Voices from the Arab press: A Vietnamese lesson for Lebanon


Nida Al-Watan, Lebanon, June 3

Lebanon needs a Vietnamese lesson; a lesson illustrated in a story told by Bilahari Kausikan, who was formerly the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singapore. The Singaporean diplomat asked his Vietnamese counterpart, “What does the imminent change of leaders in Hanoi mean for his country’s relations with China?” The Vietnamese diplomat said, “Every Vietnamese leader should embrace China, and every Vietnamese leader should confront China boldly in defense of his country’s rights. And if he does not do both, he does not deserve to be a leader.”

China was, along with the Soviet Union, one of the most supportive countries for Vietnam in the wars of liberation from the French army and then from the American army. Lebanon must learn this important lesson from the Vietnamese politician. In Lebanon, leaders typically fall in one of two camps: either they blindly support everything and anything about Iran, America, France, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and any other country involved in Lebanese politics, or they are completely against them.

On one hand, we have people who support foreign intervention so much that they forget about the interests of their own country. On the other hand, we have those who are so militant and suspicious of foreign intervention that they are willing to see our country continue to suffer from repeated crises. Rarely do we see leaders doing both: finding a healthy and nuanced middle ground.

The Vietnamese approach was successful in three regards. First, Vietnam resisted the foreign occupation imposed upon it and ensured that political decisions were made on the basis of its own national interests, not the interests of other nations. Second, Vietnam accurately understood the balance of power and resisted the temptation to side with actors whose power was on the decline. Third, Vietnam managed to liberate itself from foreign occupation through a steadfast campaign, without allowing its military to take over civil and political life. Nothing suggests that we have learned this lesson.

We act as if we know everything, giving advice to everyone around the world. The Islamic resistance led by Hezbollah has transformed into a full-fledged army that is involved in the war in Syria and plays roles in several countries. As for the construction and development of our country, we have done everything possible to eliminate prosperity and economic advancement, and have moved Lebanon from dreams of paradise to nightmares of hell. –Rafik Khoury


Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, June 5

Does President Joe Biden think in similar terms to his predecessor in office, Barack Obama, or to Dwight Eisenhower, who sat in the Oval Office more than 70 years ago? It is difficult to answer this question right now, because time played a decisive role in shaping the two presidents’ political visions on the Middle East. Obama did not change his position from the beginning to the end of his term in office. He desperately wanted to reach an agreement with Iran at any cost, even if it meant upsetting America’s closest allies. He expressed this sentiment very clearly during one of his farewell interviews, when he described those who opposed the nuclear deal as “free riders.”

Unlike Obama, Eisenhower began his term in office with a cold stance toward his allies, but ended it with a warm one. Obama’s story is recent and well known, but what is Eisenhower’s story? In an important book by the political scientist Mike Doran, titled Ike’s Gamble, Doran details this dramatic shift in Eisenhower’s foreign policy – from one alienating America’s closest allies to one seeking to appease them. When Eisenhower arrived at the White House in the early fifties, he witnessed “colonial” forces leaving the Middle East and national liberation forces emerging. He had to choose between the two camps.

He faced two problems at the time. First, the forces whose power was on the decline in the Middle East – the British, French and Israelis – were Washington’s allies. At the same time, he wanted to win President Gamal Abdel Nasser as an ally, and thus attract him to the circle of American influence and away from the Soviet sphere. The Eisenhower administration had full faith that friendship with Nasser meant his ability to influence all revolutionary forces around the world and draw them to the American camp.

Second, Eisenhower needed to ensure the steady flow of oil to Europe, which was in dire need to complete the Marshall Plan after World War II. The White House wanted to create a friendly Middle Eastern environment under Nasser’s leadership that would not cause any trouble, by approaching the revolutionary forces at the expense of the traditional forces and even weakening them if necessary.

The biggest sign of trying to win a new friend at the expense of old friends was in the Suez Crisis of 1956, when Eisenhower interfered in every way possible to stop the tripartite aggression and reach a ceasefire. (He later regretted it, when he realized that overthrowing Nasser would have saved him many troubles he later faced in the Middle East, which is why he supported Israel unwaveringly during the Six Day War of 1967.) Eisenhower’s determination to win over the new friend made him reject the pleas of British prime minister Anthony Eden to provide his country with oil. Many concessions made by the Eisenhower administration in order to win over Abdel Nasser did not work, and Eisenhower realized after years of attempts that he was making a serious political mistake and that Abdel Nasser was procrastinating and buying time, and would not be the reliable friend that Washington aspired to woo.

Eisenhower changed his convictions after years, and established ever stronger ties with America’s allies. These alliances shaped the international system under whose umbrella we still live over seven decades later. The question now remains: What approach will Biden take in regard to Iran? On which of the two presidents’ paths will Biden march? Will he follow Obama’s footsteps and seek to appease Iran at all costs, even if it means forsaking Israel and Saudi Arabia? Or will he follow the footsteps of Eisenhower, who stood firm by his allies’ side? -Mamdouh Al-Muhaini


Al-Ittihad, UAE, June 3

As India battles its second wave of COVID-19 and struggles to cope with its faltering medical infrastructure, another health crisis has begun to unfold in the country. Doctors warn of the emergence of “mucous membrane fungus,” which is also known as “black fungus” – a disease that can be fatal. This fungus is commonly found in the environment, including in soil. A number of coronavirus patients, especially those with weakened immune systems, were found to be affected by black fungus while recovering from COVID-19. In addition to the cases of the coronavirus, which are still very high, an increasing number of cases of black fungus have been identified in India, which puts more burden on the country’s faltering health system.

There are reports of thousands of people suffering from black fungus across the country, with more than 10,000 people contracting the rare disease. More than 100 people have officially died so far due to this new threat. This fungus is found in humid environments and affects the respiratory system. While healthy people are not susceptible, it does affect those who have a weakened immune system, according to the US National Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it is not contagious, it does attack the sinuses and lungs and can lead to symptoms ranging from facial swelling to fever, skin ulcers and black lesions in the mouth.

This rare disease begins as a skin infection in the inner cavity pockets of the face, nose, forehead, cheekbones, and between the eyes and teeth, according to Indian doctors. Then it spreads to the eyes and lungs, and even the brain. When the first wave of the coronavirus reached its climax in September of last year, the number of infections in India reached 97,000 a day. This time around, the number of cases exceeds 400,000 per day, with the number of deaths exceeding 4,000 each day.

It is clear that black fungus is a huge problem. While more than 12 Indian states have reported cases of black fungus, the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra are the hardest hit. As India battles this double threat, the message is clear: The country will have to spend more on its health infrastructure.

This is also a lesson for all of us around the world: While the COVID-19 pandemic struck all nations, those that emerged out of the pandemic quickest were those with strong healthcare systems. India, on the other hand, lacks basic oxygen supplies and hospital beds. The COVID-19 and black fungus pandemics have heightened the need to focus on improving medical infrastructure, particularly in the weakest and most vulnerable rural areas of our countries. —Zikru Al-Rahman

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.

The article from the source


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