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16-30 September 2013    9-23 Ziqadah 1434 Hijri
Note: Using editorials as an indicator, this series presents views, understanding and attitude of the Urdu periodicals in India towards various developments concerning the Middle East.  The  selection  of  an  item  does  not  mean  the  endorsement  or concurrence with their accuracy or views. Editor, MEI@ND

Roznama Rashtriya Sahara (National Sahara Daily), Delhi
Editorial, 17 September 2013, Tuesday
1. Discrimination between Israel and Syria
Syria has agreed to a Russian proposal to open its cache of chemical weapons for international scrutiny. Russia and the US have entered into an agreement on the issue. The development was welcomed globally, especially among the developing countries. Any external military intervention will affect oil-supplies to the international market which has been a cause of worry for the developing economies. This danger has subsided for now. Israel, however, has not been happy with these developments because it had been pushing for an American intervention in Syria. The US has warned Syria of dire consequences if it tries to hide any of its chemical weapons, but it is only for popular consumption. The fact remains that the US was reluctant to go into another war after Afghanistan and Iraq. Storing weapons of mass destruction should not be a matter of pride for any country. Ironically, the US has been the first country to use either nuclear or chemical weapons against its enemies. Nuclear weapons were used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki while America used chemical gas in Vietnam. Thousands of people had lost their lives during the two incidents. It was not easy for Syria to take such a decision. Moreover, the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people was a condemnable action, notwithstanding the source of these weapons. However, an important question arises here; does Syria alone have weapons of mass destruction? Which other countries have accumulated nuclear weapons? The US-Israeli alliance is not hidden from anyone. The US has never been strict with Israel. It always finds ways to back and justify Israel despite its excesses. Undoubtedly, Israel has many more weapons of mass destruction as compared to Syria. Therefore, it is concerned about rising voices against the destruction of all such weapons. The Syrian action has put pressure on all other states that have nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Russian officials have issued statements in this regard. It is incumbent on world powers to pressurize Israel to destroy its WMDs and any further discrimination in favour of Israel should not be allowed.

Dawat Online (Invitation), New Delhi
Editorial, 19 September 2013, Thursday
2. Why this Inaction?
Reactions on the agreement between the US and Russia indicate that the threat of an external military intervention inside Syria has diminished, albeit temporarily. Nevertheless, the Syrian crisis is far from resolved and remains critical because the regime, which is responsible for the present situation, remains in control. The authoritarian regime continues in power and there is no indication of any possibility for allowing larger political participation. Moreover, opposition groups have not been recognized either. Common people are being victimised by the authoritarian regime while there is no hope of any respite. The protesting people have not found any ears for their grievances. The Syrian regime has been criticised from all quarters because of its brutality, but to no avail. The ruling family has refused to abdicate power. Arguably, the regime is backed by two world powers—Russia and China. Israel is also against the ruling regime. The UN has expressed its concern over the prevailing situation. Syria is a minnow when it comes to the military power of the US despite the fact that it has some chemical weapons and the Iranian support. However, this could not have acted as a sufficient deterrent against an attack by the US.

It is noteworthy that Iraq was a better military power as compared to Syria. Moreover, the Iraqi authoritarian leader was more popular among the people as compared to the Syrian leadership. However, Israel was quick in destroying the nuclear plant in Iraq. Nobody raised a voice and the entire Arab world was stunned with the swift and effective Israeli action. The same Israel is in a dilemma to take action against Syria despite the threat perception. The threat is critical because Syria has the support of Iran and Hezbollah. A parallel can be drawn in British behaviour, which is not keen on taking action against Syria. As far as international opinion is concerned, the war against Iraq had a stronger opposition compared to action against Syria. Why this delay in the Syrian case? Moreover, what has been the opinion on Syria in the Arab world; has it been consistent?

The Etemaad Urdu Daily (The Confidence Urdu Daily), Hyderabad
Editorial, 21 September 2013, Saturday
3. Iranian Moderation
The Iranian stand on nuclear power is reflective of its good intentions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has emphasised that Iran will never acquire nuclear weapons capabilities. Iran has reiterated its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. In fact, the role of the IAEA has not been consistent when it comes to the Iranian nuclear programme. The coming into power of a moderate leader in Iran has brought some fresh air in terms of the international build-up against Iran. The American President has indeed welcomed Rouhani’s election.

The UN General Assembly will meet from 23 September to 2 October in New York. The Western countries should review their stand on Syria after Rouhani’s clarification. Iran has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in accordance with the international regulations. The American attitude towards Iran has been hostile despite the fact that there aren’t many differences between the two countries, save those on the nuclear issue. The US should release frozen Iranian assts. India has been one of the countries affected by the economic sanctions on Iran. The Indo-Iranian trade relations have been affected. India’s import of Iranian oil has also declined due to these sanctions. Therefore, India should raise these concerns in front the United Nations General Assembly. The US-Iranian relations have not returned to normalcy since the 1979 revolution, which the US refused to recognise, leading to continued hostilities.

It is expected that the coming into power of moderate leaders in Iran will help ease these hostilities. Moreover, the new Iranian government has released some of the opposition activists. This is a good beginning in improving its human rights records. It is important that the US takes up a positive view of the changing situation and respond to these steps. Undoubtedly, the US holds influence in the Persian Gulf and with the coming into power of Hassan Rouhani, the suspicion towards Iran among the Arab neighbours should subside.

Iran, however, needs to review its stand on Bahrain and Syria. While it is important to improve relations with the US, it is equally important to respond to the concerns of neighbouring countries. The Islamic world has remained deeply suspicious of American activities because of its past actions particularly after its attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iranian President should be lauded for extending the hand of reconciliation with the US; it is now up to the US to respond or refuse.

Hindustan Express (Daily Hindustan Express), New Delhi
Editorial, 23 September 2013, Monday
4. 81 Years of Services to the Two Holy Sites
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completes 81 years of its establishment on 23 September, which is celebrated as national day every year. The Saudi rulers have served the Kaaba and Prophet’s Mosque since they have come to power. They have always been forthcoming to serve the visitors and pilgrims to the two holy sites. The infrastructure and road and transport networks have constantly been expanded and upgraded to serve the pilgrims. Most importantly, their dedication to the organisation of Hajj has been exemplary and needs to be lauded. The Saudi government is working on another expansion project to improve facilities and infrastructure in Mecca. Saudi Arabia is a rich country bestowed with divine wealth in the form of petroleum and it has utilised it in constructive work and has helped the poor all over the world, especially in Muslim countries.

Saudi Arabia has been blessed with numerous gifts, most importantly Islam, which spread to various nooks and corners of the world from Arabia. It is the only country that follows and implements Sharia in the matters of state. The Basic Law clearly mentions that the Quran and the Hadith will be the source of law while Sharia will be the guiding principle of governance. The Saudi judicial system has been based on Islamic principles since the times of the founder King Abdulaziz al-Saud, while it has been constantly improved. Its effectiveness is reflected from the crime rate in the Kingdom that is least in the world. The developed western countries suffer from numerous social degenerations that are non-existent in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi rulers attach due importance to justice, which is the reason for the longevity of the monarchy. History is witness to the fact that the effectiveness of the justice delivery system depends on two principles—the source of law and the honesty of the rulers.

As far as the Islamic system of justice is concerned, these two principles have been kept in mind. The law and system are both ingrained in divine wish and have been elaborated upon by the Prophet. Moreover, numerous judgements and judicial systems in the history of Islam created a niche for their judgements based on divine law. Equality before law has been the most important pillar of the Islamic justice delivery system. This has been followed in word and spirit in Islamic history. Modern constitutions emphasise the principle of equality all over the world but it is not followed in most of the countries. Discriminatory practices against one or the other group is prevalent all over the world. The situation is same the world over and rulers are hardly brought before the law despite their failings.

Roznama Rashtriya Sahara (National Sahara Daily), Delhi
Editorial, 30 September 2013, Monday
5. Testing Times for Rouhani
The flexibility in the Western stance on the Iranian nuclear issue has temporarily eased off the tensions in the Middle East. It has come after Hassan Rouhani’s statement that Iran will not pursue nuclear weapons. The changed equation was visible during the UN General Assembly summit. The Iranian President clarified that it would not use nuclear energy for manufacturing weapons; rather the nuclear energy will be used for peaceful purposes. In this changed environment, the Iranian representatives met with UNSC members and discussed the issue while agreeing to meet again on 15 October in Geneva to carry forward the negotiations.

These developments indicate the easing of tensions between the US and Iran. The sharp diplomatic exchanges between the two have subsided in the past months. Evidently, the diplomatic ties have improved as has become clear from the telephonic conversation between Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani. The two presidents have stated their resolve to find a negotiated solution for the nuclear issue. This was the first such conversation between Iranian and American presidents in the last 34 years.

The question however, is will it be possible to remove the long-held bitterness in US-Iranian relations in such a short duration? Can the US alleviate Israeli concerns over Iran? Moreover, how would the Iranians react to the hand of friendship towards their ‘enemy’ and ‘great Satan’? It is important to find answers to these questions. A section of the Iranian population has not taken kindly to Rouhani’s initiatives. He has faced protests inside the country. On the other hand, Israel has made its differences clear on the issue. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the US that the Iranian leadership is bluffing the US.

As far as the domestic Iranian situation is concerned, despite some opposition, Rouhani has support from a large section of the population. The conservative sections in Iran are not happy with the Iranian establishment’s moves but moderate sections are completely behind the President. The people of Iran understand that a hostile behaviour against the West is not favourable for Iran, particularly on the nuclear issue. Moreover, sanctions have begun to affect the Iranian economy while Iran has limited access to technology to take forward the nuclear programme. In the current situation, it is important for Iran to take a moderate stand and try to resolve the nuclear issue. The Supreme Leader has also expressed his support towards a moderate position on the issue. However, it is indeed a challenge to alleviate the concerns of the conservative sections when it comes to relations with the West. On the other hand, the US will also have to devise a strategy to deal with Israel in order to deal with this disruptive regional player.

Compiled and Translated by Md. Muddassir Quamar

Md. Muddassir Quamar is a Doctoral Candidate at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.  Email 

As part of its editorial policy, the MEI@ND standardizes spelling and date formats to make the text uniformly accessible and stylistically consistent. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views/positions of the MEI@ND. Editor, MEI@ND: P R Kumaraswamy.