Hot off the Arab press 439613

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

US defense Secretary Ashton Carter speaks in London on October 9 (photo credit: REUTERS)
US defense Secretary Ashton Carter speaks in London on October 9
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Hypocrisy of Nimr al-Nimr
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, January 3
Saudi Arabia recently executed a Shi’ite cleric by the name of Nimr al-Nimr, who was accused of inciting against state institutions and “foreign meddling” in Saudi Arabia. Iran’s response soon followed, claiming that Saudi Arabia should expect “divine revenge.” Since then, an all-out diplomatic war has broken out between the two countries, leading to the severing of their already precarious diplomatic ties. There is much to be said about the deteriorating relations between the two countries and the implication of this crisis on the stability of the region. But what is really interesting about this story is actually its media coverage. This is because Western media outlets – from the United States to the UK – decided to simply feed off Iranian propaganda, instead of verifying the facts themselves.
Reports seemed to surround the fact that Saudi Arabia “provocatively” executed a top Shi’ite clerk.
Sadly, only a few news outlets bothered to explain that along with al-Nimr, 40 other criminals were executed as well. All of them were Sunni. Moreover, al- Nimr’s personality was sugarcoated and idolized. He was depicted and referred to as a peaceful spiritual leader, who was killed for rising against the government.
But this could not be more misleading. Nimr al-Nimr openly called for terrorist activity in Saudi Arabia, and released numerous religious rulings that permitted terror.
He contributed, both directly and indirectly, to the killing of dozens of innocent civilians. In accordance with Saudi laws, he was found guilty of incitement and sentenced to death. The world is probably a better place without al-Nimr, and any attempt to glorify his personality or defend his actions is an open support of terror.
In our day and age, anyone inciting for terror should be held accountable for their words. Religious figure and ordinary citizen alike.
– Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
A New Year and a New Era in the Region
Al-Arab, Qatar, December 20
The year 2015 ended just as it began: with horrendous violence and terrorism. It opened with the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris and concluded with the attack at the Bataclan Theater in the very same city. It witnessed Syria turn into a playground where foreign armies test their newly developed weapons on live targets.
It has seen Arab countries disintegrate into failed states. In fact, so many things happened this past year that it is difficult to choose one single event that was most significant. To begin with, there has been an unprecedented plight of refugees from Syria; the biggest plight, in fact, since the end of the Second World War. This tragedy continued with the signing of the nuclear agreement with Tehran, which empowered the Mullahs and legitimized Iran’s expansionist ideology in the region. This past year also witnessed a Saudi campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and a Russian one against the Islamic State in Syria. Both claimed the lives of way too many innocent civilians.
There have been two election campaigns in Turkey; the first put President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party out of power, and the second strengthened his stance. All in all, 2015 saw a lot of changes. It marked a complete lack of authority and guidance in the Middle East. It demonstrated a lack of American leadership, and the rise in power of Iran. But the real question is what will 2016 bring to this region? Despite this pessimistic worldview, we must not sweep such burning matters underneath the rug. We must come to terms with the troubles and mishaps of our region and work to build a more stable Middle East. This is what I wish for in 2016.
– Kheir Allah Kehir Allah
America and its Lost Power
Al-Watan, Egypt, January 2
American foreign policy has become nothing but a bad joke. In fact, the only thing that could be said about US President Barack Obama’s policy is that it is consistently inconsistent. Several days ago, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that “the Russian role in solving the Syrian situation is irreplaceable,” adding that Washington and Moscow will work together to coordinate their positions on solving the crisis.
But a look only three months back reveals an entirely different American stance. Almost every public remark made by the president this past summer unequivocally rejected Russia’s military intervention in Syria. US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that the Russian intervention will meet “strong rejection of the Pentagon” and outlined the numerous risks embedded in such a move.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also followed the same tone. In a hearing before Congress’ Foreign Affairs Committee, General Dunford confirmed that most of the 5,000 air raids carried out by Russia so far have been against legitimate opposition groups and not ISIS targets.
All of these public statements pose the inevitable question: How can the entire US administration oppose Russia, yet still publicly abide by Moscow’s rule? The current American pragmatism, or opportunism, or whatever one wants to name it, is not in line with the behavior of a superpower. Meanwhile, the Middle East is falling apart. Sadly, the only thing that can really help save the region is a new president in the White House.
– Emad al-Din Adeeb
For more Media Line stories: