Arab press

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The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - COM­PILED BY THE ME­DIA LINE – Ab­dul­rah­man al-Rashed

AN UN­CER­TAIN FU­TURE FOR LEBANON

Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, London, Novem­ber 7

“The dra­matic res­ig­na­tion last week of Le­banese Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri left many around the world, and cer­tainly in Lebanon, with sev­eral unan­swered ques­tions.

“The move came as a com­plete sur­prise to even the most avid ob­servers of Le­banese pol­i­tics. Just a day be­fore the res­ig­na­tion, while still in Beirut, Hariri held a con­fer­ence that cel­e­brated his gov­ern­ment’s achieve­ments. And in his me­dia ap­pear­ances in the pre­ced­ing weeks, the Le­banese premier sounded op­ti­mistic about his coun­try’s fu­ture, show­ing no signs of frustratio­n nor giv­ing any in­di­ca­tion he wanted to step down. Then, without warn­ing, he trav­eled to Saudi Ara­bia and an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion via satel­lite tele­vi­sion. An of­fi­cial let­ter ad­dressed to Lebanon’s pres­i­dent was is­sued shortly there­after. Since then, Hariri has not re­turned home. The ob­vi­ous ques­tion, there­fore, is what prompted all of this?

“In­ter­nally, Hariri ex­pended all of his po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal in form­ing a coali­tion with Shi’ite Hezbol­lah, which paved the way for the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun af­ter a 29-month dead­lock left the po­si­tion un­filled. In the af­ter­math, how­ever, Hariri has not been able to achieve any po­lit­i­cal suc­cesses, whereas his sub­mis­sion to Hezbol­lah has en­hanced Iran’s in­flu­ence in Lebanon. Hariri’s pre­vi­ously strong sup­port base, pri­mar­ily com­pris­ing Le­banese Sunni Mus­lims, has gone so far as to ac­cuse the prime min­is­ter of aban­don­ing Sunni in­ter­ests in fa­vor of ‘na­tional unity.’

“But there is an­other fac­tor at play. Saudi Ara­bia was di­rectly in­volved in Hariri’s de­ci­sion to re­sign, as the king­dom has long viewed Tehran as a grow­ing threat to the re­gion whose in­flu­ence in Lebanon had to be nipped in the bud. By push­ing Hariri to step down from Riyadh, the Saudis sent a clear mes­sage to Hezbol­lah: side with ei­ther Iran or Lebanon. If Hezbol­lah par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are in­ter­ested in see­ing their po­lit­i­cal sys­tem col­lapse then they will con­tinue tak­ing or­ders from the Is­lamic Re­pub­lic; how­ever, if the coun­try’s sta­bil­ity is more im­por­tant to them, then they will have to make big con­ces­sions. There are other op­tions on the table as well. One sce­nario might in­volve a Saudi-led coali­tion that would fight to dis­man­tle Hezbol­lah’s foothold in Lebanon, a move that might even in­volve Is­rael.

“Over­all, there are many un­knowns. We do not know what will be­come of Lebanon over the next few days, let alone weeks and years. Re­gard­less, it is clear that the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil in Beirut is a di­rect re­sult of the on­go­ing con­fronta­tion be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and Iran, this time be­ing played out in the Le­banese play­ground.”

– Wael Na­jim

THE SAUDI-IRA­NIAN CON­FLICT

Al-Watan, Qatar, Novem­ber 8

“The man of the hour in Saudi Ara­bia is in­dis­putably Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, who is not only the crown prince but also the king­dom’s de­fense min­is­ter. While he re­ceived the for­mer ti­tle just five months ago when his fa­ther, King Sal­man, re­moved from power the pre­vi­ous heir to the throne, the prince as­sumed his role as min­is­ter al­most two years ago.

“Still, bin Sal­man lacks ex­pe­ri­ence and re­mains an ama­teur states­man lack­ing the ca­pac­ity to plan suc­cess­ful mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions. Since his very first days in of­fice, the fu­ture king pur­sued an ag­gres­sive for­eign pol­icy that di­verged greatly from that of his pre­de­ces­sors. He be­gan his term by launch­ing an at­tack against the Houthi rebels in Ye­men, a cam­paign that was de­signed to last only a few weeks but is nowhere close to end­ing.

“Bin Sal­man is also the ar­chi­tect of the re­cent Gulf em­bargo on Qatar. Whereby he ini­tially main­tained close ties with Doha, with the aim of co­or­di­nat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties against Iran, af­ter re­ceiv­ing new or­ders from Washington the young de­fense min­is­ter re­versed his pol­icy and be­gan speak­ing out against Qatar. He ac­cused Doha of col­lab­o­rat­ing with rad­i­cal forces in the re­gion and called on Gulf coun­tries to boy­cott the coun­try.

“Now, in his most re­cent dis­play of in­com­pe­tence, bin Sal­man ap­pears to have been in­volved in the Le­banese prime min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion to step down from of­fice, a move that did noth­ing but spread con­fu­sion in the re­gion. The peo­ple of the Mid­dle East are thus await­ing his next move. No one knows with cer­tainty what such ac­tion may en­tail, but one thing is for sure: it will be closely co­or­di­nated with Is­rael and the United States.

“Ac­cord­ingly, a novice min­is­ter in Riyadh is co­or­di­nat­ing with an­other novice pres­i­dent in the White House. In be­tween them is a racist Is­raeli leader. Noth­ing good can come from this.” – Jel­bir al-Ashkar

PRITI PA­TEL’S AND IS­RAEL’S STRAT­EGY AGAINST THE PALES­TINI­ANS

Al-Masry al-Youm, Egypt, Novem­ber 9

“Last week, Bri­tain’s in­ter­na­tional aid min­is­ter Priti Pa­tel stepped down af­ter ad­mit­ting that she had se­cretly met with Is­raeli of­fi­cials dur­ing a pri­vate hol­i­day abroad. Pa­tel kept her meet­ings off the books, con­vey­ing in­for­ma­tion about them to nei­ther her own col­leagues nor to the Bri­tish For­eign Of­fice.

“But what is more in­ter­est­ing about her res­ig­na­tion is what it re­veals about the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment’s strat­egy; first, to de­mo­nize the Pales­tini­ans and sec­ond to mask its ac­tions by pur­su­ing ‘grass­roots’ peace ini­tia­tives. A core fo­cus of Pa­tel’s was to fight al­leged in­cite-

ment in Pales­tinian text­books. Un­der her lead­er­ship, the Bri­tish Min­istry of In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment threat­ened to with­hold fund­ing ear­marked for Pales­tinian in­sti­tu­tions un­less the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity ceased its pay­ments to pris­on­ers in Is­raeli jails. It also de­manded a re­view of Pales­tinian school cur­ric­ula be­ing funded with Bri­tish money.

“In do­ing so, Pa­tel drew a moral equiv­a­lence be­tween Is­rael’s bru­tal oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tinian lands and the con­tent of Pales­tinian books – as if the two were equal. Is­rael’s re­fusal to al­low the for­ma­tion of an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state in any form has been triv­i­al­ized by plac­ing blame on Pales­tinian in­cite­ment.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, in or­der to si­lence Euro­pean crit­ics who are con­cerned by the sta­tus quo, Is­rael has re­lied on of­fices like the one run by Pa­tel to fund lo­cal peace pro­grams be­tween Jews and Arabs, which looks great on pa­per (and in pho­tos) but does noth­ing to end the oc­cu­pa­tion. In­stead, they di­vert at­ten­tion away from the racist poli­cies of the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment.

“Pa­tel was a big sup­porter of such pro­grams and, cou­pled with pres­sure from the Is­rael lobby, she helped mask Is­rael’s bru­tal op­pres­sion of the Pales­tini­ans. Her de­par­ture is a true tri­umph for the Pales­tini­ans and all those who pro­mote hu­man rights.”

– Muham­mad al-Ramihi

SYR­IAN CEASE­FIRE IS ONLY THE BEGIN­NING Asharq al-Awsat, London, Novem­ber 12

“A cease-fire in Syria is only the first step in a likely chain of events that will un­fold in our re­gion, some of which are very alarm­ing.

“In their re­cent meet­ing held on the side­lines of the APEC sum­mit, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump both agreed that the mil­i­tary op­tion failed ter­ri­bly in Syria and that the only way to end the civil war is through an in­ter­na­tion­ally im­posed deal on all par­ties. This is ex­actly what we should ex­pect to see within the next few weeks and months: a slow but steady ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties be­tween all fac­tions – from Al-Nusra to ISIS to As­sad’s forces – along with an in­creased pres­ence of Rus­sian, Amer­i­can and Turk­ish forces near Syria’s bor­ders.

“While the cease-fire is, in and of it­self, a wel­come de­vel­op­ment, it com­pletely fails to take into ac­count the re­al­ity that will emerge on the ground once the fight­ing ends. Over the past few months, Ira­nian forces have es­tab­lished more and more mil­i­tary bases in ar­eas that were once con­trolled by the As­sad regime, in an attempt to cre­ate facts on the ground. Satel­lite im­ages show Ira­nian in­stal­la­tions just 50 kilo­me­ters away from the Is­raeli bor­der. Hezbol­lah fight­ers have sim­i­larly en­trenched their po­si­tions in the Syr­ian Golan Heights, which poses an im­me­di­ate threat to Is­rael in ad­di­tion to the ex­ist­ing front in south­ern Lebanon.

“Jor­dan, which also shares a bor­der with Syria, would have had equal rea­son for con­cern if not for Amer­i­can air strikes that have pushed Ira­nian forces away from the Jor­da­nian bor­der in re­cent months. Clearly, no one – not even the Is­raelis – cor­rectly as­sessed the de­gree of Iran’s pen­e­tra­tion into Syria. Now, as the fight­ing draws to an end, the real – and con­cern­ing – pic­ture will be­come vivid: Syria has turned into an Ira­nian satel­lite, from which Tehran can con­duct mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against a wide range of tar­gets. This new re­al­ity is a dan­ger­ous one and it is un­likely that a cease-fire deal will rem­edy this.

“The next few months and years, there­fore, could bring even more trou­ble to the re­gion, this time with Is­rael be­ing dragged into the war.”

Is­rael has re­lied on of­fices like the one run by Pa­tel to fund lo­cal peace pro­grams be­tween Jews and Arabs, which looks great on pa­per (and in pho­tos) but does noth­ing to end the oc­cu­pa­tion

(Mo­hamed Aza­kir/Reuters)

CARS PASS next to a poster de­pict­ing Saad Hariri in Beirut ear­lier this week. Hariri re­signed as Lebanon’s prime min­is­ter on Novem­ber 4.

(Bas­sam Kha­bieh/Reuters)

SYR­IAN CHIL­DREN watch a con­voy of the Syr­ian Arab Red Cres­cent drive through the rebel-held city of Douma, in the eastern Da­m­as­cus sub­urb of Ghouta, ear­lier this week.

(Han­nah McKay/Reuters)

FOR­MER BRI­TISH sec­re­tary of state for in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment Priti Pa­tel ad­dresses the Con­ser­va­tive Party con­fer­ence in Manch­ester, last month.

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