Hot off the Arab press 481158

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

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (photo credit: REUTERS)
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, February 1
Is Hamas on the verge of a strategic shift in its relations with Egypt? Sources in Gaza have indicated that senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh recently visited Cairo and met with Egyptian government officials in order to relaunch relations between the two sides.
The Egyptian government under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has taken a bellicose stance against the organization ever since the ousting of former president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi in 2013. In recent weeks, it seems, the deadlock between the two sides has come to an end, marking a strategic change in these relations.
Egyptian officials, however, seemed more hesitant in their reaction to the meeting. According to several sources in Cairo, the understandings reached with Hamas revolve mostly around border arrangements, and not a renewal of ties with the Egyptian government, as some reports have indicated.
The Egyptians seem to be willing to ease their blockade on the Gaza Strip, if Hamas successfully complies with Egyptian security demands – most notably, restricting the movement of Salafist jihadists in and out of Sinai.
It is hard to imagine that Sisi will change his country’s policy toward Hamas without consulting with the Israelis. Both countries are trying to contain Hamas and restrict its operations on their borders.
However, the economic situation in the Strip has reached such dire straits that Hamas could easily launch a military offensive against Israel just to distract the local population from its failing governance. Thus, the Israelis and Egyptians face no other choice but to ease the blockade on the Strip and allow some goods to enter.
What is interesting is that Hamas officials are interpreting this change in policy as a strategic shift. In reality, this is nothing more than a tactical maneuver. Cairo is interested in keeping the Gaza-based organization restrained and quiet, while proving to the new American administration that it is actively fighting radical terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula. Hamas is a mere chess piece in a bigger board game, not Cairo’s new strategic partner.
– Saleh al-Nami
Asharq al-Awsat, London, February 2
President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized his predecessor, Barack Obama, for withdrawing all US forces from Iraq and leaving the country at the hands of the Iranian regime.
Just a few days after Trump stepped into office, the mullahs in Tehran sent a clear message to the new president by ordering the Iraqi franchise of Hezbollah, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, to fire a barrage of missiles across the Syrian border.
Tehran is trying to prove to Trump that it still wields power in the region. Its eyes are set on Iraq, whose significant oil reserves could help fund the Revolutionary Guards and their operations abroad. Slowly but surely, Tehran succeeded in mobilizing thousands of troops across the border, establishing an on-the-ground presence in different parts of Iraq. Trump’s men are all too familiar with this reality; many of them served in Iraq and witnessed Iranian expansionism firsthand.
With unrest continuously unfolding in the region, Trump will have to begin working somewhere. It would be imprudent of me to claim that he is likely to redeploy American forces in Iraq. However, he will certainly pay attention to what is happening in the country. With its influence in Syria almost completely lost, America will have to look for new fronts through which it can address the region’s problems. And it is in Iraq, after all, where all the major players in the Middle East are becoming increasingly active.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Akhbar al-Khaleej, UAE, February 1
Although the Kremlin would hate to admit it, Russia’s foreign policy in Syria has failed. Russia began bombing Syria from the air in September 2015, with the hope of quelling the Syrian opposition. A yearand- a-half later, after having used almost all the sophisticated weapon systems at its disposal, Moscow is still far from achieving this goal. In the meantime, thousands of innocent Syrian civilians have lost their lives as a result of these attacks.
Perhaps what is most remarkable is the speed with which Russia agreed to launch peace negotiations with the rebels in Astana, after having insisted for months that opposition leaders were nothing but “terrorists.” Moscow knows that time is not working in its favor.
President Barack Obama, who was a firm supporter of the Geneva peace talks, has already left the White House. Who knows what policies President Donald Trump will support in the region? In addition, Iran has been enhancing its footprint in Syria, spoiling any attempt to achieve a cease-fire.
Therefore, the Kremlin acted fast. Only two weeks after a cease-fire was reached with the rebels, the Russians already convened the Astana Conference, at which they presented a draft constitution for Syria.
This was a mistake. First, because not all representatives of the Syrian opposition were invited to the talks. And second, because it is simply inconceivable that Syrian groups fighting for the redemption of their country would accept a constitution written by a foreign power. This resulted in a failed convention and a return to square one.
Unfortunately for Moscow, it seems that the situation in Syria is not getting much better. Despite thinking that it could get in, get the work done and leave, Russia is now discovering that it is engrossed and immersed in the Syrian quagmire. While there is no easy way out of the mud, admitting the fact that its blind support for Assad and Iran was a mistake is an important first step.
– Muhammad Jawal