Hot off the Arab press 489734

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

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) and Saudi King Salman (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) and Saudi King Salman
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, April 25
Last week, Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi embarked on a much-anticipated state visit to Saudi Arabia, following an invitation from King Salman.
Tensions between the two countries have been on the rise in the recent year, particularly on issues surrounding the war in Syria. They began when Egypt agreed, as a symbolic act of goodwill, to hand over two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to the Saudis. The move sparked the largest anti-regime protests in Egypt since al-Sisi assumed office, with hundreds of thousands of Egyptians protesting the regime’s subservience to Saudi Arabia.
This relationship took a downturn when Riyadh surprisingly announced its suspension of aid to Egypt, following a controversial Security Council resolution on Syria, proposed by Moscow and supported by Cairo.
Finally, last month, on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit held in Jordan, the Egyptian president and Saudi king finally met in person and agreed to bolster their countries’ ties.
But the Egyptians are not the only ones rejoicing. On the other side of the border, in Israel, reactions seem to be particularly jubilant. Israeli newspapers and pundits described the warming of relations between the two countries as a “strategic interest” for Israel. They attributed the rapprochement to behind-the-scenes efforts conducted by President Donald Trump, who was concerned with business interests in the region, as well as Moscow’s growing interference in Egypt. By forcing the two countries to reconcile, Trump ensured that his allies in Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Cairo continue to maintain close strategic channels of communication on the events unfolding in Syria and Iran’s activity in the region.
These are crucial interests for all three countries, and most notably for Israel.
– Hani al-Zahiri
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, April 27
Last week, 26 Qatari civilians who were kidnapped in southern Iraq in 2015 were freed and handed over to security authorities in Baghdad.
This was not the first abduction case in the country, and kidnapping became a common phenomenon in Iraq. Who is behind these crimes, you might ask? The answer is straightforward: militias trained and armed by Iran. Tehran is doing today in Iraq what it did several decades ago in Lebanon. It is setting up and training multiple militia groups to fight against Western targets on its behalf, while keeping the battle away from home.
In Lebanon, this havoc culminated in an Israeli occupation of the country, as well as an armed American campaign against Lebanese targets. Iran, meanwhile, remained unscathed. How can it be that Iran simply deploys forces in Iraq, kidnaps foreigners who legally entered the country, and undermines the local regime, without being held accountable for its actions? How can the central government in Baghdad, so worried about the prospects of Kurdish succession, allow a foreign power to intervene in its domestic affairs so blatantly? In the aftermath of the American pullout from Iraq, Tehran succeeded in spreading its tentacles to the wartorn country, where it established a deep presence.
However, Iraq is not Lebanon, and America today is not America of the 1980s. Both superpowers, Russia and the US, view Iraq as a vital interest in the region.
Allowing Baghdad to fall into the hands of the Irani- ans will lead to instability across the entire region. For this reason, they will not sit idly by as the mullahs continue their meddling with Iraqi affairs from afar. So far, this interference was characterized by low-profile acts of terrorism and kidnapping, but as this activity grows, so will the American concern.
This is a dangerous game. Unfortunately, just one in a series of games the Iranians are playing in the region.
– Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
Al-Ittihad, UAE, April 27
Americans are obsessed with evaluating their president’s performance on his 100th day in office.
One hundred days, which are roughly three months, are usually a sufficient time frame to see a person’s true character. Now President Donald Trump’s turn has come. Looking at his first 100 days in office, one can easily come to the following conclusion: in less than three months, Trump has done more than president Barack Obama did during his eight years in office.
While Trump entered office and raised many doubts among a large portion of the American public, he proved to be a skillful decision maker who can follow up on his promises and deliver what the public wants. His decisions, even if unpopular, have put America on a new path that affirms its stance as a global superpower.
Trump has also learned a few lessons, especially ones revolving around the limits of his power. His immigration ban was overruled in court, causing him to reevaluate his stances. He learned that negotiations with Congress and other stakeholders, and not presidential decrees, are the only way to enact these policies.
At the same time, Trump also demonstrated an understanding of statecraft and diplomacy. He was not afraid of conducting an attack on the Syrian airfield to send a clear message to Assad. He repeatedly warned the North Koreans from undermining the fragile status quo in the Korea Peninsula. He has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to coordinate positions on Pyongyang’s provocations and seek Beijing’s help.
There is no doubt that Trump was a controversial candidate on the campaign trail, but in his first 100 days in office, he has proved that campaigns are very different from real life. He managed to navigate sensitive issues and declare a new era in American foreign policy. So far, he has done so skillfully and proficiently.
With that, he is truly making America great again.
– Abdullah bin Bijad al-Otaibi
Al-Quds News, Ramallah, April 24
I have heard senior Israelis officials feed their well-oiled propaganda machines with words of hatred and incitement against the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike.
In the face of such brave Palestinian resistance, led by Marwan Barghouti, Netanyahu and his ministers are panicking. No tanks or airplanes will help them in this battle, and they are fully aware of that. Minister Israel Katz, for example, called to “execute” prisoners who stir up trouble. His fascist counterpart, Avigdor Liberman, called to let the strikers “starve to death.”
The Israeli Prisons Service is also concerned. The Israeli Interior Ministry, which oversees the country’s prisons, ordered a military field hospital to be built within one of the prison compounds, where strikers could be force-fed – a medical procedure that civilian doctors refused to perform in the past, on humanitarian grounds. Seeing as this installation will be run by the army, no civilian consent will be needed here. Israeli ministers have also made sure to criticize Barghouti, who eloquently described his belief in nonarmed Palestinian resistance in a New York Times oped, as a “murderer.”
But who is the real murderer? How can brave Palestinian civilians like Barghouti be given such titles, while the real leaders walk about with no shame? Where is the international condemnation of Menachem Begin, who killed dozens in his underground activity within the Irgun? Who did no one condemn Ehud Barak, who, with his own two hands, killed three Lebanese civilians in an operation in Beirut? All of these individuals have been celebrated by leaders around the world.
Not a single one of them was called a murder.
Palestinians like Marwan Barghouti are not murderers.
They are brave freedom fighters who are fighting for the basic rights of their people. Unlike Israeli leaders, who sit in their fancy offices and drive shiny cars, Palestinian leaders are willing to pay the ultimate price for the ideology: even death. This is why the Palestinian cause will eventually triumph, while the Israeli one drowns in an ocean of racism and hatred.
–Mustafa Barghouti, General Secretary of the Palestine National Initiative and former member of the Palestinian Legislative Council