Hot off the Arab press 412695

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East.

Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) listens to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (back facing) during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, (photo credit: MAXIM ZMEYEV/REUTERS)
Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) listens to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (back facing) during their meeting in Moscow, Russia,
(photo credit: MAXIM ZMEYEV/REUTERS)
When Obama adopts the rhetoric of the mullahs
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, August 14
There are many risks associated with fighting a political opponent – whether a person or an entity – but history has proven that perhaps the biggest of them all is the risk of approximating your nemesis.
Such behavior, for example, was easy to notice during the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union imitated each other’s military doctrines and sought to beat each other in developing nuclear weapon systems. Similarly, the United States rushed to train and deploy spies in the USSR, shortly after realizing that Soviet spies breached its own intelligence agencies. History is full of such examples.
All of this came back to me while I was watching President [Barack] Obama’s speech on Iran last week.
His rhetoric seemed to have been taken directly from the speechwriters of the mullahs in Tehran.
Obama portrayed reality in dichotomous terms – good versus evil, heaven against hell – and ignored the wide range of opportunities that exist between going to war with Iran, on one hand, and signing a placatory nuclear deal, on the other.
The president hid the nitty-gritty details of the agreement, and chose to speak in vague and abstract terms. He dehumanized those who oppose his policies, describing them as “warmongers” and “belligerents.”
Sadly, the president seemed to have forgotten that among these “warmongers” are also his very own vice president and secretary of state, both of whom backed the invasion into Iraq.
On the Iranian side, Obama ignored the fact that Tehran is yet to accept the agreement, and that the mullahs, for years, have been raising their popularity by chanting “Death to America.”
I am opposed to the Vienna deal as it is, because I believe that a better agreement is possible. And no, I am not a warmonger nor an enemy of America. President Obama’s dismissal of his dissidents at home resembles all too much an Iranian dictatorship. It certainly isn’t appropriate for the world’s greatest democracy.
– Amir Taheri
Mohammad Javad Zarif: a celebrity in the Middle East
Al-Safir, Lebanon, August 13
Earlier this week I met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at Beirut’s international airport, upon his first visit to Lebanon since the signing of the nuclear agreement. Zarif has come to Lebanon to lay out the Iranian initiative for a ceasefire in Syria.
With a peculiar smile on his face, the minister seems to be more of a celebrity than a politician these days. He managed to take Iran out of its dire sanctions regime and outplayed the world’s greatest powers – the United States, Britain, France, and Germany – during the nuclear talks. At home, he has won the unequivocal support of the supreme leader, the president, the Iranian Shura Council and his people. It’s enough to look at him to know that he is at the peak of his career.
During our short conversation, Zarif seemed determined to send a message to the neighbors in the region.
He denied rumors of tensions between Tehran and Ankara, stating that his visit to Turkey was postponed simply due to “a conflict of schedules.”
He made a direct appeal to his “Saudi friends” and called them to “see the facts as they are.” Zarif explained that Iran has never been hostile to Saudi Arabia, while the latter openly stood by Saddam Hussein’s side during his war with Iran.
He concluded by saying that Iran is interested in promoting greater peace in the region, and that “everyone around us” is content with the agreement, with the exception of Benjamin Netanyahu.
– Marlin Halifa
Iran’s four-point plan for Syria
Al-Hayat, London, August 16
Iran is trying to implement a new agenda in Syria by pushing for a four-point plan: an immediate ceasefire, the establishment of a national unity government, the anchoring of minority rights in the constitution, and internationally supervised presidential elections in Syria.
At first, these all seem like reasonable solutions.
However, a closer look at the politics behind the plan reveals Tehran’s hidden motives in pursuing this agenda.
In 2012, the United Nations and the Arab League adopted the six-point peace plan for Syria, which was then ratified in the 2014 Geneva II Conference. The plan called for the resignation of [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, to which Tehran and Moscow were opposed from the very beginning.
By promoting a plan of its own – supported by Russia – Tehran is now staging a coup against the Geneva framework. It is trying to use a cease-fire in order to give an official status to the militias it has built in Syria. It is ignoring the need for a transitional government by calling for a large and dysfunctional unity government. It is seeking to anchor sectarian tensions in the constitution, similarly to the Taif Agreement in Lebanon, which pledged to abolish political sectarianism but in reality made it thrive.
Above all, Iran seeks to position itself as a key player in Syria, and is not willing to cede its power to the United Nations and the Arab League. It is playing a dangerous game, because it successfully cons the West.
The leaders in Tehran talk about a diplomatic solution in Syria, while deploying more and more Revolutionary Guard militias, supported by Hezbollah, to fight alongside Assad. It uses noble rhetoric to deceive the international community and hides behind a cloak of diplomacy to increase its military involvement in the region.
– Raghda Hargdam