Russian diplomacy is open to Hamas

Moscow believes in the possibility of achieving the demands by means of dialogue with the Islamic movement and also by integrating Hamas into the Palestinian political system, including the peace process.

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"Russia is doing in public what other quartet members are doing off the record." With these words, the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, responded to his critics about his meeting with the Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Meshaal, in Damascus in presence of the Syrian president Bashar al Assad, wrote Areeb al Rantawi in a comment piece for the Jordanian newspaper Addustoor.

Russia is not opposed to the demands of the other three members of the Quartet, though. It still asks Hamas to recognise the state of Israel, to accept previous agreements, and to stop violence. These are part and parcel of the Russian foreign policy regarding the Palestinian issue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general. Moscow, however, stands quite apart from other Quartet members in that it believes in the possibility of achieving these demands by means of dialogue with the Islamic movement and also by integrating Hamas into the Palestinian political system, including the peace process. "In this, the Kremlin does not require of Hamas to immediately comply with these demands as preconditions to open a dialogue." The Russians tend to take into account many geopolitical factors surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. It also gives an opportunity to Hamas to ponder on how to reconcile adopting an open policy and maintaining its resistance programme.

Seatea Noureddine, in an opinion article run by the Lebanese newspaper Assafir, commented on a seminar organised by Carnegie Middle East Centre on the Swiss experience in political and cultural pluralism management.

Noureddine quoted the former Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, addressing the three sources of violence that hit Switzerland during the 18th and 19th centuries. They were the sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants, social violence between rich and poor, and also between the rural areas and the city, in addition to violence involving population of various origins: Germans, French and Italians.

Mr Couchepin stressed in his speech that he did not intend to dictate to the Lebanese which path to take. Nor did he aim to provide the Lebanese with a ready-made recipe, He simply mentioned that he wanted to dissect how the Swiss experiences evolved to produce a federal system that is still maturing. Yet his message got through: priority should be given to nationhood at the expense of other considerations. This means that the Lebanese need to probe into things that would unify them and to reject those that potentially could promote sedition. He did not put it the discussion into the right political context: the presence of Israel, which has obstructed in one way or another Lebannon's natural growth.

In an opinion piece for the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej, Saad Mehio highlighted what he described as the most serious statement about the nature of the next Israeli war. He deplored the lack of interest by Arabs in such remarks by the Israeli air force commander Ido Nehoshtan in a conference held recently in Herzliya. Nehoshtan said Israel can deter both Hamas and Hizbollah, but he did not know whether military action would continue in the coming years.

He added that two organisations should bear in mind they have obligations towards themselves and citizens, "but it seems they care mostly about maintaining power", he said.  This implies two scenarios: First, Mr Nehoshtan called for immediate military action against Hizbollah and Hamas to prevent them from building up their missile arsenal. This is only possible now because once they completed their military structure, it would be hard to defeat them.

Second, Nehoshtan looked at these two organisations as no longer ordinary resistance movements, but rather ones with large popular support. This means the war may target civilians under the pretext of drying up a potential source of popular support. This can also take the form of removing the population from their homes or destroying vital infrastructures. For these reasons Hamas and Hizbollah must first care about the civilians' fate.

In a lead article for the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat, Tariq al Homayed warned against hidden war strategies adopted by Iran in the region. Al Homayed referred to recent reports on movements of leaders of Al Qa'eda to and from Iran, Saudi Arabia and remote tribal areas of northwest Pakistan. Iran is reportedly reviewing its policies in anticipation of a potential military confrontation with the US or Israel, or likely economic sanctions. Many fear that Tehran may resort to supporting terrorist operations through sleeper cells in many areas. This is reflected in the many successive news articles about the active existence of Iranian spy networks across the region.

A well-informed Iranian source told Asharq al Awsat  that Tehran had intelligently used al Qa'eda in Iraq and Afghanistan to harass the US  presence in the region. And  because of the present situation, Iran might again devise new tactics with the movement  in other areas. Many Arab countries, and especially those in the Gulf, tend to belittle these reports to avoid escalation with Iran, yet a pressing question is what is our strategy to avoid uncertainty? * Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi