Lebanon must choose secularism to succeed

Lebanon is presently caught in a bottleneck. The Lebanese can no longer pretend that they are capable of co-existence, says Hassan Younes in an opinion article for the Qatari daily Al Watan. It is not the citizens but rather their politicians that promote sectarianism to safeguard interests. The time has come to divide the country. Those who talk about co-existence do nothing but push in the direction of a new civil war that would be more devastating than the last.

Unfortunately, politicians find a large base of supporters in their respective sects. Division looms unless a fundamental change occurs, such as a military uprising to purge the political scene and lay the grounds for a new era based on citizenship and not sectarianism. Lebanon needs new secular laws that incriminate political mobilisation along confessional lines. The time is ripe for change or Lebanon will always remain prey to crises and wars. In the absence of a comprehensive revision of laws, the ideal solution would be to divide the country into sectarian provinces.

Lebanon's only bid for recovery or prosperity can only be achieved through a genuine democratic system that emphasises citizenship rights notwithstanding religious or sectarian considerations.

Clinton stirs anger with Israel comments 

Former US president Bill Clinton inadvertently condemned Israel recently when he said that 16 per cent of Israelis still speak Russian, as it was their mother tongue prior to migration to Israel 20 years ago, says the Emirati daily Akhbar Al Arab in its editorial.

Mr Clinton was only saying the truth, which seems to hurt the international conscience and pro-Zionists that have tried to convince the world that Israel is the land of the Jews. Clinton added that Russian immigrants in Israel hinder chances for peace. He explained that one million Russian immigrants streamed into Israel after 1989. They are extremely radical and strongly oppose the division of territories.

Evidently, Mr Clinton's discourse was met with severe criticism in Israel. But this could mean only one thing: Israeli history is based on quicksand. It has no firm foundation and no clear future to move forward to. Israel seeks to remedy its alienation by alternately identifying with the west or east. How can a state be built on lies, asks the newspaper? It concludes, saying that Israel is currently at a historical and religious impasse.

Iran must look to settle with America 

Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Russian Bolshevik revolution once said: "History only provides a few opportunities for successful revolutions." In his opinion article for the Emirati daily Al Khaleej, Saad Mehio says that Iran is now ripe for such an moment, not for a new revolution but rather for a transition from this era of revolution to one of statehood. That could be achieved through a major deal with the US.

The timing is supported by two significant developments: firstly, Iran's regional gains from US military and political setbacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and the Islamic world. Secondly, the Obama administration's eagerness to end the region's armed conflict and replace it with a long-term political strategy. Obama's reticence to opt for a military strike against Iran proves that he is prepared to discuss a deal.

The state of Iran's economy must also encourage Tehran to look more seriously into a possible compromise. The impact of international economic sanctions is being felt. Despite all Iranian claims to the contrary, the country is in dire need of western technology. Tehran's dependence on China and Turkey is also in jeopardy, as both nations would readily turn their backs on it for bigger stakes with the US.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must put this into perspective and grab this rare opportunity for a much-needed compromise with the US.

Saudi weighs in on Iraq security cooperation 

Tareq al Homayed, editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat commented on a recent statement by Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi's second deputy prime minister and minister of interior on Saudi-Iraq ties. He spoke at the closing of a ministerial meeting of Iraq's friends in Bahrain.

Prince Nayef said that security relations between Saudi and Iraq are evolving. Despite current circumstances that hinder full cooperation on the part of Baghdad, Saudi is fully prepared to co-operate with Iraq on security matters, without reservation. Such statements are highly significant as they come at a time when Iraq is undergoing challenges no less serious than those posed at the fall of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

With the withdrawal of US forces and the many stumbling blocks in the formation of a viable government, various sides are multiplying efforts to intervene in the formation of the awaited government. Prince Nayef's statements confirm that Riyadh is aware that Iraq's security and stability are vital for Saudi's security. This is especially so given that borders between both countries are used for the smuggling of weapons, drugs and terrorists, all of which no less dangerous for Saudis than they are for Iraqis.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem

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Based: Dubai
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