Hot off the Arab press 443856

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

Five years after Tunisia’s Arab Spring, an unemployed graduate, Rabie Gharssali, visits the grave of his friend, Ridha Yahyaoui, who killed himself after being refused a job (photo credit: REUTERS)
Five years after Tunisia’s Arab Spring, an unemployed graduate, Rabie Gharssali, visits the grave of his friend, Ridha Yahyaoui, who killed himself after being refused a job
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians are the biggest victims
Al-Nahar, Lebanon, January 29
Five years ago, the Arab Spring radically changed the political scene in the region and shifted the balance of power in the Middle East in favor of the State of Israel.
Not only were Israel’s neighbors facing unprecedented waves of political upheaval, but their attention was now also shifted away from the Palestinian cause.
Indeed, today, the Palestinians are no longer a top priority of the Arab world. With the exception of a few voices here and there calling for a boycott of Jewish settlements, no one in the region cares about Palestinian suffering.
The Israeli right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu publicly dismisses the two-state solution, citing the instability in the region and the rise in terrorism.
And it is not just the conservative parties who are opposed to a Palestinian state. Even the head of the Opposition, Isaac Herzog of the Labor Party, recently announced that the two-state solution is not currently “viable.” Instead, he called for a greater separation between Israelis and Palestinians on the ground.
All of this evidence leads to an inevitable conclusion: Israel is using the world’s preoccupation with Islamic State in order to make more gains on the ground, and block any pathway to the formation of an independent Palestine. It is expanding settlements in the West Bank, weakening the Palestinian Authority, and scaring the Israeli public with hints about another war with Hamas.
The biggest victims of what is happening today in the Middle East are the Palestinians. Their cause has been completely neglected and their suffering has been incorporated into the overwhelming chaos that prevails in the Arab world.
Israel, in the mean time, succeeds in “proving” its claim that the Palestinian problem is related to radical Islam; and not, as people rightly claim, to its brutal military occupation of the West Bank. –Randa Heider
Crucial Iranian elections ahead
Al-Ittihad, United Arab Emirates, January 30
Several experts on Iranian affairs have recently told me that the upcoming elections scheduled for February 26 are going to be the most important ones held in the Republic since the 1979 revolution.
The main reason behind this is their timing: they are scheduled to take place shortly after the signing of the nuclear agreement and immediately after the lifting of the sanctions on Teheran.
Hawks affiliated with the current regime and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have launched an aggressive campaign in recent days, aimed at ensuring their victory in the elections. They are concerned for a reason. In 2009, while the Green Revolution was taking place, Khamenei’s camp lost the popular vote and resorted to manipulating the election results. This time, however, they don’t have such a luxury.
All eyes, both at home and abroad, are set on the Supreme Leader and his affiliates. Even President Hassan Rouhani recently claimed that “the Parliament is the house of the people” and that there is no purpose in holding elections “unless there is fair competition.”
Thus, with careful optimism, Iranian moderates and reformists are hoping that the recent deal with the West will mobilize the people to cast a liberal vote.
Such a sway in the public’s stance would allow Tehran to restore its relations with the United States.
Hardliners, in the meantime, are doing everything they can to keep the current elites in power. And given Iran’s involvement in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon, the next elections could be crucial not only for the mullahs, but also for the region as a whole.
– Hazem Saghia
The keys to the Syrian crisis are in the Gulf
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, January 27
Secretary of State John Kerry enthusiastically pushed forward the Geneva Conference this week, aimed at reaching a political solution to the Syrian civil war.
While his efforts should be praised, Kerry must also understand that any solution allowing Bashar Assad to remain in power is simply unacceptable. After murdering almost half a million of his own people, Assad cannot remain a legitimate leader of the Syrian people – no matter what constellation is offered.
In fact, the only players in the region that still enjoy some credibility in the eyes of the Arab public are the Gulf states and Turkey. These two players, therefore, must be made part of the solution in Syria.
The American administration needs to understand that it is being viewed with caution by the Arab world.
Washington recently lifted its sanctions on Iran, and turned a blind eye to Teheran’s sinister involvement in the region.
In Syria, Teheran is trying to control and manipulate the opposition to strengthen Assad’s regime. The talks in Geneva are an important step in the right direction, but they must be done correctly. It is the basic right of the Syrian people to be represented by a legitimate opposition delegation, instead of an Iranian-sanctioned puppet group.
With growing skepticism over America’s commitment to stability in the region, now, more than ever, it is time to look towards the Gulf for more support. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
The Mosul Dam crisis
Al-Mada, Iraq, January 30
The Mosul Dam, which was recently reclaimed from Islamic State by Iraqi forces, is in danger of immediate collapse.
If repairs are not soon made experts fear that the entire Tigris River and its downstream communities would be flooded. The result would be the drowning of Iraq’s second largest city – Mosul – with over 60 feet of water. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis could be killed.
In an act of despair, the government finally signed a deal last month with an Italian company to repair the decaying structure. However, repair works have still not begun. What is troubling is not only the slow pace at which this project is advancing, but also the misinformation provided to the public by the government and the American forces.
First, why is the lake behind the dam not being dried up in order to prevent flooding in case of a collapse? Second, why is some water not released to the river, allowing it to reach Lake Tharthar, where it will not risk a single human being? Third, why is the dam being treated with temporary fixes and remedies, instead of being renovated once and for all? Why do Iraqis have to live in a constant fear of its collapse, instead of carrying out a crucial comprehensive fix – regardless of the cost.
Fourth, if the American and Italian forces in Iraq are so concerned with the integrity of the structure, why are they not providing immediate financial assistance for its repair, given the fact that their forces are actively stationed around Mosul? Fifth – and finally – why are we wasting time with this repair? Spring is just around the corner, and soon enough the melting snow will bring the water flow to its peak. Why are we waiting for a crisis to occur before answers are provided? Isn’t it time that this crisis be addressed with the same gravity it would have been treated with, had it taken place in the Western world? –Salam Sarhan
For more Media Line stories: