Despite the dangers of terrorism in the Arab world, authorities have learned the valuable lesson of always making information accessible to public opinion and never wavering on credibility, wrote Treq Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat. Through honesty, security authorities were able to reach people and gain their trust. However, the approach taken recently to deal with the BlackBerry crisis remains puzzling.
More than one million people in the UAE and Saudi Arabia use BlackBerry services. They are requesting clarifications on the decision to ban the services they've come to rely upon so much. People need reasons to accept and support the decision, especially if the issue pertains to security matters. In fact, the BlackBerry ban affects an entire economic sector. Users could find themselves unable to conduct business and cut off from loved ones around the world. "What is confusing is that there hasn't been any information, other than the UAE ambassador to Washington's statement that his country wants equal treatment as the US." Authorities in both countries should explain the facts and deal with the issue.
"All indications point to the fact that Iran has started to sense the implications of the international sanctions," wrote Saad Mehio in a comment piece for the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej.
The fourth package of punitive measures has hit key sectors in the Iranian economy, mainly finance, energy, trade and transport. The implementation of sanctions came at a time when Tehran needed to cut state subsidies on basic commodities that cost $70 billion annually, while its defence allotment had seen a steady increase. So could these developments force Iran to pursue policy more friendly to the West? The latest Iranian statements by the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have hinted at that. He suggested holding direct talks with the US president Barack Obama, and resuming unconditional negotiations with major countries.
The West seemed to have disregarded the Iranian proposal by demanding that Tehran comply with three more requirements: to put strict limits on the amount of enriched uranium allowed to be stored, to accept full international monitoring of its nuclear programme, and to prove that it has no policy to possess a nuclear bomb. Tehran described this response as irrational, prompting many to think that the present sanctions have already shown results and might change the rules of the game.
France may have felt embarrassed, as military intervention to contain terrorism along the borders between Mali and Mauritania failed to achieve its goals, wrote Mohammed al Achab in a comment piece for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. Paris faced a dilemma. Because the Coastal Sahara has been traditionally a region of French influence, France could not remain indifferent to what happened there. This interest has grown even more as French citizens have been kidnapped and killed. But at the same time, Paris is no longer the only player.
The situation in the region has also attracted the attention of the EU judiciary, which strongly criticised European countries for not alerting tourists of such risky spots, and for not drafting a long-term policy to handle terrorism. Such a gap has similarly attracted many regional and international parties vying to fill it, and this is seen Algeria's active diplomacy to settle the issue. Algiers believes it is entitled to do so given its geopolitical position. Other African countries have emerged eager to have a stake in the issue. The repercussions of such relations have triggered the latest political debates in Mauritania. Another challenge for French "stewardship policy" in the region comes from the Americans, who carried out military exercises as part of the US strategy to counter terrorism.
In a comment article for the UAE newspaper Emirates Today, Najeeb al Shamsi criticised the role of the commercial banks in the country, characterising it as negative.
"Such banks are channels for exporting capital and investment outside the country's economic circle, and are nearly absent as development partners. Moreover, they are not committed to providing opportunities for talented Emirati graduates. "Banks are involved in a risky practice of drowning the local market with consumer loans that have exceeded limits and started affecting the stability of the individual, the family and the community as a whole."
Some commercial financial institutions have resorted to "hunting" customers even though they are indebted to other banks. More than that, they require their customers to pay high monthly premiums. A segment of Emiratis are trapped because of this policy and remain hostage to banks. "I would like to stress, however, that I am not against borrowing, but this should be regulated by a specific mechanism based on actual need. Moreover, the loan size should be rational, while the monthly premium must not exceed half of the salary."
* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem email@example.com