Voices from the Arab press: North Korea today, Iran tomorrow?

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

By MEDIA LINE
May 5, 2018 12:30
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands at the truce vill

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, April 27, 2018 . (photo credit: KOREA SUMMIT PRESS POOL)

WILL NORTH KOREA'S POTENTIAL DENUCLEARIZATION SPELL TROUBLE FOR IRAN?
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, April 30

The developments we are witnessing on the Korean Peninsula could spell grave trouble for the regime in Tehran.

If the rumors about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula are true, Iran will soon find itself isolated from the rest of the world, losing its last international ally in the quest for atomic arms. Granted, it remains unclear whether Kim Jong-un will actually deliver on his promise to discontinue his country’s nuclear program.

The recent summit between the leaders of the two Koreas is certainly encouraging, but it isn’t enough. History has taught us that Pyongyang can make promises and break them shortly thereafter. It is also unclear what has brought Kim Jong-Un to the negotiating table at this point of time. Has he come to realize that normalizing ties with other countries is the only way to move forward? Is he simply duping the West? If the peace process between Pyongyang and Seoul unfolds in a positive manner, this would be tantamount to a diplomatic earthquake for Iran. The Iranian leadership is already on pins and needles, fearing the prospect of being alone in its battle against the United States.

Mounting pressure from the international community and the threat to nix the nuclear deal are already taking their toll on the mullahs. It would be wise for them to look at the Korean Peninsula and understand that the only way to ensure their nation’s security and stability is through the normalization of relations with the West. If Kim Jong-un understands this, so can they. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

THE UN ENVOY WHO HASN’T LEARNED THE LESSON
Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, April 29

As the humanitarian situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate, the United Nations recently appointed a new special envoy to oversee national reconciliation talks.

But from what I can gather so far, Martin Griffith has not diverged in any way from his predecessors, who failed miserably and were thus required to resign.

In his first weeks on the job, Griffith has been calling for the formation of a transitional government in Yemen, which would include “all political factions,” including the Houthi militias. What the envoy might be forgetting is that the Houthis were already invited to engage in peace talks during the Yemeni National Dialogue held last year. But they decided to leave those talks and continue using violence to achieve their goals.

In my eyes, therefore, the Houthis remain an illegitimate group that should not be dealt with. The ideas propagated by the Houthis are, in my opinion, no different from those of Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy during the Second World War. Instead of inviting the Houthis to join a transitional government, the envoy should have learned from the mistakes of his predecessors and clarified that they instead ought to be destroyed. Houthi militias in Yemen will never disarm or cease their activities against the regime as such a move would contradict their very own raison d'etre.

Sadly, Griffith will learn this reality the hard way.

– Mashry al-Zaidi


THE SYRIAN RIGHT OF RETURN
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, April 22

We’ve all heard of the right of return of the Palestinian people to their native homeland. We’ve discussed this issue at length, and even proposed policies – some better than others – to deal with the ongoing displacement of Palestinian refugees since.

What we have completely overlooked, however, is another right of return: namely, that of Syrian refugees. With over seven million civilians forced from their homes since the beginning of the war, an entirely new population of displaced persons has emerged in the Middle East.

Like their Palestinian brethren, Syrian refugees were also forced to flee from the brutality of the regime under which they lived.

An academic symposium held in Jordan last week tried to address this cruel reality by focusing on the displacement of Syrian refugees in recent years. The various speakers outlined the inhumane policies of Bashar Assad, who has allowed lands left by those who fled to be taken over by gangs and armed militias.

In other words, displaced Syrians have, quite literally, nowhere to return to. Even if the situation in the country improves, these men, women and children have lost their claim to their very own homes. Syria is also witnessing a sectarian reengineering of the country, with entire populations wiped off the face of earth as new borders are drawn along ethnic and religious lines.

Assad has been quoted saying that although Syria lost millions of people in the war, at least it has been left with a homogeneous society of Alawites and their loyalists. Those who fled Syria are not wanted back as they are viewed as traitors.

It is hard to imagine a situation in which millions of displaced people lack the fundamental right to return to their homes. This is going to be the defining issue for generations of Syrians to come. – Muahmmad Abu Rahman

HOW LEBANON CAN BECOME ENMESHED IN A WAR IT DOES NOT WANT

Al Bayan, UAE, April 24

Last week, a Hezbollah spokesperson claimed that Lebanon would not be dragged into a confrontation between Israel and Iran over Syria.

Although this statement did not receive widespread public attention, it brought a huge sense of relief to many in Lebanon. As threats of an impending confrontation grow, policymakers in Beirut are increasingly fearful of their country being dragged into an armed conflict with Israel at the behest of Hezbollah.

The Iranian proxy is taking a step back, however, not due to its belief in nonviolent resistance, but out of a careful understanding of the domestic political situation. With parliamentary elections set to take place, Hezbollah leaders are afraid to undermine their political campaign. The idea, instead, is to take over Lebanon by increasing the group’s presence in parliament and slowly taking over the political establishment – just like it did with the Lebanese army.

Meanwhile, the rhetoric between Israel and Iran has reached troubling new levels. Whereas in the past Israel maintained a policy of ambiguity regarding its military activity in Syria, Israeli officials now publicly boast of their operations against Iranian targets abroad. The mullahs in Tehran, too, have stepped up their intimidation, threatening to annihilate Israel if it defies Iran’s sovereignty. What we are currently witnessing is a classic security dilemma.

As Israeli leaders continue to speak against Tehran, Iranian leaders continue to up their own rhetoric. This creates a downward spiral that may very well lead to war.

The only way to stabilize the situation at this stage is through Russian intervention.

Despite its stance, the Israeli leadership isn’t interested in a conflict.

Therefore, the threats emanating from Tel Aviv are really targeted at Moscow, with a view to forcing the Kremlin to rein in Iran. Whether Vladimir Putin decides to prevent the next war or not remains to be seen. But if an armed confrontation were to break out in Syrian territory between Iran and Israel, Lebanon may very well find itself dragged into a war it did not intend on fighting. – Ronda Haider


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