Voices from the Arab press: Soleimani and Trump

Even if Iran strikes back, its image and projection of power have already suffered a huge blow. It received three painful and degrading strikes in response to the killing of one American.

PRO-TRUMP demonstrators display signs of support as the presidential motorcade drives to Palm Beach International Airport, in Florida on January 5. (photo credit: REUTERS//TOM BRENNER)
PRO-TRUMP demonstrators display signs of support as the presidential motorcade drives to Palm Beach International Airport, in Florida on January 5.
(photo credit: REUTERS//TOM BRENNER)
SOLEIMANI’S KILLING... IRANIAN RETREAT OR REVENGE?
Asharq al-Awsat, London, January 5
Qasem Soleimani was not the highest-ranking general in the Iranian military, but he was the most famous. The American administration, which ordered his assassination, seems more audacious than ever.
Although the Iranian regime has killed hundreds of Americans in the past 40 years, this is the first time that Washington has avenged an attack by directly targeting the Iranian regime. Historically, it responded only by targeting the Iranian regime’s agents in Lebanon.
The Americans have a bank full of Iranian targets they can hit if Iran tries to challenge them. It is for this reason that it is currently unlikely that Iran would dare avenge Soleimani’s death by acting directly against American interests in the region. Instead, it is far more likely that Iran will resort to revenge by targeting Gulf or European targets such as planes, ships, embassies or individuals. Iran has arms in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, and it has agents everywhere.
Even if Iran strikes back, its image and projection of power have already suffered a huge blow. It received three painful and degrading strikes in response to the killing of one American. For subsequent months, until the end of the year, Iran is expected to carry out indirect reprisals, and this is unlikely to affect US President Donald Trump’s chances of winning the upcoming election.
Thus, Tehran has no choice but to admit that it has lost the upper hand. Demonstrations within Iran have weakened the mullah regime, and demonstrations in Iraq continue to embarrass it. The economic blockade is eating up most of Iran’s savings and threatening Iran with bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Israel continues to undermine Iranian interests in Syria, while Russia quietly observes from the sidelines. If Trump succeeds in getting reelected, he will continue clamping down on Tehran until it accepts his conditions.
Soleimani was a symbol of the Iranian empire, but became a symbol of its defeat. He was turned into a famous star after years of remaining a mysterious character. He emerged out of the shadows and was seen walking in the destroyed streets of Aleppo, at the gates of Iraqi Mosul, and in the Lebanese district of Baalbek. He appeared in photos with armed fighters belonging to Hezbollah, the Popular Mobilization Forces, Asaib Al-Haq. Dozens of social media accounts bearing his name appeared online as if he were a Hollywood movie star.
Based on this “celebrity” status, Soleimani was trying to paint himself as the most dangerous Iranian the world has ever known. He stood behind mass killings in Syria and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians who were buried alive in their homes. In Iraq, he was the one who founded the militias that sowed terror in the cities. Soleimani was the military commander of the imaginary Iranian Empire, and this dream of an empire died together with him.
The image of the “hero” of the Iranian people turned against him, as people throughout the region, including in his very own country, took to the streets and protested Iranian aggression. It was Soleimani’s picture they all burned.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed
TRUMP’S RHETORIC: LIKE MUSIC TO PEOPLE’S EARS
Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, January 3
I recently had a long conversation with one of my American colleagues, who did little to hide his loathing of President Donald Trump and, more broadly, the Republican Party. My colleague lives in a true state of despair. He is constantly worried that Trump will destabilize the presidency, given all the mistakes he has made and the sins he has committed.
Sadly, this American colleague has failed to understand the state of populism we are living in. The truth is that in today’s world, political values and principles no longer galvanize voters; populism does. Anyone following Trump’s speeches, including those that paved his way to the White House, will notice that what he does best is appeal to marginalized segments of the American public who have grown tired and suspicious of traditional politicians and their long-standing institutions.
It is always shocking for people to discover that what they perceive as yet another one of Trump’s slips of the tongue are actually carefully planned remarks. Trump’s spontaneous speeches are not all that spontaneous. In his remarks, he makes sure to appeal to an audience that is thirsty to hear politically incorrect statements. Trump understands the tones that rile his supporters, so he plays it with unprecedented ingenuity.
In doing so, he manages to attract the attention of not only his supporters, but also – and sometimes even more so – his opponents. It sometimes seems to me as if Trump is laughing at the raucousness he creates after his opponents and the traditional media react to his statements. He is making them mere pieces in his own game, and they gladly take the bait.
Therefore, anyone observing Trump, regardless of which side of the political map they’re on, should at the very least accept the fact that his strategy is extremely effective. His words are like music to people’s ears, and the American Left, backed by the media, makes sure that it continues to play.
Ahmad al-Farraj

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.