Voices From The Arab Press: THE NEW ARAB SUMMIT IS OLD

In addition to widespread weakness within the Arab world, Israel’s stance in the region has been on the rise.

(FROM LEFT) Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Abul Gheit, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf attend the 30th Arab Summit in Tunisia on March 31. (photo credit: REUTERS)
(FROM LEFT) Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Abul Gheit, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf attend the 30th Arab Summit in Tunisia on March 31.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, April 3
The recently concluded Arab League Summit in Tunisia did not differ from any of the preceding summits. It adopted the same speech that accompanies every Arab League meeting: empty promises to the people and a raising of the ceiling of expectations, without any mechanisms or plans to implement or deliver these promises.
Still, some summits stand out due to the extenuating political events that unfold in their wake. The summit in Tunis took place just days after US President Donald Trump publicly recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights. Yet despite this unprecedented announcement, which serves as a direct insult to the Arab world, the Arab League failed to come up with a unified stance against Israel or the United States. It released a public statement on the matter and announced no tangible steps to combat it on the ground.
Sadly, this has become typical of the Arab League. From an organization that unites the Arab world, the League became a toothless organization that can barely generate symbolic statements. This decline in the effectiveness of the organization accelerated since the onset of the 2011 revolutions in the Arab world. Most of the League’s member states are disintegrated states. They face civil war, internal strife or political instability. Only a few Arab countries currently have the luxury of being preoccupied with the general Arab situation.
Yet this deterioration in effectiveness is taking place for other reasons, as well. In addition to widespread weakness within the Arab world, Israel’s stance in the region has been on the rise. In less than two decades, Israel has become a legitimate partner in several security, political and economic alliances and arrangements with Arab countries. Some are bilateral while others are multilateral. Regardless, Israel has emerged as a strong ally of Arab nations in the face of a knowingly aggressive Iran.
As a result of this fundamental shift in priorities, Arab consensus on decisions and developments directly related to Israel has been difficult to achieve. The asymmetrical interests that exist among the League’s member states prevent the organization from being an effective player in regional politics. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the only thing the League did in response to Trump’s recognition was to issue a written statement condemning the move. This statement lacked any actual moves or practical steps to reject the American position or push Washington back. In doing so, the Arab League proved once again that it is simply incapable of reacting to real events unfolding on the ground. – Sameh Rashed
Al-Etihad, UAE, April 4
India has already demonstrated its skill in both space exploration and the launch of satellites at a much lower cost than European countries and the United States. But the Asian nation has also shown another aspect of its power in space, proving that it is no less capable than superpowers such as the US, Russia or China, with regard to the space program. Last week, India conducted a successful test of its new anti-satellite missile system, becoming the fourth country in the world with such capabilities.
To mark this incredible milestone, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation about the achievement in a televised speech, which caused widespread confusion in the midst of a fierce election campaign. Modi explained that the missile had a range of about 300 kilometers from the ground and hit the satellite within three minutes of its launch, putting India in a club that includes America, Russia and China exclusively. In the wake of international criticism of this Indian move, Modi also made clear that the test, dubbed Mission Shakti, was not directed against any country. He assured the international community that India had always opposed the “weaponization of space” and that this test did not change its position in any way.
Despite Modi’s conciliatory messages, it is clear beyond any doubt that this test was meant to send a clear message to China. An official statement from the Indian Defense Ministry confirmed that the test had been part of “the responsibility of the Indian government to defend its interests in outer space” after China finished conducting a long series of anti-satellite experiments. India did not want to lag behind China. There was a great deal of criticism in India when China, in 2007, used a missile for the first time to destroy a satellite. Since then, India has been developing its own capabilities. Although New Delhi has been capable of launching such missiles for quite some time now, Modi proceeded with the test to gain political capital on the eve of the election.
The test demonstrated the strength and local nature of the Indian space program. India did not require any technical assistance for its missile, which was manufactured using Indian technology and using local capabilities. We will likely see India continue to push the boundary on space technology in the years to come. Modi has now vowed to continue exploring space by launching India’s first mission to Mars at a cost equivalent to about a tenth of the cost of the most recent US mission to the same planet. New Delhi is also working on launching a manned mission into space. In the meantime, the ability to destroy a satellite in outer space gives India an added advantage in its space program. This is meant to ensure its competitiveness with Beijing and dissuade any Chinese-Pakistani partnership in space. – Zaker al-Rahman
STUDENTS CHEER as they hold flags and placards to celebrate after India shot down one of its satellites in space with an anti-satellite missile in a test, in Ahmedabad, India, on March 27. (Reuters)STUDENTS CHEER as they hold flags and placards to celebrate after India shot down one of its satellites in space with an anti-satellite missile in a test, in Ahmedabad, India, on March 27. (Reuters)
Asharq al-Awsat, London, April 6
There are still those who believe that the international oil market is controlled solely by Saudi Arabia. One of these people is Dr. Fereidun Fesharaki, the founder and chairman of FGE, a global consulting group focusing on the oil and gas markets.
Whenever I hear him speak, Dr. Fesharaki emphasizes the fact that oil prices are at their current levels because the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia maintains them that way. Listening to Fesharaki’s lectures will leave one convinced that Saudi Arabia is the sole controller of the international oil market. But this is an unreasonable proposition, first and foremost because Saudi Arabia’s current oil output is about 10 million barrels per day, an amount that constitutes only 10% of the world’s daily production. This is a negligible ratio and one that is significantly lower than the Russian share of the global market.
So how is Saudi Arabia actually influential? In two ways: First, Saudi Arabia maintains a leadership position within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which provides Riyadh with at least some leverage over the international oil market. Second, Saudi Arabia commands a vast amount of proven oil reserves. This latter point has been somewhat contested in recent weeks, ahead of Aramco’s expected bond issuance. But unlike some pessimistic analysts, I am not extremely worried.
Commentators have warned that the Ghawar field, a major source of Aramco’s oil, might produce much less oil than estimated. But these numbers are fluid. The rate of decline in production at Ghawar is a maximum of 1% per year, while the global rate in other fields is 5%. In addition, even though Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves are smaller than those of Venezuela, the kingdom maintains a higher productivity in the extraction of oil. Not only that, but the quality of its oil is much richer. Furthermore, Aramco has diversified its fields and now relies on a group of fields that complement each other to reach Saudi Arabia’s maximum production capacity of 12 million barrels. Technological inventions will likely push extraction levels even further.
Yet despite these huge reserves, the recent debate over Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves should teach us one thing: that even if we remain a major oil producer for decades, we will not have oil forever. Therefore, we must continue diversifying sources of income. This requires major shifts in the way we think about our economy. – Wael Mahdi
Al Jazeera, Qatar, April 5
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a massive political beating this week, after his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), lost the vote in Istanbul, Ankara and several other Turkish cities. This loss carries significant repercussions not only for Erdogan’s political future, but for the entire set of policies he has promoted – namely, the effort to use Islam as a justification for the oppression of anyone who disagrees with him.
The loss of major Turkish cities in the election is of particular concern to Erdogan, since these are the stronghold of Turkish elites and intelligentsia. Furthermore, the opposition’s victory in these cities gave Erdogan’s political opponents renewed confidence in themselves and their ability to oust the president. Many pundits believe that this election is a watershed moment in Turkish politics, marking the beginning of Erdogan’s end. Following this defeat, Erdogan’s party is expected to face significant challenges.
As one specialist explains, many AKP members see Erdogan as exaggerating and overstepping the boundaries of objectivity and rationality. His extreme actions resulted in significant harm to the Turkish economy, including the creation of sharp inflation amounting to more than 20% annually, and a high unemployment rate, standing at 19%. The Turkish lira lost two thirds of its value compared to the US dollar.
These are several reasons the Turkish people took to the ballots and voted against Erdogan. Erdogan acknowledged the economy’s dire situation and promised to fix it. However, the political battles he has waged on behalf of his country are multifaceted, complicated and time-consuming.
He will also need to restore the confidence he lost due to his reckless and foolish behavior. There have also been growing complaints in Turkey about Erdogan’s corruption, especially as his son Bilal recently came under investigation in Italy for widespread money laundering.
All of these developments pose grave political challenges for Erdogan. Even for an invincible president, this setback might be one too much to recover from. – Muhammad al-Sheikh
The Media Line