VOICES FROM THE ARAB PRESS

A weekly se­lec­tion of opin­ions and analy­ses from the Arab me­dia around the world

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HAS IS­LAMIC STATE BEEN DE­FEATED? Asharq al-Awsat, Lon­don, March 26

It is only a mat­ter of time un­til a new ac­tor emerges and as­sumes ISIS’s role

Ev­ery­where we look, there are dec­la­ra­tions of vic­tory against ISIS. Peo­ple are cel­e­brat­ing the de­feat of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. But in my opinion, this is a tem­po­rary vic­tory, and it is only a mat­ter of time un­til an­other ISIS-like or­ga­ni­za­tion emerges.

ISIS, or the Is­lamic State in Iraq and the Le­vant, was born in 2011 as an off­shoot of al-Qaeda. In the past few months, some 30,000 in­di­vid­u­als as­so­ci­ated with the or­ga­ni­za­tion have been ar­rested, mostly in Syria and Iraq. The num­ber of those who joined the or­ga­ni­za­tion dur­ing the years of Syr­ian fight­ing is es­ti­mated at more than 60,000, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates based on the num­ber of de­tainees in Syria af­ter the start of at­tacks by the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion forces last sum­mer.

But just like al-Qaeda, Is­lamic State does not sim­ply die. In the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment of our re­gion – that of chaos and po­lit­i­cal vac­uum – it is only a mat­ter of time un­til a new ac­tor emerges and as­sumes ISIS’s role.

Al-Qaeda first ap­peared in Afghanista­n af­ter the col­lapse of the Afghan govern­ment and the takeover of the Tal­iban in the early 1990s. From there, it spread the ideas of armed ex­trem­ism across the bor­der to other coun­tries in the re­gion – through the me­dia and through mosques. It then resur­faced in places like Iraq, fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Sad­dam Hus­sein regime and the in­stal­la­tion of a tem­po­rary govern­ment un­der US aus­pices.

When we fi­nally thought we de­feated it in Iraq, af­ter thou­sands of sol­diers were killed, this ide­ol­ogy reemerged un­der a new name and ban­ner. In 2011, af­ter the out­break of the Syr­ian civil war, Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi es­tab­lished the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the Is­lamic State of Iraq, as a means to ex­pand this ide­ol­ogy into Syria. He es­tab­lished a pres­ence for al-Qaeda in Syria, which soon broke with its leader and re­de­fined it­self as an in­de­pen­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion known as al-Nusra.

There­fore, the dec­la­ra­tions of vic­tory and the de­struc­tion of Is­lamic State are noth­ing more than nar­row-sighted procla­ma­tions that are lim­ited in space and time.

Ac­cord­ingly, com­bat­ing ex­trem­ism is far more im­por­tant than com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism. Or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, which are so-called peace­ful groups, re­main a great source of rad­i­cal, dan­ger­ous ideas. We have been fight­ing the wrong bat­tle all this time. The time has come to re­assess our strat­egy.

– Ab­dul­rah­man al-Rashed

TIME FOR DIF­FI­CULT CHOICES FOR LE­BANON Al-Arab, Lon­don, March 25

In the light of US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo’s visit to Beirut, Le­banon finds it­self faced with dif­fi­cult choices. In his press con­fer­ence with For­eign Min­is­ter Ge­bran Bas­sil, Pom­peo openly as­serted that “Le­banon must face a choice: bravely move for­ward as an in­de­pen­dent and proud na­tion or al­low the dark am­bi­tions of Iran and Hezbol­lah to dic­tate its fu­ture.”

In re­sponse, Bas­sil as­serted that Hezbol­lah is a le­git­i­mate Le­banese party and not a ter­ror­ist group. But Bas­sil is wrong. Hezbol­lah is far from a le­git­i­mate po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion. The party rec­og­nizes sec­re­tary-gen­eral Has­san Nas­ral­lah as its ul­ti­mate leader. It re­ceives all of its fund­ing from Iran. More­over, Nas­ral­lah him­self as­serts that he is merely a “soldier” of the Wali al-Faqih – that is, Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran.

What the US sec­re­tary of state said seems only log­i­cal. Pom­peo out­lined the na­ture, ac­tiv­ity, re­gional role and mis­sion of Hezbol­lah, and a depart­ment in Wash­ing­ton that knows ev­ery­thing about it and Iran. So Pom­peo did not hes­i­tate to re­fer to the bomb­ing of the Ma­rine head­quar­ters near Beirut Air­port on Oc­to­ber 23, 1983, which killed 241 US mil­i­tary per­son­nel and was con­sid­ered the worst dis­as­ter suf­fered by the US mil­i­tary since the Viet­nam War. It is no se­cret that Iran was linked to the oper­a­tion car­ried out by two Le­banese sui­cide bombers in 1983 that tar­geted Amer­i­can and French sol­diers in Beirut in or­der to re­move Western forces from Le­banon. This was pre­ceded by the bomb­ing of the US Em­bassy in Ain al-Marisa, which re­sulted in the deaths of sev­eral CIA of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Robert Ames, who was the CIA’s Near East di­rec­tor.

Yes, Hezbol­lah is in the Le­banese par­lia­ment and holds three port­fo­lios, in­clud­ing the Min­istry of Health. Does this mean that we should just ig­nore the fact that its armed sec­tar­ian mili­tia hi­jacked an en­tire sect? Hezbol­lah has be­come the most in­flu­en­tial po­lit­i­cal force in the coun­try, which can tip the bal­ance in fa­vor or against any pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. The mean­ing of this is the to­tal aban­don­ment of Le­banese sovereignt­y to Iran.

Pom­peo’s visit was an op­por­tu­nity for Le­banon to act re­spon­si­bly by re­ject­ing Iran’s view, which sees Le­banon as a back­yard in which it can carry out its mis­sions through Hezbol­lah.

Le­banon is at a crit­i­cal cross­roads. Bas­sil’s state­ments demon­strate the ab­sence of po­lit­i­cal ma­tu­rity and lack of un­der­stand­ing of what is go­ing on in the re­gion and the world, as well as where Le­banon’s in­ter­ests lie.

Those who bet on Iran now are no dif­fer­ent from those who bet on Sad­dam Hus­sein when he in­vaded Kuwait in the sum­mer of 1990. Can we re­call how well that ended? – Kheir Al­lah

KHAMENEI, NABHANI, JUHAYMAN... AND OPIUM! Al-Ara­biya, UAE, March 25

In his lat­est ar­ti­cle, the Ira­nian writer and jour­nal­ist Amir Ta­heri ridiculed what he de­scribed as the “opium dreams” of the mul­lah regime in Tehran. “When re­al­ity is too hard to bear,” he ex­plained, “imag­i­na­tion may res­cue the mul­lahs from de­spair.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei re­cently is­sued a state­ment call­ing for the cre­ation of a “new global Is­lamic civ­i­liza­tion” to pre­pare for the re­turn of the “Hid­den Imam.”

Dr. Has­san Ab­basi, a prom­i­nent fig­ure in the Ira­nian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards, as­serted that the ques­tion is not if Amer­ica will fall, but, rather, when it would. He then ques­tioned if the White House should be de­stroyed to make room for a sim­ple mosque or an Ira­nian palace.

These fan­tasies, or opi­oid dreams, are not ex­clu­sive to the Khameini regime, but have been a con­stant pil­lar of po­lit­i­cal Is­lam groups. Has­san al-Banna of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood preached sim­i­lar ideas, and Mo­hammed Badie was a dis­ci­ple of Sayed Qutb. We have these kinds of il­lu­sions with Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani, who founded the rad­i­cal Is­lamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir, and with his Saudi fol­lower, Muham­mad al-Mas’ari, who helped pave the way for the Is­lamic caliphate.

Those who read the writ­ings of Juhayman al-Otaybi, the Saudi mil­i­tant who led the Grand Mosque seizure of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca in 1979, will also find that they are rife with myths and il­lu­sions about a near­ing vic­tory.

In other words, Khamenei is not that dif­fer­ent from his zeal­ous pre­de­ces­sors, who de­ceived their fol­low­ers and sold them empty il­lu­sions about a lav­ish fu­ture. The only dif­fer­ence is that they were guer­rilla mil­i­tants; Khamenei leads a large and pow­er­ful coun­try. – Mashry al-Zayidi

I AM THE OTH­ERS AND THE OTH­ERS ARE ME Al-Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia, March 25

The sym­bols hu­mans cre­ate tend to ex­press what man sees in him­self and in oth­ers. The lion is an ex­am­ple of courage, hero­ism and self-re­spect. The dog be­came a sym­bol of ful­fill­ment or hu­mil­i­a­tion, and the beast rep­re­sented treach­ery. How­ever, if we go back to na­ture, we will quickly dis­cover that all of these sym­bols are man-made. The an­i­mal does not know any­thing about these char­ac­ter­is­tics. The lion does not know a thing about courage or hero­ism. He eats car­casses, kills the other lion’s cubs without mercy and fears larger preda­tors, just like any other an­i­mal.

It seems, there­fore, that psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­jec­tion is an in­te­gral part of hu­man na­ture, es­pe­cially when we lack full in­for­ma­tion or con­text. Peo­ple try to un­der­stand the world and their own role in it in sub­jec­tive ways.

In the past 50 years, in our Is­lamic world, we were raised to be­lieve that the global con­flict be­tween na­tions and peo­ples is noth­ing but a se­ries of age-old dif­fer­ences re­volv­ing around re­li­gion. Many of us are con­vinced that we are at war with the West. The rea­son, we are told, is that the West is con­spir­ing against our re­li­gion, the West in­tends to sab­o­tage our faith, the West wants to cor­rupt our women.

This think­ing, just like the traits we give an­i­mals, is ex­tremely flawed. To be sure, many preach­ers want to see hu­man com­pe­ti­tion re­volve around re­li­gion, re­flect­ing their own world­view. These preach­ers hope that Is­lam will pre­vail, and there­fore frame what­ever the West does in terms of wars as a Western at­tempt to spread Chris­tian­ity. So long as these preach­ers view the world through the lens of re­li­gion, the ac­tions of oth­ers sud­denly be­comes a re­li­gious war. But when we read his­tory in a sci­en­tific way, we find that past wars broke out not on re­li­gious grounds, but for other rea­sons: fi­nan­cial, po­lit­i­cal or so­cial, among oth­ers.

Ev­ery­thing is in the eye of the beholder, and as the old say­ing goes, when all you have is a ham­mer, ev­ery­thing looks like a nail. One can never achieve suc­cess in his own strug­gles if he projects onto oth­ers his own in­se­cu­ri­ties and mis­giv­ings with the world.

– Ab­dal­lah Bin Bakheet

Yes, Hezbol­lah is in the Le­banese par­lia­ment... does this mean that we should just ig­nore the fact that its armed sec­tar­ian mili­tia hi­jacked an en­tire sect

(Pho­tos: Reuters)

US PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump shows maps of Syria and Iraq de­pict­ing the size of the ‘ISIS phys­i­cal caliphate” as he talks to re­porters on March 20.

HEZBOL­LAH LEADER Sayyed Has­san Nas­ral­lah ad­dresses his sup­port­ers via a screen dur­ing a rally mark­ing al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day) in Maroun Al-Ras vil­lage, south­ern Le­banon, on June 8, 2018.

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