Hot off the Arab press 483706

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (center-right) talks to Saudi Arabia's King Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud (center-left) after planting a tree at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta last week, during a historic visit to Indonesia, the first visit by a Saudi head of state in 47 years (photo credit: REUTERS)
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (center-right) talks to Saudi Arabia's King Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud (center-left) after planting a tree at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta last week, during a historic visit to Indonesia, the first visit by a Saudi head of state in 47 years
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Saudi Arabia and the Asian growl
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 6
In Jakarta, as in Kuala Lumpur, the visiting journalist can clearly hear the loud Asian growls. This is the roar of people who are unhappy with their situation, who are longing for a better future, and who want to break out of poverty and misery.
Hundreds of millions of people live in Indonesia and Malaysia. They have witnessed other Asian giants – China, India, Japan – break through poverty and establish strong economies. They, too, want economic growth and cooperation with regional partners.
One of the first to recognize this craving is Saudi Arabia. Last week, King Salman, together with over 500 government and business officials, embarked on a monthlong visit to the region, stopping in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, China and a few other nations.
The king has a strategic vision for Saudi Arabia. He is looking eastward with the hope to leverage these relations and establish new economic and military ties.
Saudi Arabia has learned, through the Iranian nuclear deal and the rise of a suspicious American president, that it must expand its partnerships in new ways.
For Saudi Arabia, the leader of the Muslim world, it seems only normal to enhance its ties with two of the largest Muslim nations in Asia. Together, they can promote new initiatives in the fields of energy, security and defense, and trade. Salman is determined to overhaul the kingdom’s economy, making Asia-Pacific a prime destination for Saudi Arabia’s new investments.
– Ghassan Sharbil
How will Mubarak be remembered?
Asharq al-Awsat, London, March 4
Last week, Egypt’s top appeals court acquitted former president Hosni Mubarak from charges of killing protesters during the January 2011 Revolution.
This ruling was long overdue. Mubarak was many things, but a murderer was not one of them. He surrounded himself with cronies. He allowed corruption to take place at all levels of governance. He rigged the elections time and again and refused to vacate the president’s seat. But he never ordered his security forces to kill Egyptian civilians taking to the square.
At the beginning of his trial, a lot was unknown.
Like every other person facing trial in Egypt, he was brought into court and placed behind bars. The prosecution even attempted to push forward a death sentence.
But this, to be sure, was never the intention of the average Egyptian citizen. Even those who took to the streets and flooded Tahrir Square did not want to see their president killed. Mubarak, after all, was an Egyptian just like them. What they wanted was dignity, justice and freedom. Egyptians wanted political representation.
Since the revolution, Mubarak has spent over six years in prison. He witnessed his trial – a trial he could have avoided – become politicized. New allegations were presented against him, new charges were added and dropped, and new rounds of court sittings were held.
These six years have undoubtedly been a long sentence to serve for someone who was eventually acquitted.
However, it is the price that Mubarak paid for his intransigence. Had he noticed any of the signs around him during his six terms as president, he would have avoided this fate. But he didn’t, and he paid the ultimate price for his obstinacy.
For a man his age – nearing his 90s – there is not much time left in the world. This trial, however, was never about Mubarak’s future. Rather, it was about his past. For the sake of history, Mubarak wanted to be remembered as an innocent president. Not a murderer.
This week he finally achieved this goal.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed
The key to understanding Donald Trump
An-Nahar, Lebanon, March 2
The two months that have passed since US Presi-dent Donald Trump first stepped into office have been characterized by a fervent media frenzy. Much of it – perhaps most if it – is understandable and warranted: the president has made countless remarks and passed numerous policies that should be of concern to every American.
However, I can’t help but think that some of the hype we are witnessing is caused by our failure to understand how Trump operates.
Let us start from the end: Trump is a stubborn, egotistic and narcissistic human being, who has very little, if any, experience as a politician. This might help us understand why his clashes with the media are not much different from his clashes with everyone else around him – including those he respects and likes.
Take, for example, his own Republican Party, which the president has no interest in upsetting. Trump could have chosen a thousand targets with which to engage in confrontation other than the GOP’s longtime symbol Sen. John McCain. But to everyone’s disbelief, Trump did exactly that. Not because he is a stern ideologue, but because he doesn’t know any better.
The same goes for the Australian prime minister, whom Trump publicly offended during his first week in office. Australia is one of the United States’ closest allies. Trump could have chosen a lot of other countries to critique, but he didn’t understand that in politics and diplomacy, one cannot simply go on a whim.
And then there’s Trump’s notorious speech at CIA headquarters, in which he criticized George W. Bush for not taking over Iraqi oil fields.
Trump’s modus operandi is to act as though he were still working in his office at the top floor of the Trump Tower. He understands neither the repercussions of his actions nor their magnitude.
Luckily for him – and for all of us in the world – Trump is surrounded by a few experienced strongmen who can tame him. These are Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, without whom Trump cannot make a single decision.
Instead of feeding off of this hype and giving Trump the attention he craves, let us be wiser. We can keep scrutinizing the president’s actions, while realizing that the only beneficiary of this media frenzy is Trump himself.
– Ahmad Faraj
Israel’s new ambition in Sinai
Al Jazeera, Qatar, March 1
Last month, rockets fired from the Sinai Peninsula landed in Eilat. Although you might not know this, Israeli forces responded by bombing, from the air and from the ground, several targets believed to be associated with Islamist forces.
The Egyptian media failed to report these incursions.
My suspicion is that the instructions not to report were given from above, perhaps even from the president himself.
Indeed, in recent months, the IDF has exacerbated its attacks in Sinai and allowed its forces to cross into Egyptian territory both by air and by foot. But the Israeli operations didn’t end with retaliation. Israel has been using these raids in order to promote its own strategic interests in Sinai, often acting in complete isolation from the rocket attacks.
It is not difficult to understand Israel’s motivations.
In its narrowest part, Israel is a mere 20 kilometers wide. The Israeli army does not enjoy the strategic depth that so many other nations enjoy. Sinai, however, allows Israel to act against its targets from afar – a privilege it rarely has.
Another obvious motivation is Israel’s inherent aggression.
As a country that was founded on the displacement of people, as well as one that enhanced its security through the occupation of more territories, Israel cannot resist the temptation of using its force to blur, and renegotiate, its borders.
With an Egyptian administration that barely cares about its actions in its backyard, Tel Aviv can set facts on the ground and gain more territory, just as it does in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
It is difficult to tell what Israel’s ultimate ambitions in Sinai are. For all we know, Tel Aviv sees Sinai as part of the solution to the Gaza problem, either by the deportation of Palestinians to Sinai, or through the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and parts of Egypt.
Either way, one thing is certain: What is in Israel’s interest is not always in the interest of Egypt or in the interest of the rest of the Arab world.
– Nabeel Fawli