Voices from the Arab press: Weekly selection and analyses from Arab media

The Lebanese people are busy complaining about the disintegration of their society, yet they refuse to take action against the source of this threat.

Kurds celebrate to show their support for the independence referendum in Duhok, Iraq, September 26, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Kurds celebrate to show their support for the independence referendum in Duhok, Iraq, September 26, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Quds al-Arabi, London, September 21
“As Iraq’s Kurds geared up and prepared for their referendum on independence, several actors in the region were keeping a close watch on the developments in Erbil. Indeed, many political pundits believe that the establishment of an independent Kurdish state will change the face of the region in years to come, affecting not only Iraq, but other countries in the Middle East.
“The resistance against the referendum is understandable. It consists of two main groups. The first are those who reject Kurdish independence altogether for ideological reasons. This includes countries like Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. The second are those who do not oppose the Kurdish self-determination movement per se, but rather fear the consequences of a Kurdish declaration of independence. Given this reality, there is no doubt that any Kurdish action will be met with fierce resistance.
“Iran has already declared its plans to shut down the borders with any newly formed Kurdish state, leading to its economic suffocation. It has also threatened to take military action against the Kurdish government. Turkey, meanwhile, has kept a much more ambiguous stance. It undoubtedly views the Kurdish referendum as an unnecessary headache, but also sees a potential in partnering with a new ally on its border. Ankara’s relations with its neighbors have not been very positive in recent years. The war in Syria and the tensions with Russia have put Turkey at odds with many of its allies in the region. Thus, establishing full-fledged diplomatic relations with a new ally – an independent Kurdistan – will not only secure Turkey’s borders, but also help placate its own Kurdish population at home.
“It is therefore likely that despite their mutual rejection of the referendum, Turkey and Iran will not react in the same way to a Kurdish declaration of independence. This should provide a glimmer of hope to Masoud Barzani and his friends at the Kurdish Regional Government, who can use this in their favor. Only time will tell whether the Kurdish people will move forward with their plan, but the political conditions might be in their favor.” – Baker Sidqi
El-Khabar, Algeria, September 19
“Six years have passed since the Arab Spring and Algeria is still struggling to mend its broken political system and restore stability in the country. Algerian society is still plagued by deep mistrust among its various political players, who seek to discredit and weaken one another.
“These tensions have been exacerbated even more in recent months, after serious concerns were raised over the health situation of the country’s current president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Bouteflika, who led Algeria since 1999, has not been seen in public for several months and televised footage of him appears to be highly edited. This led to many rumors regarding the health of the 80-year-old president, sparking a new divide within Algerian society, between those supporting the leader and those calling him to step down.
“There is surely a legal backing to the people’s demand to see the president go. The Algerian constitution clearly stipulates that if the country’s leader ever becomes incapacitated or unable to fulfill his duties, he or she must step down and delegate authority to a deputy. Bouteflika, however, insists on staying in power. His proponents insist that the president is still functioning and performing his daily duties.
“Still, an unexpected turn of events took place in recent months, when the Algerian Armed Forces decided to side with the president’s opponents, publicly advocating for Bouteflika’s replacement. Rank-and-file Algerians have since looked at the Ministry of Defense with the hope of solving the growing political crisis in the country. Military generals have won the respect and admiration of the public, which now view their commanders as political elites. But this is a dangerous development. Algeria cannot afford to become a military dictatorship. The role of the Algerian Army is to protect the country’s borders and ensure the regime’s stability; not to replace the acting head of state.
“Algerians have worked and aspired to build a better future for themselves for many decades. What they need is a functioning democracy, not a strong military junta. Although the Algerian Army enjoys widespread popularity, the solution lies within the political system. The Army must remain uninvolved.” – Tawfik Rabhi
Asharq al-Awsat, London, September 21
“A few weeks ago the Lebanese Army signed a peculiar cease-fire deal with the Islamic State, allowing the latter to retrieve its forces from the Lebanese border and relocate them to the Iraqi one. Several eyebrows were raised over the decision to simply allow the move of ISIS militias from one border to another, without eliminating the threat at its core.
“It was soon discovered that the deal was negotiated by none other than Hezbollah, which once again placed its own interests above those of the Lebanese people.
Now, several reports indicate that Hezbollah has taken its effort even a step further, by actively importing Shi’ite fighters from Iraq into Lebanon. Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah worked closely with Iranian forces present in Syria to facilitate this exchange of fighters in an effort to strengthen Hezbollah’s force in Lebanon.
“According to several sources, over 1,000 Iraqi fighters have already landed in Lebanon, and have been quickly resettled in Hezbollah installations throughout the southern parts of the country. There, they began training together with Hezbollah forces. What is most shocking about this effort is the fact that it is taking place right beneath the nose of the Lebanese people.
“As Europe grows more and more concerned with its own terrorism threat at home, Gulf countries with the crisis in Qatar and world powers with the North Korean nuclear threat, Lebanon will find itself left increasingly alone in its battle against ISIS. Lebanon has already been taken over by millions of Syrian and Palestinian refugees. Now it is quietly being flooded with Iraqi fighters. This is going to spell out chaos for the country down the road.
As always, Hezbollah’s excuse is Israel. But the Zionist enemy is only the means; not the goal. The Lebanese people are busy complaining about the disintegration of their society, yet they refuse to take action against the source of this threat.
Lebanon will never truly be sovereign so long as it is controlled by Hezbollah.” – Hada al-Husseini