Voices from the Arab press: Arab democracy: Iraq as an example

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

A MURAL of Pope Francis adorns a church wall ahead of his upcoming visit to Iraq, in Baghdad on February 22. (photo credit: TEBA SADIQ/FILE PHOTO/REUTERS)
A MURAL of Pope Francis adorns a church wall ahead of his upcoming visit to Iraq, in Baghdad on February 22.
Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, February 25
No Arab country emerged successful from an attempt to implement democracy. Even Tunisia, which sparked the revolutions of the Arab Spring and gave hope to millions of people across the world that democracy was coming to the Arab world, is still immersed in political turmoil. 
But Tunisia isn’t the only Arab country where the democratic experience failed. Let us look at Iraq. Many people – including myself, admittedly – believed that the 2003 US invasion of Iraq would bring about democracy to the war-torn country. But the country that was once ruled by Saddam Hussein turned into a failed state dominated by Iranian mercenaries. Over the course of a few short years, Iraq’s elites fled the country and sought exile in the West. The country that had once been home to scientists, authors, musicians and researchers was deserted overnight. Soon enough, it was taken over by rampant militias. The infrastructure collapsed. Schools and universities were forced to shut down. And living conditions throughout the country dramatically deteriorated. The rates of poverty, destitution, and hunger among the Iraqi population have almost exceeded 50%. There is no memory of a functioning state apparatus, no jobs, no public services. 
America, after its ill-fated invasion, claimed to have established a democratic system. It boasted the Iraqi constitution, the court, the parties, and the free and fair elections. But the truth is that all of these things are just fraud. The Iraqi constitution – devised by Americans, not Iraqis – de facto divides Iraqis based on their sectarian and ethnic affiliations, giving the Kurds the premierships, the Shiites the presidency, and the Sunnis the parliament. In the vacuum created in Iraqi with the departure of US forces, Iran succeeded in deploying Shiite militias that took over Baghdad. 
The democratic system is a system that contradicts sectarian and religious societies, and no democracy that the world has known can be fundamentally based on sectarian or ethnic affiliations. The very constitution that sought to instill democracy in Iraqi is the source of the country’s political decay. The hope of seeing democracy flourish in Iraq has been quickly replaced with a failed state experiencing deteriorating conditions. Democracies can never rest on religious, tribal, or ethnic loyalties. To be sure of what I say, compare Iraq in the era of Saddam Hussein to Iraq following its so-called democratic reforms. – Muhammad Al-Sheikh 
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, February 24
The Renaissance Dam negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have been taking too long for several reasons. 
First, because of the Ethiopian intransigence on the issue: Addis Ababa continues to insist on taking unilateral steps that harm the interests of the other parties, which have long complained about the former’s stubbornness and strange procrastination. Despite the ongoing talks, Ethiopia has been charting the way forward with the dam’s construction. Instead of halting construction until all sides reach an agreement, the Ethiopians have accelerated their work. 
Second, regional and international institutions – including the African Union and American officials – have failed to effectively mediate talks between the three sides. Not a single third-party institution or body has been trusted by all sides to guarantee and protect the rights of all parties involved. 
Third, former US President Donald Trump, who was a staunch advocate of Egypt’s water rights, departed the White House in January, paving the way for the Ethiopian side to harden its positions. Over the past few weeks, the situation continued to worsen. Granted, talks are still unfolding, and it is certainly possible that a solution will eventually be reached. However, as I already mentioned, negotiations have been taking far too long. 
In the meantime, Egypt has been experimenting with various trust-building steps and mechanisms, with offers to provide Sudan with foreign aid and assistance in the fields of electricity, agriculture and development. This is part of a greater Egyptian strategy of opening up toward Africa. Cairo tried to help, both directly and indirectly, but Addis Ababa seems to be unmoved. – Abd Al-Latif Al-Manawi 
Al-Etihad, UAE, February 26
In light of the steady growth in the spread of COVID-19 mutations, it has become necessary to vaccinate the largest number of individuals as soon as possible. 
However, due to the limited availability of vaccinations, an increasing number of experts around the world have begun promoting the idea that the best strategy to double the available number of vaccinations is to postpone the second dose for those who received the first one, and to vaccinate the largest number possible with a single dose, instead. 
This trend is supported by the results of some recent studies, such as those conducted by a group of researchers in the largest hospitals in Israel, in which 7,000 hospital employees and workers participated. The study showed that infection rates among those vaccinated decreased by 47% two weeks after receiving the first dose and by 85% four weeks after receiving the first dose. 
Likewise, a group of Canadian researchers found that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine achieves protection by more than 90%. In early January, the British health authorities decided to extend the period between the first and second dose of the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines from 21 days to 12 weeks, or 84 days, which sparked deep controversy and harsh criticism at the time. The aim of the doctors and scientists was to provide coverage to the largest possible number of people in the quickest manner possible, in light of the shortage of available vaccines. 
However, it is still unclear how long the reduction in infection rates lasts. This prompted the vaccine manufacturers, as well as the US Food and Drug Administration to call for caution in implementing “untested” strategies such as the administration of a single dose. This difference in opinions will be resolved by more studies on the best strategies for distributing vaccines, and the strength of the relationship between the acceleration of the spread of the virus and the increase in the emergence of mutated variants of it. After all, vaccinations available at the present time may not be of benefit in achieving protection from these new virulent strands. – Akmal Abd Al-Hakim
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.