestine, where circumstances don't allow for achievements that would have a direct impact on the US internal scene. This leaves Mr Obama with the Iranian option that could mobilise public opinion to his benefit.

Explosive parcels: a new form of terrorism

The recent foiling of a conspiracy to blow up US freight planes was a brilliant success, observed the columnist Mazeb Hammad in the Qatari daily Al Watan. It reminds officials all over the world of the importance of a swift response in the field of intelligence.

Despite the billions of dollars spent on airport security, explosive parcels would have reached the US if it weren't for intelligence information volunteered by Saudi Arabia to Washington and London. The events that followed, however, betrayed serious gaps in the security and inspection system, mainly pertaining to freight aircrafts.

In Britain, officials were embarrassed at the fact that they needed 20 hours to recognise that one of the two confiscated parcels contained a professionally concealed bomb. The well-crafted plot was the creation of al Qa'eda's Yemen branch. The explosive parcels were supposed to be detonated at their destinations in Chicago.

The US Congress had previously approved a bill in 2007 that requires the inspection of every air shipment destined to the US by 2010. But the term expired and the objective wasn't met as numbers reveal that only 65 per cent of shipments are subject to inspection.

This confirms the need for more co-operation among countries to counter this new form of air terrorism.

Bad relations between Egypt and Syria

Egyptian-Syrian relations are not only bad, but they are steadily deteriorating everyday, commented the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

An Egyptian official reportedly stated on Monday that the gap between the two countries is widening due to Syria's political choices, meaning supporting Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

"We don't know how policies based on supporting resistance to Israel's expansionist projects can be a point of difference among Arab governments."

Syrian agendas are Arab by all measurs. They were never Iranian agendas, as the Egyptian official said. If Iran had to adopt such agendas it is because the Arabs themselves had forsaken them.

The Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is entitled to invite whomever he pleases to Egypt, but for him to say through his spokesman that there is no chemistry between the Syrian president Bashar al Assad and himself is as bizarre as it is surprising, since higher interests rather than personal chemistry are the elements that determine the essential standards for leaders' meetings.

The Arab situation in general is deteriorating as a result of such relationship assessment standards while national Arab issues are left for others to adopt and care for.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem