Voices from the Arab press: corruption is our real threat

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

UNITED NATIONS Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeepers watch as Israeli workers build a wall near the border with Israel, near the village of Naqoura, Lebanon, early March 2018 (photo credit: ALI HASHISHO/REUTERS)
UNITED NATIONS Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeepers watch as Israeli workers build a wall near the border with Israel, near the village of Naqoura, Lebanon, early March 2018
(photo credit: ALI HASHISHO/REUTERS)
Corruption is our real threat
Al-Mada, Iraq, March 13
With the parliamentary elections set to take place in Iraq in less than a month, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has been gearing up his campaign and ramping up his public appearances.
In a recent speech in Baghdad, Abadi proudly announced that the Iraqi military has successfully defeated the last remaining Islamic State forces in Iraq. Whether this claim is backed by facts on the ground or not remains to be seen. Yet it is clear that the prime minister is trying to appeal to the masses and convince them that he is worthy of reelection.
I would suggest that instead of addressing the terrorism threat, to which we have been devoting most of our resources and attention, Abadi begin addressing the true existential threat that emanates from within our society: bribery and corruption.
Unlike terrorists, corrupt politicians in Iraq are not on the run. They need not hide or escape from the authorities. They carry out their crimes and weaken our society out in the open, without being held accountable for their actions.
Notable experts have already pointed out the enormous cost of corruption in Iraq. Some estimate that the Iraqi government is losing over $1 million a day from the evasion of taxes and tariffs on products being illegally smuggled through our borders.
Abadi and his government have not done enough to tackle this phenomenon. They talk about it but fail to fix the situation. We are sick and tired of hearing the same old excuses – “It’s complicated, it takes time,” and so forth.
It’s time to take action. If we can fight and successfully defeat terrorism, then we can certainly fight and defeat bribery and corruption.
Udnan Hussein
Counter-terrorism efforts deserve praise
Al-Watan, Egypt, March 18
The Egyptian government has not been getting the credit it deserves for its counterterrorism efforts, despite fighting the war on terrorism on behalf of the entire Arab world.
On its eastern border, in the Sinai Peninsula, and on its western border, alongside Libya, Egypt has been facing incessant attacks carried out by armed militia groups. These terrorists seek to turn not only Egypt but the entire Middle East into a war zone ruled by armed rebels and governed by Islamic law. Sadly, we have already witnessed this happening in places such as Syria and Yemen and, to a great degree, in countries such as Iraq and Lebanon more recently.
In order to protect their country’s sovereignty and the sovereignty of all free nations in the region, the Egyptian armed forces have invested great efforts in fighting and dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in these regions.
These proved to be challenging tasks, however. Sinai alone has become a breeding ground for terrorism, after groups such as Islamic State established an extensive array of bases, tunnels and weapons caches throughout the area. It is from these bases that armed rebels conducted the infamous attack on the Al-Rawda mosque last November, killing over 300 innocent worshipers during their Friday prayers.
In the past few weeks, the Egyptian government launched its biggest-ever operation aimed at eradicating terrorism, with forces across all branches – from the air force to the border police – working together to target terrorist hotbeds.
If Egypt fails in its effort to restore stability to its borders, then the entire region will fail. With the largest army in the Middle East and the most sophisticated counterterrorism strategies, it is up to Cairo to stop these groups from extending their footholds in the region.
The Arab world would be wise to recognize this reality and aid the Egyptian government in its efforts.
Suan al-Shaer
Why a war between Lebanon and Israel might become inevitable
Asharq al-Awsat, London, March 15
Although a war between Lebanon and Israel is not looming in the immediate future, its occurrence seems to become more and more likely. Several factors are at play here.
First and foremost, many of Hezbollah’s fighters who have been actively fighting against ISIS in Syria have begun returning home to Lebanon in recent month. Victorious and boastful following their successful endeavors abroad, these fighters are hungry to continue fighting and enhancing their military achievements. Israel, their enemy on the southern border, seems to be the inevitable adversary to target next.
Second, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon – the peacekeeping body tasked with protecting the border between Lebanon and Israel – has been growing increasingly ineffective at stopping Hezbollah from reestablishing its presence along the border. UNIFIL forces have indicated in recent months that Hezbollah fighters barred them from accessing certain villages and roads, in an effort to reestablish their military bases that were destroyed in the last round of fighting with Israel.
To make matters worse, UNIFIL has come under close scrutiny for its supposed collaboration with Hezbollah, after several arms smuggling attempts were revealed, and subsequently thwarted, by Israel.
The American ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, recently announced Washington’s plan to cut UNIFIL’s budget by half, making it more difficult for the organization to continue operating effectively.
Meanwhile, policy-makers in Beirut remain preoccupied with their own political deadlock, with elections to the parliament set to take place in May.
Israel, in turn, has been working to erect a fence along its northern border similar to the one built around the Gaza Strip. This barricade will make it harder for Hezbollah operatives in the collection of information on Israeli forces and posts. Most importantly, it is viewed as an act of provocation that infringes on Lebanon’s sovereignty.
For these reasons, it seems almost inevitable that tensions between the two countries could increase and reach an all-time low, pushing Hezbollah and the Israeli army into direct confrontation.
This is unlikely to happen before the May elections in Lebanon, but the region has already seen bloody wars break out during the summer months. It remains to be seen where we’re headed, but a next round of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel might be closer than we think.
Ada al-Hussein
Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, March 19
As the Arab boycott on Qatar enters its ninth month, now is a good time to stop and reflect on where the future relationship of Gulf countries is headed.
Qatari officials have been working hard to portray their country as a helpless victim put under siege by its belligerent neighbors. Others have expressed their hope that the American administration will come to Qatar’s rescue and demand the lifting of the siege on Doha.
Both of these claims are ludicrous. Trump’s administration is very much different than that of Obama, and the current president has no interest in intervening in internal Gulf affairs. What’s more, the Americans have no interest in saving Qatar. As the strategic relationship between Washington and Riyadh grows tighter and tighter, it becomes less likely that President Trump will do anything to undermine the Arab boycott.
Meanwhile, Gulf states Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have absolutely nothing to lose. Their economies continue to operate unhindered, while Qatar finally pays the price for its belligerent actions: it has lost its main trade partners, it is at risk of losing the right of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and it is becoming increasingly isolated.
The only way for the Qatari government to remove the siege placed upon it nine months ago is to reform its political system and cease its interference in other countries’ affairs.
Most notably, the Qatari people must demand of their current leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al- Thani, to begin listening to the calls of the public and democratize the country, instead of blindly following the orders of his father, Hamad bin Khalifa, whose vision for the country does not align with the 21st century.
Qatar can easily normalize its ties with its neighbors and restore its economy. The change, however, must come from within. 
Muhammad al-Sheikh