VOICES FROM THE ARAB PRESS
A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world
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
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.