Hot off the Arab press 466041

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Ankara (photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Ankara
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Turkish coup: who revolted against whom?
Al-Aharam, Egypt, August 21
Commentators around the world are still busy trying to understand the events that transpired in Turkey last month, but there are two main questions that remain unsolved.
The first revolves around the government’s reaction to the failed coup. Within just several days after the rebellion, the Turkish government carried out arrests of a huge number of citizens. Estimates now range well over 100,000 individuals, from all walks of life, who were sent to prison. 934 schools have been closed, 15 universities have lost their accreditation, 104 civil society organizations have been force to shut down, and well over 1,200 others had their assets withheld.All of this happened in the course of one week following the coup! No rational mind can actually claim that the authorities came up with this list within the immediate aftermath of the events that stirred up the country. These lists of names must have been collected and created well in advance, awaiting the moment of truth. Why has no one asked how it is that the Turkish authorities came up with these measures so quickly? The second question revolves around the planning of the coup. It has been said that military leaders worked closely with exiled Turkish political figure Fethullah Gülen on designing the uprising. However, it is still unclear why the Turkish army, which is known historically for its hostility to political Islam, chose to cooperate with a prominent Islamist thinker.
Until very recently, Gülen’s movement was an integral part of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party. Some even claim that Erdogan’s success in the 2002 elections was in large propelled by the support of Gülen’s people. In other words, the Turkish army made a terrible mistake by scaring away its biggest constituents and most avid supporters: secular Turkish citizens. Did no one give this idea a thought? Has no one in the ranks of the army who was involved in the plan, raised the question of what might happen? I suspect that we will continue reading and hearing about the events in Turkey in months to come. But until these two central questions are addressed, it will be difficult for me to believe that Erdogan’s hand was not, itself, involved in the attempt to overthrow the regime.
– Muhammad al-Ramihi
An American who changed Saudi Arabia forever
Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, August 22
Not many know this, but one of the greatest visionaries of Saudi Arabia has actually been... an American.
Years ago, in the early 1930’s, an American geologist by the name of Mark Steineke arrived in the Kingdom with the aim of discovering oil. The company he worked for at the time carried out sample drills in several regions of the country, but concluded that no oil reserves were to be found. Steineke, who studied the land, insisted on carrying out one extra drill. He pointed his supervisor’s attention to one specific site he thought had potential for discovery and, within just several days, oil was found. In just four years, Steineke led to the discovery of numerous wells, including the largest oil field in the world to date.
Whether our economy’s dependence on oil was a good or bad decision could be discussed in length, but there is absolutely no doubt that oil changed who we are and where we are. And within this context, there is absolutely no doubt that Steineke’s sense of curiosity and leadership changed the course of our country forever.
I was therefore somewhat taken aback to find that someone who left such an important mark on our economy, and our society as a whole, was never mentioned in any of the textbooks I read growing up. To my amazement, and the amazement of many of our readers, I suppose, I have only learned of Steineke by coincidence. Saudi Arabia may have witnessed ups and downs in its ties with America throughout the years, but one American changed our Kingdom forever.
– Turki al-Dakhil
Russian expansionism in the Middle East?
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, August 21
Recent satellite images show that Russia has taken its military cooperation with Iran a step forward by establishing an air base in the western Iranian province of Hamadan.
What is surprising is not that this cooperation takes place – indeed, Russian forces have been closely partnering with their Iranian counterparts for quite some time. The true surprise comes from the fact that the government in Tehran allowed Moscow to establish a permanent presence in the country. Even more intriguing are the underlying reasons that could explain this decision.
On the Russian side, Moscow seems to be signaling to the United States and the West that it is unhappy with the recent moves taken by NATO in the Balkan and Baltic Sea.
NATO forces have ramped up their presence in Eastern European countries – on land, at sea, and in the air. Russia’s new airbase in Iran is perhaps an attempt to bring central Asian countries closer to Moscow’s reach, and deter NATO forces from encroaching into Russia’s area of influence.
On the Iranian side, the mullahs have their own interest in promoting this relationship. A year into the implementation of the nuclear deal, Tehran has still barely recovered from the austere economic sanctions imposed upon it in years past. The mullahs are realizing that their celebration over the deal was perhaps too premature. Now, enhancing their ties with Russia, they are hoping to negotiate – or perhaps even blackmail – the United States into making more concessions.
Granted, this is my own analysis. All of these are just speculations for now, but they very well might prove true down the road. What is certain is that the Middle East is still at unease, and any strategic realignment of two powers of this caliber will certainly carry ripple effects across the region, from Lebanon to the Gulf.
– Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed