Friday, October 28, 2005

Arab states may be pleased if Iran is further isolated

Khaleej Times Online:
Arab governments maintained silence yesterday over the call by Iran's new president for Israel to be "wiped off the map," but analysts said Teheran's Arab rivals may quietly be pleased to see the radical regime further isolated by its extremism. READ MORE

Newspapers across the Middle East reported on Wednesday's speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without comment, many of them on their front pages.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry and Cabinet officials said Cairo would have nothing to say on the address.

Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher also declined comment, apparently to avoid further aggravating relations with Iran, which the kingdom has accused of interfering in Iraq to strengthen the Shia influence in the Middle East.

Analysts said Amadinejad's uncompromising line highlighted Iran's differences with other Middle East governments and will make it easier for the international community to take a tough line against Iran for its defiant nuclear policy.

Mohamed Wahby, a former diplomat and member of the Egyptian Council on Foreign Affairs, said it was a mistake to remain quiet about the speech, which he said undermined Mideast peace prospects.

"Recognising Israel as an integral part of the Middle East is no longer in doubt," he said, saying Iran was only encouraging hardliners on both sides.

Mustafa Hamarneh, head of the Strategic Studies Centre at the University of Jordan, agreed that Amadinejad was out of step, especially with the Palestinians. "He's an ideologue who shot from the cuff; it was not a studied statement," Hamarneh said.

Iran's threatening stance also was counterproductive to its own interests, said Wahby, reinforcing the notion that its nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons despite claims that it is meant exclusively for peaceful power generation. "Such statement by Teheran will encourage Israel to cling to its nuclear arsenal," Wahby said.

In Iran, most newspapers carried coverage of Ahmadinejad's statement, and some ran stories covering the subsequent protests from other countries. But hundreds of thousands of Iranians are expected to denounce Israel and back Ahmadinejad's comments across the country on Friday during the Al Quds Day protests.