A very important exchange took place between a top-level official from a Gulf state and the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a recent meeting in Tehran, reported Abdul Rahman al Rashed, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat. "How come you believe that we are intending to build a nuclear bomb? We are not that stupid," the writer quoted the Iranian president as saying, citing a reliable source. "Were we to strike Israel with a nuclear weapon, more Palestinians than Israelis would likely get killed."
"This is remarkable statement," the columnist claimed. "It reflects a great deal of logic and political wisdom. But we all know that intentions are not measured by statements, and that talk does not match fact in Iran." The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been cautious so far in its handling of Iran's nuclear programme so as not to fall victim to political cross-interests, announced last week that there was new evidence that Iran is moving towards building a nuclear weapon.
The agency may be wrong, and it may be seeking to please the Americans. So to make way for a decisive conclusion, Iran must open its nuclear facilities for hands-on inspection. "We are not afraid of Iran's nuclear bomb, but we are concerned about the mentality of the current regime in Tehran."
The Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak has yet again made incendiary statements, and yet again every single phrase he said needs thorough parsing, wrote Saad Mehio, a columnist with the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej. Earlier this month, the highest-ranking military official in Israel said: "No peace with Syria could mean war." And now, before the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organisations in Jerusalem, Ehud Barak elucidated his idea of peace when he referred to the Syrian president: "Bashar Assad must sit at the negotiating table as soon as possible, and we all know what's there on the table. The time is now.
"That wasn't a slip of the tongue of course; it rather was a plain message, unequivocal and sharp," the columnist wrote. The message sums up Israel's demands: a full peace deal like the one sealed under the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, whereby the latter had to pull his country out of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel seemed to have decided that it was high time it offered Damascus one of two choices: either join the axis composed of Israel, the US and the moderate Arab states or form a liable and explicit front with Tehran. This second choice would give Israel the chance to use Syria as a gateway to a regional war in the Middle East to reset its strategic balance.
The murder of the Hamas commander Mahmoud al Mabhouh last month in Dubai has suddenly turned from a triumphant stealth hit trumpeted by the Israeli media to a scandal exposing the failings of the Israeli secret service right after the Dubai police made public a detailed reconstitution of the assassination last week, wrote Galal Aref in the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan.
The myth of Mossad's success was indeed uncovered, leading those same voices that sung of the dexterity of the Israeli secret services to call for the dismissal of the head of Mossad. The Israeli disgrace actually turned into an international scandal after it was found that the members of the hit squad entered Dubai using genuine British, Irish, French and German passports. "This is very serious because it means that Israel has received those passports as part of collaborative operations with European secret services that knew, without doubt, they weren't going to be used for tourism." The sequel to the murder became more dramatic still after the European passports turned out to belong to actual Israeli citizens who had nothing to do with the crime. Some of them have never seen Dubai or travelled outside Israel in the past couple of years.
"Mohamed ElBaradei is not likely to run for president in next year's Egyptian elections, and even if he decides to do so, amendments that have been introduced to the Egyptian constitution preclude the likelihood of his candidacy anyway," wrote Mazen Hammad in the comment section of the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. "In sum, he doesn't embody the official criteria that make him eligible to vie for the president's chair."
Early this year, only a few days before his mandate as director of the International Atomic Energy Agency expired, Mr ElBaradei declared that he will consider running for president only if there were guarantees that the elections would be free, under the aegis of the judiciary and in the presence of international observers. But the Egyptian authorities have already rejected all these criteria. Moreover, Mr ElBararadei, who spent most of his professional life in Europe, does not belong to any political party, while Egyptian elections law stipulates that candidates for the presidency must be members of one of the nationally recognised parties and their membership must be effective for at least one year prior to the elections. Thus, the ElBaradei phenomenon, which has a lot of Egyptians dreaming, is doomed to vanish in the real world.
* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi @Email:email@example.com