Hamas is now open for dialogue with the US

This isn't the first time that Hamas has expressed a desire to converse with the US, wrote Ali Ibrahim in an opinion article for pan-Arab daily Al Sharq al Awsat.

This isn't the first time that Hamas has expressed a desire to converse with the US, wrote Ali Ibrahim in an opinion article for pan-Arab daily Al Sharq al Awsat. What is new this time, however, is that Hamas insisted on sending a direct message to the US president Barack Obama inviting him to a direct dialogue in order to remove the US veto on Palestinian reconciliation. Hamas made sure to confirm its acceptance of a Palestinian state on the 1967 border lines, which puts it in harmony with its rival, the Palestinian Authority.

If that is the group's position, then what was the origin of the conflict between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which led to a bloody coup and a sharp national schism? The plausible explanation for this change of heart could be that Hamas doesn't want to be sidelined in the ongoing direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority's president Mahmud Abbas and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, especially since Washington seems adamant to reach a comprehensive and final solution to the Middle East crisis. The problem, however, isn't the dialogue in itself but the dialogue's requirements and whether Hamas is prepared to meet them. The group needs to modify many of its previous positions in order to gain the necessary credibility for a political future in the proposed Palestinian state.

Some Gulf countries are facing an alarming sectarian crisis that has started to surface and generate a state of accelerated mobilisation in conservative communities that have always tried to conceal and contain their conflicts, declared Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

Just recently, Kuwaiti authorities revoked the nationality of the Shiite activist Yasser al Habib's Kuwaiti for defaming religious symbols and accused him of spreading sedition in the country. A week earlier, Bahraini authorities took similar measures and revoked the nationality of Ali al Sistani's representative in Manama. This sectarian escalation coincides with two essential issues: first, the increasing possibility of a US-Israeli military strike on Iran and reports of Gulf states siding with the US camp. Second, the aggravation of such conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon between Shiites and Sunnis.

The revoking of nationality is the highest ultimatum a state can give to extremists. Meanwhile sedition, whether generated by Shiite or Sunni fanatics, is the biggest threat to the stability and security of Gulf countries. Religious sedition means division and opens the way to the interference of foreign powers. Wisdom is of the essence in dealing with the situation. This must be coupled with a high degree of restraint, especially among Kuwaiti Sunnis in order to abort any dissident plots.

In an article for Emirati daily Al Khaleej, Saad Mehio wondered which scenario would the US president Barack Obama opt for in preparation for his next election battle: a full-fledged war with Iran or a major deal with it in the framework of a new regional order. Alternatively, he could await internal explosions among the countries in the region. In fact, all opinion polls indicate that he will suffer a major political setback in the upcoming legislative elections. Republicans in a new majority impede any economic or social plans the White House might propose. Obama's only remaining stronghold would be foreign policy. It grants him the freedom to act without fear of congressional opposition, especially if the matters at hand pertain to US national security.

Every US president's aim is to secure a second term and Mr Obama is no exception to this rule. If he were to decide on a war on Iran, public opinion reaction would be uncertain, which would jeopardise his chances. He could opt for awaiting events, but time is not in his favour and he needs a big foreign policy achievement that would set him up for the new elections. The third option remaining is to make a major deal. Will Mr Obama make this breakthrough step with Iran or will Israeli, American and Iranian extremists beat him to an escalation of the situation?

Political activity in Iraq can be described as tedious, stated the Emirati daily Al Bayan in its editorial. This is the feeling of Iraqis as well as Iraq's surrounding Arab countries that are hoping for political stability so the country can focus on building its own institutions and easing the suffering of its people. The events that followed the last legislative elections indicate that the powers to be in Iraq have lost their compass and are unable to determine their next steps. All parties to the conflict that has been paralysing the country for months are acting as if they have all the time in the world and people are living in an unprecedented state of prosperity.

Politicians don't hesitate to resort to desperate manoeuvres to serve their own interests while their country is continuously shaken by explosions and assassinations. What is seen of Iraq in the media is heart wrenching and calls for the immediate intervention of honest people to save the country and the people from the hands of those who put their personal allegiances before the interests of their nation.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem @Email:rmakarem@thenational.ae