Iraqis bid farewell to sectarianism

The victory of Ayad Allawi proved that Iraqis have grown aware that sectarianism was the greatest risk threatening the stability of their country.

The victory of Ayad Allawi proved that Iraqis have grown aware that sectarianism was the greatest risk threatening the stability of their country, wrote Sallah al Qallab in a comment article for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda. The election crowned the success of a non-sectarian alliance approach. "Mr Allawi is Shiite, an Arab nationalist and also secular. But he earned the trust of Sunni voters, other nationalists and also various Iraqis from different ends of the social spectrum. This is why it is possible to conclude an agreement with Kurdistan's political forces, mainly Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, which potentially could help avoid future divisions."

The present prime minister Nouri al Maliki is less likely to maintain his position as head of the government and his sectarian appeal is fading away. This started two years ago when the Iraqi army launched an operation against the Mahdi militia. Now that the election has brought a new political reality, it is time for Mr Allawi to continue along the non-sectarian path in order to form a "national salvation government". This would require him to forget past feuds and open the door for both Mr al Maliki and the Kurdish alliances to ensure an optimal atmosphere for Iraq to address future challenges.

"The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, has asked whether the stalled peace process in the Middle East is still relevant after the Israeli government has appeared unwilling to pursue a peace conducive to establishing the two-state solution," the UAE newspaper Akhbar Al Arab wrote in its editorial. This call does not urge Arabs to declare war, but invites them to think of means other than negotiations, especially after the US appears less committed to imposing pressure on Israel to halt settlement expansion.

Among the alternatives is to provide support to the Palestinians, and especially to the popular resistance. Is not that a better choice than waiting until the Israeli government occupies the rest of the land? Is not severing ties with Israel better than the irresponsible actions of the Israeli government, which has assumed that Arabs are not able to exercise their role on the Palestinian issue? There are many alternatives but the foremost is to break relations with Israel and boycott normalisation. Encouraging national reconciliation is the right step to empower Palestinians in order to engage in a political battle against the Israelis. This should serve as an alternative that replaces past Arab policies aimed at forcing Palestinians to enter into talks with the Israelis.

"In his latest statement, the Syrian president Bashar Assad reaffirmed his country's view of Lebanon as a fully sovereign state, and that Damascus has no intention to interfere in its internal affairs," wrote Bassam al Dhaw in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. "Syria, he said, is interested in promoting co-operation with Lebanon in regard to Arab, regional and international issues."

Mr Assad has demonstrated a sensible and realistic policy, which Lebanon needs. In fact, it will benefit Beirut more than Damascus as it has suffered from years of mutual animosity incited by the US, which resulted in tragic developments. The present rapprochement between Beirut and Damascus confirmed a growing awareness of the special situation of Lebanon, and this was clearly stated by Mr Assad when he said that Syria did not not want to meddle in Lebanese affairs but to encourage co-operation. "As observers, we can expect stronger relations between Syria and Lebanon soon, and local Lebanese forces are likely to engage in new relations with a new political discourse that considers Syria and Lebanon as partners."

Mohammed Sadiq Diyab, in a comment for the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat, described press freedom as valuing credibility, a rational attitude and objectivity, and avoiding sensationalism.

"This way the press can fairly report to the community what is happening, and how and why an event happened. If we consider the Saudi press as an example, we can see that it has managed in recent years to play a vital role in providing coverage on many core issues, such as extremism, corruption, bureaucracy, justice and human rights." This has led many to believe in the important role of the press as a platform to express opinions. "And I believe the Saudi leadership is proud about the achievements of the Saudi press."

With the existence of a free and responsible press, public servants who are performing well will feel empowered, while the ones not performing well will feel they are under a system of accountability. Freedom of press governed by law and ethics will encourage more commitment to excellence. "I say this not only to hail the success of the Saudi press but also to point to this promising experience which can develop further in the future and be a sound tool for development."

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi