Osama Al Sharif
The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.
On the eve of the 44th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, the republic of 87 million, ruled by religious hardliners, finds itself facing the most serious domestic crisis since 1979. For over four months, tens of thousands of Iranians, predominantly the young, have taken to the streets demanding an end to the theocratic regime that had that has grown disconnected from its people.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s tour of Egypt, Israel, and the occupied territories this week has become a salvaging mission.
The debate over the limits of free speech, which is a tenet of liberal democratic societies, will erupt every time an ignorant person seeking fame and controversy commits the abhorrent act of burning and desecrating the Quran. By doing so, that person — under the guise of freedom of expression — hopes to trigger the anger and condemnation of millions of Muslims all over the world. And that is exactly what usually happens.
Tuesday’s meeting between King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in Amman signals a possible thaw in relations and a concession by Netanyahu. As the first meeting between the two men in almost five years, King Abdullah’s distrust of the Israeli premier was clear, noting that the two have sparred many times mostly over Israel’s provocations at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Israel is facing an unprecedented existential crisis, and it is not the Iran nuclear program or a third Palestinian Intifada. It is not even a barrage of inaccurate Hamas missiles or an indictment by the International Criminal Court. All these threats notwithstanding, for the first time since its inception, Israel is talking openly about an imminent civil war due to a government bent on steamrolling the state’s institutions. It is clear a lethal conflict is brewing within Israel’s borders.
The four-day “final phase” round of consultations between the military and civilian powers in Sudan should end with the adoption of a roadmap that delivers a non-partisan civilian government, which will prepare for general elections. Supported by the international community, the consultations, which kicked off this week, will focus on issues related to dismantling the rump regime of Omar Al-Bashir, achieving transitional justice, reforming the military and security apparatus, and dealing with the issue of Eastern Sudan.
Two days after Israel swore in its most extreme, ultra-nationalist, and ultra-religious government, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians celebrated the 58th anniversary of the birth of the oldest and most popular Palestinian national liberation movement, Fatah. The Fatah anniversary was even celebrated by Palestinians in Hamas-controlled Gaza, in addition to the West Bank and Lebanon’s refugee camps.
The inter-Libyan dialogue has been going on, at various levels, for years. It resulted in multiple understandings and agreements, the most prominent of which was the Skhirat agreement of December 2015, which established a Presidency Council and an interim government, ending the duplicity of legislatures that had derailed the political settlement between various political and militant players in the east, west, and south.
Jordan is going through testing times. A truckers' and public transportation strike over high fuel prices has stalled the economy and interrupted supply chains. The government made it clear that it cannot afford to abolish taxes imposed on oil derivatives because of the negative impact it can pose on the troubled state budget. Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh told lawmakers last week that the government does not have the luxury of subsidizing fuel, a statement that may have triggered the crisis.
Benyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, has until December 21 to form the most extreme government in the history of the country, complete with ultra-nationalists, religious Zionists and far right Cabinet members.