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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 4 March 2021

Decrying war crimes under Barack Obama

The only people who criticise the US president nowadays are westerners, not Arabs. Just last week, some 2,000 activists and intellectuals in the US issued a declaration accusing the president of committing war crimes.

"We are no longer hearing Arab intellectuals discussing hostile policies taken by the Obama administration, which are no different from the policies adopted by his predecessor's administration insofar as they are violent, destructive and hypocritical," commented Saleh S Abdulazeem, an Egyptian columnist with the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan. The only people who criticise the US president nowadays are westerners, not Arabs.

Just last week, some 2,000 activists and intellectuals in the US issued a declaration accusing the president of committing war crimes. The declaration is expected to appear in The New York Review of Books. According to the declaration, Mr Obama is finishing up the war crimes that his predecessor had started in Iraq and Afghanistan. The indicting document was signed by Noam Chomsky, the famous linguist, James Cromwell, the veteran actor, and Cindy Sheehan, the outspoken anti-war activist, among many others.

The group denounced Mr Obama's decision to give the green light to US troops to shoot Sheikh Anwar al Awlaqi, the American citizen of Yemeni stock accused of having ties with al Qa'eda network in Yemen. The declaration also reproaches the Obama administration for not taking any measures against the members of the Bush administration who were implicated in war crimes.  

By Israeli and US standards, the big problem in the Arab region these days is Syria's weapons deliveries to the Lebanese resistance, stated the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial. Naturally, a number of European governments stood behind the US and Israel and started putting pressure on Damascus to stop its arms support for Hizbollah. "The Lebanese resistance has not fired a single bullet at Israel since the July 2006 war, so the hubbub about its weapons is hardly justified."

The Syrian foreign minister, Waleed al Mo'allem, has apparently had enough of foreign pressure on his country. During a meeting with his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, Mr al Mo'allem said his country will never accept to play "the role of the policeman" in Israel's interest by standing in the way of weapons shipped by third parties to resistance groups in southern Lebanon. "Basically, the US and Israel want Syria to play a similar role to that of Egypt in Gaza: that is, to enforce a military embargo on Hizbollah," stated the newspaper

"It is also quite absurd that the US and Israel should want Syria to be Israel's bodyguard without anything in return." Syria's stance thus makes perfect sense. And its stated endorsement of the resistance in Lebanon and Gaza further accentuates its big "No" to Israel's demands.  

Announcing the launch of the UAE's first comprehensive nutrition strategy, the executive director of health policy affairs at the ministry of health, Mahmoud Fikri, said: "The volume and rate of nutrition-related diseases is increasing, with 13 per cent of [Emirati] children suffering from obesity," reported Abeedli al Abeedli in the opinion pages of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat. While the UAE is the only Arab state that now has a nutrition strategy, the problem of malnutrition is rampant in the Arab world and it is only natural to link it to the skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the prices of food products rose by 8 per cent between 2005 and 2006, then jumped by 24 per cent the following year, and in the first three months of 2008 soared by 53 per cent compared to the first three months of 2007.

Meanwhile, new research has found that malnutrition also has to do with climate change. That is the point that Amal Saad, an environmental health professor at the national research centre in Cairo, corroborated by saying: "Climate change phenomena and global warming cause nutrition-related diseases to rise in developing nations." Indeed, further future aggravation of the problem of malnutrition in the Arab world must be anticipated and prepared for, starting now.

On Wednesday, the Mercer Foundation issued its survey on the quality of living around the world without a single Arab or Middle Eastern city making it to the top 50, wrote Hassan Haidar in the comment section of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat. Out of 221 surveyed cities, Baghdad predictably hit the bottom of the list as the least safe city. In fact, one day before the report was released, gunmen attacked a gold souq at the heart of the Iraqi capital and killed 14 people, some of them policemen.

Just as expected, no Yemeni city even figured on the list. Perhaps the Mercer Foundation's surveyors did not even bother going there and seeing what the once happy country looks like now. The international agency's report said living in Middle Eastern countries is still a subject of concern. Israel, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon were listed as cases justifying that apprehension. Tehran also ranked rather low, obviously weighed down by the violent clashes between protesters and government forces that followed the last presidential elections, but also due to the crackdown on freedom of expression and media control.

As to Gaza, if the UN relief employees dare stay there longer, that will be good enough. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi

Published: May 28, 2010 04:00 AM


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