Voices from the Arab Press: Who's Stronger: Iran or the US?

The recent events in Iraq and Iran will have far-reaching consequences in the region.

PAKISTANI SHI’ITE Muslims walk with a banner and signs during a protest against US and Israel over the death of Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, in Lahore, Pakistan, on January 12. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PAKISTANI SHI’ITE Muslims walk with a banner and signs during a protest against US and Israel over the death of Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, in Lahore, Pakistan, on January 12.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Asharq Al-Awsat, London
, January 9
The recent events in Iraq and Iran will have far-reaching consequences in the region. The impact of Soleimani’s killing on Iran is severe: it constitutes a blow not only to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, but also to Tehran’s global prestige and leadership. Evil regimes like Iran are used to underestimating American power. But they severely miscalculate America’s threats, as was evident in the case of Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
The undeniable truth is that most regimes in the Middle East respect only force. Norms and morals might be an important part of international relations, but force speaks louder than words in the Middle East. American presidents had so far avoided using their military capabilities against Iran, but not anymore. Iran was wrong to treat President Trump in the same way it treated his predecessors. After Iran killed an American in Iraqi Kurdistan and managed to besiege the US Embassy in Baghdad, Washington taught it an important lesson.
It is for this reason that the mullahs retaliated to Soleimani’s killing by targeting an empty American base: They were simply fearful of yet another American strike. Iranian leaders now understand that Trump is unlike his predecessors. He is determined and bold. He would not hesitate to bring down the Iranian regime. Forty years of Iranian military and industrial power could be destroyed by Trump in a matter of days.
Tehran refused to learn from the painful lesson of its neighbors who tested American power only to pay a heavy price. Even a major superpower like China succumbed to US pressure and returned to the negotiation table after Trump threatened to revoke their trade deal. So did Mexico, Canada and a wide range of NATO countries. Iran is no different. After these painful strikes on the mullah regime, Iran will have no choice but to open the door for diplomatic negotiations.
Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed
Nida Al-Watan, Lebanon, January 10
No one ever imagined that US President Donald Trump, who specializes in deals, not wars, would have ordered the US military to assassinate the second most important man in Iran – the planner and executor of the Khomeinist revolution, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Major General Qasem Soleimani! Indeed, this decision doesn’t seem to make sense. It is Donald Trump, after all, who dismissed his former national security advisor, John Bolton, due to the latter’s hawkish stance toward Iran and his repeated calls to strike it.
Therefore, there are only two possible explanations for this strike: either the US had credible intelligence gathered by the CIA that Iran would not respond to Soleimani’s assassination, or the assassination was coordinated in one way or another with Tehran. The latter option might seem like a ludicrous conspiracy, but some important questions have been raised in the past few days. Foremost, how is it possible that US troops stationed in Iraq vacated two of their military bases just before the Iranian retaliation occurred?
There is certainly reason to believe that Soleimani was the greatest obstacle standing in the way of a potential reconciliation between the mullahs and Washington. He was a staunch supporter of Iran’s nuclear militarization and its buildup of arms abroad. It is possible that in order to implement its “deal of the century” in the Middle East, Washington realized that it must first curb Iran’s activity in the region. This couldn’t have been achieved as long as Soleimani was around, yet removing him was impossible due to his great domestic influence. The mullahs needed someone else to take him down.
The assassination serves both sides’ interests: first, it is a gift to Donald Trump ahead of the upcoming US elections. Second, the assassination can facilitate Iran’s return to the negotiating table and save the Iranian regime from collapse. Third, it provides Washington with the ability to lift its sanctions on Tehran. Whether this explanation is realistic or not, it is still one worth considering. Now, we have to wait and see how Hezbollah, the last remaining obstacle, responds to Soleimani’s killing.
Tony Abi Najm
Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, January 10
After the American military targeted and eliminated the world’s most-wanted terrorist, Qasem Soleimani, the world was divided into two camps: those who sided with truth and justice and commended the assassination of the man who orchestrated the killing of thousands of innocent people in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Iran; and those who condemned the killing of Soleimani.
A prominent voice in the latter group was Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic resistance organization, which lamented Soleimani’s death and described him as one of the strongest supporters of the Palestinian cause. Ironically, Hamas members seem to have forgotten that it was Soleimani himself who ordered the killing of innocent Palestinians in Syria’s Yarmouk camp, as well as in other places in Iraq and Lebanon. While Hamas’s stance elicited some angry responses, it seems to have slipped under the radar of many others.
The problem is not with Hamas’s sadness over the killing of one of its largest benefactors, but rather with Hamas’s shameful support of a man who murdered Arabs, in general, and Palestinians, in particular, throughout the Middle East. This must not be erased from the Arab collective memory. Most importantly, Hamas’s response clearly proves that the organization is nothing more than a puppet movement that serves every interest except for the Palestinian one.
This is not the first time that the Palestinian movement has showed its true colors. In the past, I did not believe that Hamas would dare support Bashar Assad, who killed thousands of Palestinians in Syria – but I was wrong. It has become clear that Hamas is nothing more than a proxy of the regime in Tehran, and its sole goal is to implement the Iranian agenda – even when it contradicts the interests of the people of Gaza. The killing of Soleimani was an important test for the movement, but it unfortunately proved, yet again, that its loyalty lies far away from Palestine.
 – Ahmed Al-Faraj
Al-Mada, Iraq, January 8
Presently, we are witnessing a violent clash between two types of people: those who believe in markets and those who believe in tribes. The former’s personality is a product of the global capitalist environment and is directly shaped by the economic practices of modern society. This personality cares only about financial success and well-being, and lacks the ability to empathize, let alone form deep connections with others. Perhaps the most prominent model of this character is the current American president, Donald Trump.
Trump is a man who isn’t governed by values, obligations, identity or honesty. His only motivation is his personal interest and profit. In his worldview, everything is a commodity up for sale to the highest bidder. Meanwhile, the tribal personality refuses to accept the modern world. This personality is guided by loyalty to the tribe and outdated social constructs, without any aspirations to change things in the future. This person clings to a passed historical moment and dreams that it will once again return.
The problem is that both these personalities are dangerous. In the eyes of the first group, people are commodities, while in the eyes of the second, they are slaves. For the first, God takes the form of financial success, while for the second, God takes the form of a centralized authority. Both groups are fully prepared to fight for their beliefs and sacrifice themselves on the altar of their so-called gods.
The only possible solution is to reject both. We will be able to move forward only once we put these two dogmatic beliefs behind us and look beyond the ideological illusions that guide them. There is no doubt that this will not happen with mere words, but only with hard work, bitter struggle, and continuous radical revolutions. All of these are painful, yet necessary, if we want to live in peace and security in Iraq.
Luay Khazaal Jabr