Sanctions on Iran are subject to haggling

After four years of intensive diplomacy to thwart Iran's nuclear programme, the US is preparing to enter a decisive battle through the UN Security Council to impose tighter economic sanctions, wrote Ahmad Amrabi in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

After four years of intensive diplomacy to thwart Iran's nuclear programme, the US is preparing to enter a decisive battle through the UN Security Council to impose tighter economic sanctions, wrote Ahmad Amrabi in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. Leading the western campaign against Iran for years, the US has always wanted to avoid military action in favour of strict sanctions that would coerce the Iranian regime to eventually surrender and accept a compromise solution.

To go ahead with this plan, the US needs first to seek an international consensus on the matter that would lead to the issuance of a UN resolution. That, however, is not as easy a step as it may seem. The US is expected to increase its efforts to persuade both China and Russia to endorse a future draft resolution against Iran, or at least to take a neutral stance by not using their right to veto. "The likely scenario is an ideological battle motivated by economic interests between, on the one hand, Russia and China, and the US backed by the UK and France, on the other." Because Washington broke its economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran a long time ago, it has fewer vital interests compared to the Russians and Chinese who have always pushed for diplomacy and may seriously try to mitigate the sanctions if approved.

"I only can understand the campaign against the Iraqi politician Ayad Allawi by the Al Dawa party in light of his visit to Saudi Arabia at a time when Nouri al Maliki's government was isolated," observed Tariq Alhomayed in a comment piece in the London-based newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat. "This has become a matter of concern for the ruling State of Law Coalition in the run-up days to the election."

At issue is that Mr al Maliki's government relations with the Arab world are not based on trust. This led the prime minister, in a statement to the Al Hurra TV channel, to say that movements of the leaders of electoral lists and their meetings with some Arab heads of state put into question the very concept of nationhood through which different Iraqi political forces can deal with each other. "Criticising Mr Allawi could be acceptable if he visited only Saudi Arabia, but he also visited Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar and Lebanon. The question, perhaps, that Iraqis need to ask: can Mr al Maliki or his allies undertake similar visits? I doubt it and that the easiest visits done by his government were usually to Iran." This is what Iraqis should bear in mind while they are about to take part in the upcoming elections, away from the naive claim that Mr Allawi visited Saudi Arabia to seek support or to involve the kingdom in Iraq's internal affairs.

The visit to Paris by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was timely because it drew attention to the Palestinian cause after the assassination of the Hamas leader Mahmoud al Mabhouh at a time when the focus was on the Iranian issue, noted the UAE newspaper Akhbar al Arab in its editorial.

The objective of the visit was sound as seen in the very encouraging statements of the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who expressed an enthusiastic attitude towards the establishment of a Palestinian state that France would recognise. The French president Nicloas Sarkozy was a little bit more cautious in affirming France's official stance toward the recognition of a Palestinian state. In fact, Mr Sarkozy was very conscious not to fall into a clash with Israel.

Overall, the French attitude for the moment is enough for Arabs to start laying the foundation of a Palestinian state before a shift of attention again goes to Iran. Arabs can also benefit from the Iranian issue since the US is not willing to take any action against Tehran without their approval. So it is very desirable to use this diplomatic card to obtain documented guarantees conducive toward Palestinian national sovereignty. Without international guarantees, it is less likely the Palestinian crisis will see a breakthrough. Addressing this issue, President Sarkozy warned that the status quo could trigger a new intifada.

"Lebanese followed with interest a special session of parliament on a draft law to lower the legal voting age from 21 to 18. On the sidelines of the discussion, which mostly were not convincing, young men and women carried banners urging parliamentarians to pass the bill," wrote Subhi Zuaytar in a comment piece run by the Saudi newspaper Al Watan.

After long debates, the parliament resolved to reject the proposal, giving a blow to a great portion of Lebanese society, who dreamt of taking part in the democratic process. Members of parliament who presented the draft law claimed that they were defending the interests of a segment of society, who at 18 can work, get a driver licence and join the army. Moreover, women at that age can also live independently from their families. For these reasons, they have the right to choose their representatives in the parliament as well as in local councils.

Parliamentarians who did not categorically oppose the bill said they were with it in principle, but they linked it with the so-called the right of expatriates to vote. "Having said this, I believe young Lebanese were the victims of a conspiracy by the parliament, whose members are the by-product of sectarianism in Lebanon." * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi