Hot off the Arab press 457663

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

Red Cross members work at the site of an explosion at Blom Bank in Beirut, June 12 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Red Cross members work at the site of an explosion at Blom Bank in Beirut, June 12
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Between Hezbollah and bank explosions
Al-Arab, London, June 18
A large blast shook the streets of west Beirut last week, after a bomb exploded outside the headquarters of one of the nation’s largest banks. Luckily, no lives were lost in the explosion, but severe damage was caused to the building and property in its vicinity.
The explosion was very deliberate. It occurred at a time when people were breaking their fasts at home, and when the bank was undoubtedly empty. There is no doubt, therefore, that it was aimed at sending a message. No official investigation reports have been released yet, but I am certain that Hezbollah was behind this. Why? It all comes down to US-imposed sanctions. Several international investigations conducted between the years of 2010-2013 revealed that key Hezbollah members were engaged in money laundering in Lebanese banks, after establishing financial networks around the world. Bank accounts in Lebanon were linked to others in Australia, Colombia, Germany, Ecuador and the Netherlands. The money wired between them was then used to finance arms and weapons – many of which were sent to Syria and Iraq. Consequently, the United States Treasury imposed sanctions on Lebanese banks, monitoring from afar almost any transaction made on Lebanese soil. More importantly, this scrutiny was not carried out unilaterally: Lebanon’s Central Bank came on board fully with its American counterpart, granting Treasury officials all of the information it requested.
Now, after sustaining heavy losses in Syria and facing financial sanctions at home, Hezbollah is desperate to remove this scrutiny. It is signaling to Lebanon’s leaders that it will not accept the status quo, and will continue to undermine the banking industry – of the county as a whole – so long as the sanctions remain in place. It is accusing the government of succumbing to foreign powers and undermining Lebanon’s independence while, ironically, undermining itself the country’s sovereignty.
This is a slippery slope that must call our attention.
We cannot let groups within Lebanon dictate the national agenda through the use of force. State institutions, and certainly laws, are above everything else.
Today it is the banks; tomorrow it can be the police, the military, or the government. Hezbollah must respect the rules and authorities of this country. – Ahmad Udnan
All eyes on Hamas
Al-Quds News, Ramallah, June 16
While I am certainly not an avid advocate of Hamas, I can’t help but be filled with anger every time I read the news. What I see around me is an unbelievable preoccupation with Hamas and its false portrayal as the source of all political divisions in Palestinian politics.
Old and new pundits alike portray Hamas as an evil force working to “undermine democracy” and to “stage a coup” against the PLO. What they forget, however, is a crucial piece of this puzzle: that Hamas has been democratically elected by the people.
If anything, it is Mahmoud Abbas, our current leader, who has been undermining democracy and ignoring public opinion. It is Abbas, with his notorious security coordination with Israeli authorities, his refusal to hold open elections, and his attempts to dismiss the Palestinian National Council, who should be scrutinized and held accountable for the growing political rifts among us. Yet Abbas’s close group of cronies, who control our media, ensures that not a single negative word is written against our president.
Hamas, meanwhile, is fair game for all, sustaining recurring blows in every possible media channel. My question is: Has Hamas done anything wrong by listening to the desires of the people? Has it not been democratically elected in fair elections? I cannot remember the last time Abbas stood for election and was held accountable for his actions. He claims to defend the Palestinian cause but in reality cooperates with Israeli authorities. Israel is our enemy, and it should be treated as such. Any attempt to do otherwise – as Abbas has been doing for years – constitutes the real betrayal of the Palestinian people. – Faiz Abu Shimala
A lost letter from Qatar to Washington
Asharq al-Awsat, London, June 16
I recently came across a rare historical document, a letter sent in 1945 from Saudi King Abdulaziz to the American secretary of state, protesting the latter’s refusal to sell arms to the kingdom. What is unique about this document is that it tells not only of the relations that existed between the countries back in the mid-1940s but also of relations to this very day.
In the letter, Abdulaziz expressed Saudi Arabia’s hope to align with the United States and welcome an American diplomatic delegation to the country. He expressed his deep admiration of the American people. At the same time, he clarified that Riyadh will not be willing to become an American colony, nor will it relinquish its sovereignty for weapons and armaments. Eventually, the American administration accepted the invitation and expressed its willingness to work closely with its Saudi counterparts.
This letter is interesting in that, despite being written just several months after the Second World War had ended, it could have easily been drafted today.
In the last several years, the United States has enhanced its relations with Iran at the expense of its long-standing Gulf allies. This left countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Qatar with no choice but to form alliances with Russia and China. Despite standing by Washington’s side for decades, including during wars and military operations, these Gulf States suddenly found themselves neglected and abandoned by the American administration. While they value their alliance with Washington to a great extent, they refuse to relinquish their sovereignty. While they desire America’s support, they refuse to see Iran become a regional superpower.
It is for these reasons that the letter, written over seven decades ago, seems to be more relevant today than ever before. The Arab Gulf values its alliance with America, but not at any price. – Abdulrahman al-Rashed
For more Media Line Stories: