Hot off the Arab press 481744

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

A boy carries goods outside a grocery shop in the rebel-held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, this week (photo credit: REUTERS)
A boy carries goods outside a grocery shop in the rebel-held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, this week
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, February 10
Syrian society and politics have always been plagued by corruption. Even before the civil war had begun, corruption and bribery trickled into all areas of life.
In the port city of Latakia, for example, a local hospital director has been accused of collecting bribes for over 20 years from patients requesting basic services and treatments. Throughout the years, he pocketed millions of dollars, and when authorities finally cracked down on his operation, he took his money and left Syria. From the comfort of his new London home, the director arranged for the charges against him to be dropped. He was never taken to court.
If such vexing stories of corruption existed in Syria when it was still a functioning country, imagine how horrible the situation must be right now. I heard numerous stories from various sources about families bribing army officers in order to avoid military conscription.
Syrians who know that they are being sent like lambs to the slaughter would rather hand over their entire life savings in an attempt to escape the fighting.
Another profitable industry that emerged is smuggling.Syrians are asked for bribes to get travel authorizations, passports, transportation permits and visas.Smugglers have been charging innocent citizens thousands of dollars to assist them in fleeing the country. All of these stories are often untold. In the wake of the gruesome images coming out of Syria depicting the dead, Westerners have come to neglect those who are still alive.
How can we even hold negotiations in Adana over the drafting of a new constitution, when nothing is left of Syrian society? In a place where absolutely no trust prevails, where corruption flourishes, and where life hangs on a thread, we cannot even begin to talk about a cease-fire agreement, let alone the building of a civil society or the return to normalcy. – Haifa Baitar
Al-Shorouq, Egypt, February 2
When Saudi King Salman visited Cairo in April 2016, he was given a present by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: control over two uninhabited Egyptian islands in the Red Sea, Tiran and Sanafir. This gesture of goodwill came after long years of firm Saudi backing of the Egyptian economy, which consisted of billions of dollars of aid money alongside generous loans.
The Egyptian public, however, did not like the decision, sparking public uproar and protest against Sisi.
Now, it has been discovered, the Egyptian president was not alone in concluding this agreement. Behind the negotiations was none other than Israel! In audio leaks revealed last week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry can be heard discussing the details of the agreement with a top Israeli official close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two discuss the legal language that would appear on the document, and the Israeli negotiator provides his consent to hand over the islands to Saudi Arabia. Although unheard in the recording, the Israeli interlocutor seems to have the upper hand throughout the entire conversation, and Shoukry repeatedly thanks him.
What is most interesting about this leak is that, other than spelling trouble for Sisi, these recordings shed light on the secret relations that exist between Tel Aviv and Riyadh. The two countries share no formal ties but seem to be engaged in covert dialogue on key political issues behind the scenes. Israeli businessmen have been frequently traveling to Riyadh, and a small diplomatic office was even established in the country some years ago.
Granted, relations between the two countries will never come to fruition unless the Palestinian problem is resolved. But so far, the lack of formal diplomatic ties has not prevented the two countries from closely collaborating on local and regional affairs. – Sameh Fahemy
Asharq al-Awsat, London, February 7
When the victims of the Quebec mosque shooting were buried last week, Hassan Guillet, the imam of the local Muslim community, delivered a powerful speech. “We are burying six victims today,” he said “but there is one victim we are refusing to acknowledge: the attacker. Before he shot bullets at his victims, someone planted those bullets in his head.”
Other than revealing deep compassion and humanity, the imam’s words were remarkably poignant. Is there a difference between the attacker in the Quebec mosque and the one in France’s Louvre? Both are loathsome murderers. But both are also products of their own environments: their culture, their upbringing and their education.
We live in an unprecedented day and age, in which radical ideology spreads across borders. The biggest threat to mankind today rests not with conventional weapons but with radical belief. This weapon is not detectable at airport security machines, nor can it be embargoed and confiscated at borders or checkpoints.
World powers are still struggling to figure out how to win this war, but with no avail. Instead of coming together, they point fingers at each other. This will never lead to a solution.
To understand this trend, it is enough to look at Washington, where President Donald Trump is promoting policies outright hostile to Muslims. Closing borders will protect no one. Ideology travels faster than planes. – Abdulrahman al-Rashed