Arab Press

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

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - COMPILED BY THE ME­DIA LINE


Years ago, I met a former Arab gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial who, on each and ev­ery oc­ca­sion, gave speeches about his job and ca­reer. One couldn’t greet the of­fi­cial with­out be­ing bom­barded by long lec­tures on the man’s du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. All of these sto­ries usu­ally be­gan with the words “In my ca­pac­ity as an of­fi­cial.” The man was so ob­sessed with his ti­tle that he con­sis­tently hid how dis­grun­tled the staff un­der him was, just to pro­tect his own rep­u­ta­tion in the eyes of his su­per­vi­sors. All of this was done, of course, to block any­one who might try to de­throne this in­di­vid­ual.

Un­for­tu­nately, these types of gov­ern­ment work­ers have be­come all too com­mon to­day. Al­most any­one who worked in gov­ern­ment in an Arab coun­try will know what I’m talk­ing about. We all have stum­bled across such in­di­vid­u­als. Sadly, this phe­nom­e­non sug­gests that we seem to have for­got­ten the fact that real lead­ers serve in of­fice not be­cause they want to hold on to their chairs, but be­cause they care about the publics they rep­re­sent.

In fact, politi­cians who love their jobs so much should im­me­di­ately raise our sus­pi­cion. These are peo­ple whose ti­tles have be­come so in­ter­twined with their own per­sonal char­ac­ter that we should im­me­di­ately ques­tion their mo­tives. With­out their jobs, they lose them­selves. There­fore, they will do any­thing they can to hold onto their ti­tles.

I re­call an old con­ver­sa­tion I once had with one of my univer­sity pro­fes­sors, who came from Ja­pan. Speak­ing about his ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing for a Ja­panese elec­tron­ics com­pany, the pro­fes­sor told us that he had turned down a lu­cra­tive of­fer from his em­ployer to lead a new di­vi­sion for his com­pany abroad. We were all shocked. But one’s rep­u­ta­tion, the pro­fes­sor ex­plained, must not be linked to one spe­cific com­pany, in­sti­tu­tion or po­si­tion. His ad­vice to us was the fol­low­ing:

When you get a new po­si­tion, es­pe­cially one in the pub­lic sec­tor, put all of your ef­fort and sin­cer­ity into that job and treat it as if you would be leav­ing it at the end of the year. This will fill you with a sense of ur­gency to do what it is you need to do. Re­mem­ber that sit­ting on a chair is tem­po­rary and it is a dou­ble-edged sword: It can lift you or it can burn you. Sup­port your team mem­bers and equip them with the tools they need to suc­ceed. Above all, re­mem­ber that you are rep­re­sent­ing some­thing greater than your­self.

This is the ex­act men­tal­ity we are so des­per­ately lack­ing in the Arab world to­day. – Esaam Bukhari

Trump found no fault in ad­mit­ting that the Saudi crown prince may have had fore­knowl­edge of [the mur­der of Ja­mal Khashoggi], but refused to al­low this in­ci­dent to strengthen Iran

IN­DIA’S BET ON AFGHANISTAN Al-It­ti­had, UAE, Novem­ber 24

Last week an in­for­mal In­dian team took part in a Rus­sian-spon­sored con­fer­ence ti­tled “The Moscow For­mula” on the peace process in Afghanistan, at­tended by, among oth­ers, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Tal­iban. The talks, which brought to­gether a va­ri­ety of gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing Pak­istan and the Cen­tral Asian re­publics of the former Soviet Union, might sig­nal a new era in In­dia’s re­la­tions with Afghanistan.

The in­for­mal In­dian del­e­ga­tion con­sisted of its former am­bas­sador to Afghanistan and its former en­voy to Pak­istan. These re­tired diplo­mats are ex­perts in the re­gion, and their pres­ence in­di­cates that In­dia is closely mon­i­tor­ing de­vel­op­ments in Afghanistan.

In some way, the In­dian par­tic­i­pa­tion in the con­fer­ence gives le­git­i­macy to the Tal­iban and rec­og­nizes it as an in­te­gral part of any fu­ture set­tle­ment in Afghanistan. On the other hand, it is clear beyond any doubt that the Tal­iban is here to stay, so ig­nor­ing its ex­is­tence would not be wise on the part of the gov­ern­ment of In­dia. Any­one who is even re­motely aware of Afghani pol­i­tics knows that a large swath of the Afghani pub­lic, es­pe­cially in the coun­try­side, sup­ports the move­ment.

The In­dian gov­ern­ment has al­ready in­vested con­sid­er­able ef­forts in re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing Afghanistan, af­ter it funded and car­ried out sev­eral con­struc­tion projects in the coun­try, in­clud­ing the building of schools, hos­pi­tals and a dam. Through this in­volve­ment, In­dia is bet­ting heav­ily on Afghanistan. This is in part in re­sponse to re­peated de­mands from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to see New Delhi be­gin to play its part in the re­gion, but also as a direct at­tempt to un­der­mine Pak­istan’s in­flu­ence. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Is­lam­abad who at­tended the talks were un­sur­pris­ingly dis­mayed by In­dia’s grow­ing role in the Afghan peace-building process.

Although di­rectly talk­ing with Tal­iban mem­bers rep­re­sents a ma­jor di­ver­sion from In­dia’s pol­icy to date, at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence en­ables New Delhi to take an ac­tive part in shap­ing the fi­nal outcome of the cease­fire agreement, which may very well bring the Tal­iban back into the Afghani par­lia­ment and po­lit­i­cal arena. We’ll see what this might spell for the fu­ture of In­dia’s re­la­tions with its neigh­bors. – Zaker al-Rah­man

SYRIA AND THE RE­TURN TO AS­TANA Al-Araby al-Jadeed, Lon­don, Novem­ber 22

A new round of talks on the Syr­ian sit­u­a­tion is sched­uled to be­gin in As­tana [Kaza­khstan] at the end of Novem­ber. The 10th round of talks, which took place in late July, re­volved around the is­sues of com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism and the re­turn of refugees.

The head of the Rus­sian del­e­ga­tion, Alexan­der Lavren­tiev, claimed then that the talks brought about “pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments.” How­ever, the Syr­ian peo­ple did not no­tice any changes on the ground ex­cept for the so-called re­duc­tion of es­ca­la­tion, which re­sulted in a forced rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion and the As­sad regime, the sub­se­quent han­dover of the former’s weapons, and their forced dis­place­ment to the Syr­ian north. Un­for­tu­nately, Rus­sia has not been able to keep up the prom­ises it made to those who ac­cepted the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

Ob­vi­ously, Iran plays a big role in thwart­ing any at­tempt to find a so­lu­tion to the sit­u­a­tion in Syria. It knows that the end of the con­flict be­tween the regime and the op­po­si­tion may re­unite Syr­i­ans again. Un­der such cir­cum­stances, Tehran’s pres­ence in Syria will be chal­lenged, and its in­volve­ment in Syr­ian po­lit­i­cal life will be brought to the fore.

Sim­i­larly, the As­sad regime will be un­able to jus­tify the ex­is­tence of Ira­nian mili­tias in Syria af­ter a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion is reached, es­pe­cially since the gen­eral pub­lic re­jects Iran’s med­dling in Syria’s do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal af­fairs. The Syr­i­ans, like the rest of the world, know that Tehran’s ul­ti­mate goal is to achieve an ide­o­log­i­cal, cul­tural and de­mo­graphic oc­cu­pa­tion of Syria.

Even Rus­sia will be un­able to de­fend Iran’s ex­pan-

sion­ist project in the re­gion, be­cause do­ing so will risk Moscow’s close re­la­tions with a num­ber of Arab and non-Arab coun­tries that have be­come in­creas­ingly threat­ened by Iran in re­cent years.

With this in mind, the real ques­tion now is what the next round of talks in As­tana will bring. Will it pro­vide a way out of the cri­sis in Idlib? Can it pave the path to­ward ne­go­ti­at­ing a fi­nal so­lu­tion for the Syr­ian cri­sis in Geneva? Or, con­versely, will it pro­vide the ground­work for Iran to es­tab­lish a permanent and for­mal pres­ence in Syria, which will lead to more fight­ing and fur­ther blood­shed in years to come?

– Riyad Naasan Agha

TRUMP, SAUDI ARA­BIA AND IRAN Al-Arab, Lon­don, Novem­ber 23

Those who keep up with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s state­ments know that for the first time since Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, there is fi­nally an­other US ad­min­is­tra­tion that un­der­stands some­thing about the Mid­dle East and the chal­lenges that it is fac­ing.

Although he of­ten fails to drill down into the de­tails of his plan, Trump seems to hit the nail on the head. His state­ments jump straight to the point, with­out po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. His re­marks last week, for ex­am­ple, be­gan by ad­dress­ing Iran di­rectly, stress­ing that Tehran is “wag­ing war by other means” on Saudi Ara­bia from Ye­men. The pres­i­dent’s re­marks were not limited to Ye­men. Trump went over Iran’s be­hav­ior in Iraq and Le­banon, where it pro­vided sup­port for Hezbol­lah, and in Syria, where it aided Bashar As­sad in killing mil­lions of Syr­i­ans. Trump con­cluded the in­tro­duc­tion to his statement by say­ing “Iran is at the fore­front of the spon­sors of ter­ror­ism” in the world.

The en­tire White House statement was a com­par­i­son be­tween Iran’s be­hav­ior and the be­hav­ior of Saudi Ara­bia. The US pres­i­dent an­a­lyzed Saudi pol­icy and demon­strated how the king­dom is an ally of the United States, shar­ing its ef­forts to fight ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism. Trump men­tioned that Saudi Ara­bia is pre­pared to in­vest about $450 bil­lion in the United States, and warned that if Riyadh doesn’t buy Amer­i­can weapons, these arms deals will go to China and Rus­sia. This statement is a mon­u­men­tal mile­stone in the re­la­tions be­tween Riyadh and Washington. Trump clearly refused to fol­low the foot­steps of his pre­de­ces­sors by ig­nor­ing the Ira­nian in­volve­ment in the re­gion. He was clear in his in­ten­tions to strengthen his coun­try’s ties with Saudi Ara­bia.

Yes, the crime of killing Ja­mal Khashoggi can­not be jus­ti­fied in any way. This is cer­tain. But it is also not nat­u­ral to ex­ploit this crime to di­rectly tar­get Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man. Trump there­fore found no fault in ad­mit­ting that the Saudi crown prince may have had fore­knowl­edge of the crime, but refused to al­low this in­ci­dent to strengthen Iran.

Will this Amer­i­can con­vic­tion fi­nally reg­is­ter with Iran? Will it pick up on the mes­sage and fi­nally un­der­stand that the US ad­min­is­tra­tion has a clear strat­egy against its ex­pan­sion­ist am­bi­tions? In 1991, Iran tried to dupe the world by tak­ing con­trol over Iraq in the af­ter­math of the Gulf War. It de­ployed sec­tar­ian mili­tias and el­e­ments of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards in an at­tempt to top­ple the Iraqi regime. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion had enough wis­dom to pre­vent this, de­spite every­thing Sad­dam Hus­sein’s regime had done. It was Bush, sec­re­tary of state James Baker and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Brent Scowcroft who knew that the fall of Iraq would mean that Iran could un­der­mine the re­gional bal­ance.

Although Bush shouldn’t be com­pared to Trump, es­pe­cially in the light of the former’s ex­pe­ri­ence in global pol­i­tics and the lat­ter’s lack thereof, it can­not be ig­nored that the cur­rent US ad­min­is­tra­tion is the first in many years to fi­nally look the Mid­dle East re­al­ity in the eye and call it as it is. – Kheir Al­lah Kheir Al­lah

In­dia is bet­ting heav­ily on Afghanistan

US PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump ad­dresses sup­port­ers dur­ing a Make Amer­ica Great Again rally in Biloxi, Mis­sis­sippi, on Novem­ber 26.

(Photos: Reuters)

TAL­IBAN DEL­E­GA­TION mem­bers take their seats dur­ing mul­ti­lat­eral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow on Novem­ber 9.

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