Hot off the Arab press 485619

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

A man raises a picture of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, leader of the Nidaa Tounes party, January 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A man raises a picture of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, leader of the Nidaa Tounes party, January 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al Jazeera, Qatar, March 21
Recent events reveal Europe’s growing hatred towards Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The first obvious debacle occurred during the failed coup of July 2016, when European leaders were reluctant to condemn the rebel factions that worked to overthrow Erdogan.
The second event is unfolding now, with the upcoming constitutional referendum in Turkey. Several European countries have recently banned their residents from holding public gatherings or demonstrations supporting the proposed constitutional changes. This includes countries like Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The Netherlands went even further by barring the Turkish foreign minister from flying to Rotterdam, where he was scheduled to participate in a pro-constitutional changes event.
Erdogan, on his end, is determined to fight Europe.
He wants to free Turkey from its long-standing European influence, which arguably dates back to the days of the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey is no longer shy. It refuses to be a tool used by Europe to contain the Soviet Union or stop the flow of refugees. Looking at the geopolitical world around him, Erdogan realizes that, in many ways, Europe needs him more than he needs Europe. The continuous negotiations over Turkey’s accession into the EU are futile. Just like [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s strategy with the Palestinians, these negotiations lead nowhere. Their sole purpose is to keep all parties busy while ensuring one side’s dominance over the other.
Erdogan is reshuffling his cards, and his European counterparts are more worried than ever before.
– Sari al-Urabi
Al-Aray al-Jadeed, London, March 18
In the aftermath of the Tunisian Revolution of 2011 something remarkable happened: a body unifying all streams of the Tunisian opposition emerged.
This party, which later became known as Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia), became the largest political party in the country, bringing together people from all walks of life. It became the only viable alternative to the old regime and the puppet opposition party that existed at the time. Indeed, in the 2014 parliamentary elections, Nidaa won a plurality of seats, making its leader Beji Caid Essebsi the new president.
But then something remarkable happened again.
Whereas political parties usually unite following such a remarkable victory, Nidaa began facing internal cracks. Growing voices within the party demanded to split off into a different movement, creating two camps within one single movement.
This dispute now trickled into every part of the government, with different ministers and political departments pledging allegiance to a different camp within Nidaa. The party’s founder accused some of its members of intentionally sabotaging the government’s work in order to topple its current leadership.
The problem now is not only that the Tunisian people are suffering from an ineffective government, but also that there is no alternative in sight. Nidaa was the only political bloc capable of bringing about political change. If it falls apart, the Tunisian people will return to square one, unable to agree upon the identity of their next president and prime minister.
In a post-revolution political culture like that of Tunisia’s, stability is key. Political participation is difficult in a culture that has not been accustomed to free and fair elections. The fall of Nidaa would mark the beginning of a chaotic era in which the government becomes a free-for-all.
Tunisia’s priority must be to maintain its current regime and solve all internal disputes within Nidaa.
– Samir Hamdi
Falesteen, Ramallah, March 20
Earlier this month, UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf resigned from her position at the UN after she was forced to withdraw a report written about Israel, on the grounds that it was “biased.”
The UN’s reaction is shocking. The report states nothing but the obvious: that Israel systematically subjugates the Palestinian people and that it established an apartheid regime in Palestine. The report was supervised by none other than a Jewish human rights expert, who, himself, admitted that Israel works to divide and conquer the Palestinian people along four main lines: inside the 1948 borders, in Jerusalem, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and abroad.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres immediately distanced himself from the report and requested its removal from the UN website. This is nothing but an insult to the United Nations. The same organization that was established to protect human rights around the world is erasing the suffering of the Palestinian people and backing their biggest oppressor.
In the face of such bigotry, Khalaf had no choice but to voice her great disappointment with the organization and resign from her position. She is the true and only moral voice in this entire scandal, and she must be applauded for her courage and bravery. In the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” truths become lies, and lies become truths.
The Americans can simply rewrite history by banning a report on Israel. History will judge those behind the decision, but it will also remember Rima Khalaf as a true guardian of human rights, who puts her morals above any other consideration, even her own personal career.
– Faiz abu-Shimala
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, March 24
Much has been said about [US President Donald] Trump’s colossal misunderstanding of the Middle East and his amateur foreign policy maneuvers. But one aspect of his worldview – namely, that on Iraq – seems to be at least substantiated by actual developments on the ground.
Throughout his campaign trail and even after stepping into office, Trump has repeatedly blasted [former US president Barack] Obama for pulling all American forces out of Iraq. While the president expressed doubts about whether or not the United States should have entered Iraq in the first place, he was clear about his view that America should never have left.
Obama saw things differently: he viewed Iran as a key part of the solution in Iraq, not a key part of the problem. He believed that by cooperating with Iran and incentivizing it to work with the US, Tehran would keep its hands away from Iraq.
Trump and his close aides, including Secretary of Defense [James] Mattis, prescribe to a different belief.
They see Iran as the largest source of instability in the region. In their minds, and perhaps they are not so wrong, the American withdrawal from Iraq left nothing but a political vacuum in the region that was quickly filled by Iran. This led to the problems we are now witnessing in Yemen, Syria, and even Lebanon, where Iran has established and fortified its presence.
It is unclear if Trump’s cabinet will ever translate this belief into action, or what the future of Iraq will be.
However, one thing is certain: the Americans should not have left Iraq as such an easy prey to be taken over by the strongest bully in the neighborhood.
– Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed