Hot off the Arab press 486280

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

Donald Trump (photo credit: REUTERS)
Donald Trump
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt’s impending financial catastrophe
Al-Youm al-Sabea, Egypt, March 29
The current Egyptian deficit, nearing almost $30 billion, is the largest the country has ever known.
The exchange rate of the Egyptian pound has dropped to 18 pounds per dollar. Inflation is at an all-time high, nearing 30%. And to make matters worse, the government is addressing these alarming issues by increasing both its borrowing and the tax burden placed on citizens.
Subsidies that once existed on water, electricity, gas and basic foods have been completely eliminated.
Prices of basic commodities have spiked through the roof. Some basic goods have seen a price increase of nearly 40%. This is not simply a crisis; this is a disaster. Reforms are not going to be enough to get Egypt out of this mess.
A look at the proposed state budget is equally depressing.
Taxes are expected to increase even more, more subsidies are expected to be removed, and large national projects will be shut down. In other words, the brunt of the burden will fall on the shoulders of poor Egyptians.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi needs to launch a complete overhaul of the Egyptian economy, while gathering support – mostly in the term of debt forgiveness – from key international partners. He must reach out to Egypt’s allies not only in Washington but also in the Gulf, and secure the necessary aid for the Egyptian economy.
Egypt has seen a fair amount of political turmoil in recent years.
The time has come for its leaders to act in behalf of the people and save the country from an impending financial and possibly political catastrophe, before it is too late. – Mustafa Abd al-Salam
Has Iran lost its interest in Palestine?
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, March 27
We often talk about the Arab media revolution that came with the launching of private satellite television stations operating from the Gulf, such as Qatar’s Al Jazeera and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya.
On more than one occasion, these channels have been used as political platforms promoting the agenda of their respective governments.
However, very rarely do we discuss the Iranian media revolution.
Ever since the early 2000s, and in recent years more specifically, Iran has set up and established numerous media outlets across the Arab world that are aimed at propagating the agenda of the regime in Tehran. These include television channels, radio stations and even printed media.
In Lebanon, for example, Iran has been operating two prominent television stations: Al-Manar and Al-Mayadeen. The same has been true of Syria. This influence has even reached Palestine, where three Iranian-backed television channels have been airing in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Since the Arab revolutions of 2011, however, Iran has struggled to pay its Palestinian workers. Many producers, news anchors and technical crew members in Palestine have been laid off, and a few of the channels’ offices have been closed.
Iran subsequently began to shift its attention toward other arenas in place of Palestine: Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Of course, these countries are of much greater importance to Tehran these days, given its involvement in the fight against Islamic State and its backing of Houthi rebel militias in Yemen. The Palestinian cause has simply lost importance in the eyes of the mullahs in Tehran.
In order to understand Iran’s true intentions, it is enough to trace its money trail. Iran continues chanting slogans in favor of the Palestinians. This is, however, mere lip service. Its business interests tell another story, one that shows a complete neglect of the Palestinian cause. – Adnan Abu Omar
Debunking Assad’s narrative
Akhbar al-Khaleej, Bahrain, March 27
As the turmoil in Syria continues to unfold, Syrian President Bashar Assad still eagerly maintains that the war in his country is one fought against so-called terrorists.
Let us stick to Assad’s narrative for a second and put it to the test. If one believes that the Syrian president is truly fighting terrorists, how is it that the last six years were not enough for him to restore stability to his country? Given the enormous assistance he has received from Iran and Russia, not to mention his own army, how has a so-called group of terrorists succeeded in destroying Syria?
Then there is the issue of casualties. What we have witnessed is the systematic killing of civilians. Entire cities have been razed. How can Assad possibly uphold the argument that he is targeting terrorist strongholds, while consistently attacking unarmed men, women and children?
An even more grim reality is revealed when one looks at the parties involved in the fighting. Nearly all of the deaths and casualties in Syria are of Syrian nationals. Meanwhile, those conducting the bombings and the attacks are Iranian, Russian and Lebanese forces. How can anyone buy Assad’s accusation that he is protecting his country from “foreign intervention,” when the very forces causing the destruction of Syria are foreigners?
What is most concerning today is that Assad has lost complete control over Syria. Even the foreign assistance he receives is no longer sufficient to keep his regime intact. Knowing this, he is determined to tie the fate of Syria to his own. If he goes down, so will his country. The Russians have been saying this out loud, and the Iranians are following suit.
Assad is a dangerous man and no one knows how far he will go. No one can truly believe Assad’s narrative.
Not even Assad himself. – Khaled Dakhil
The WhatsApp message that could have stopped the attack
Asharq al-Awsat, London, March 31
British security officials revealed this week that Khalid Masood, the London attacker who killed five citizens outside the British Parliament last week, used WhatsApp to communicate with his operators. Despite being put under close surveillance by the authorities, Masood’s plan remained unknown to the police due to the fact that all WhatsApp messages were encrypted.
Social media outlets have become an increasingly popular platform used by terrorist organizations to communicate and execute their attacks. According to several estimates, Islamic State, using Facebook, has managed to recruit dozens of fighters.
While intelligence agencies are aware of this new reality, they are limited in what they can do. On the one hand, more people use electronic platforms to communicate, making themselves susceptible to surveillance.
On the other hand, sifting through the immense stockpiles of virtual data accumulated on the net is virtually impossible. If there is one thing we can learn from WikiLeaks and other classified sources, it is that the United States and the UK have access to virtually any phone line around the world. They also track social media sites and email accounts. Just like in the case of WhatsApp, these often prove to be evasive platforms that benefit the person subjected to surveillance, instead of the authorities.
What is important to remember, however, is that some things still happen out in the open. Here, I am referring to ideology: the recruitment and brainwashing of people around the world. These speeches, messages, religious sermons and propaganda material are easily accessible to anyone, without need to crack any codes.
I would suggest that focusing on counter-radicalization through education and outreach – and not only on electronic decryption, important as it is – will go a long way in combating extremism. Sometimes, the best solutions are those that can be executed on the ground and not in front of a screen.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed