Hot off the Arab press 492177

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East

Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud arrives to attend the G20 Summit in China last year (photo credit: REUTERS)
Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud arrives to attend the G20 Summit in China last year
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Hayat, London, May 9
In a recent televised interview, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman confirmed what pundits have been suspecting for months: that the Saudi Royal Court decided to change the kingdom’s foreign policy from a passive and docile one to a more combative and confrontational one.
So far, Riyadh has tended to avoid conflict at almost any price. It preferred using diplomatic back-channels to deal with the crises that it had faced, while leaving the military option off the table. But recent developments in the region, as well as the change in the American administration, have been pushing the kingdom to adopt a more bellicose stance towards its adversaries, particularly Iran.
In his interview last week, the prince rejected the prospects of reaching a negotiated resolution with Iran, citing the latter’s continuous breaching of other states’ sovereignty. He explained that if negotiations were ever to take place between Tehran and Riyadh, then they would have to be held at an equal playing field: that is, between the two countries’ governments, and not between Saudi Arabia and a wide host of militias backed by Iran.
These explicit statements against Iran coming from royal family officials are something we haven’t seen before. Indeed, the crown prince’s interview seemed to be aimed more at the mullahs in Tehran than the Saudi people. The kingdom is finally signaling to its neighbors that it has had enough of lip service and empty promises.
Just like Israel continues to use negotiations as an excuse to encroach further on Palestinian lands, so, too, the Iranian regime uses negotiations as a pretext for maintaining its meddling in other countries’ affairs.
The crown prince did not close the door to negotiations with Tehran; he simply stated what Riyadh’s preconditions to such negotiations would be.
He made clear that Saudi Arabia will no longer willing to be apologetic. It is determined to stop Iran at any cost, even militarily. – Khalid Al-Dakhil
Al Jazeera, Qatar, May 11
There has been a lot of chitchat recently about the upcoming visit of US President Donald Trump to the Middle East. White House officials have already announced that the President’s first stop will be Saudi Arabia, followed by a visit to Israel
Those who have followed the president’s statements agree that all signs point out to the fact that Trump’s team is working tirelessly behind the scenes to cook a new peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The president chose to begin his visit in Riyadh for an obvious reason: he sees the Saudis as a crucial player in the renewed negotiations between the two sides. According to several sources, Trump is going to get the Saudis on board and even allow them to mediate the negotiations themselves. The Americans will provide the platform for the two sides to engage in negotiations, while the Saudis, the Egyptians, and the Jordanians will consummate the deal.
In doing so, Trump is hoping not only to win the deal of the century, but also to empower his allies in the region. According to several White House sources the Saudis will be generously compensated for their effort. Trump’s team is busy devising an extensive aid package to the Saudis, in return for the kingdom’s role as a mediator.
Trump might not be a great president, but he brings with him years of business experience. He views the Middle East peace process as a transaction, and he is working behind the scenes to incentivize all regional players to come on board. The chances for this to succeed are, as always, slim. But this is a new approach that no other American president has tried to date.
– Saleh al-Naami
Al-Madina, Saudi Arabia, May 9
On May 19, Iranians are going to the ballots to choose a new president. As Tehran enters the final stretch of this campaign, many have lauded and praised the socalled “democratic process” unfolding in Iran. Regime advocates have glorified the “free and fair elections” taking place in their country. But the truth is that all of this is a fabrication.
The elections in Iran have little, if anything, to do with democracy. Iran is a theocracy controlled by a Supreme Leader. He, and only he, runs the country’s affairs, without holding any accountability to the people. Anyone who dares challenge the rule of the mullahs is automatically portrayed as a heretic who defies God’s wishes.
Therefore, the elections in Iran are nothing but a symbolic process, by the end of which the Iranian people choose a president who is a mere “secretary” to the mullahs. In fact, under the Iranian constitution, the Supreme Leader is second in command only to God, while the president holds no real authority whatsoever. This regime type is closer to that of Europe during the dark Middle Ages, ruled by fierce kings, than to Europe’s liberal democracies that we know today.
The mullahs don’t view their country as a normal nation state. They seek to establish an empire throughout the entire Middle East. They fund militias and rebels abroad. They are the largest sponsors of state terrorism.
To them, these elections are a façade that provides them with much-needed international legitimacy. To the Iranian people, this is part of a game with predetermined outcomes.
The world can hope and wish for Iranian democracy, but Iran will remain what it has always been: an autocratic theocracy with zero regard for human rights and political freedom. – Muhammad Al-Sheikh
Asharq al-Awsat, London, May 10
There are two main political forces operating in Yemen these days: those associated with the Islah Party, Yemen’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and those associated with the secessionists.
Each group has waged a war on the other, and both are fighting, both directly and indirectly, with proxies of the other. Most importantly, both believe that the best way to move forward is to split Yemen into two states: one in the North, and the other in the South.
To the Brotherhood, splitting Yemen seems like a great opportunity to enhance the movement’s reign over the population living in the North. To the secessionists, separating from northern Yemen allows the movement to focus its military effort on strategic cities in the South, like Aden.
However, I have warned in the past and I am doing so again: separation is not as easy as it seems. Take a look at Iraqi Kurdistan, which claimed independence almost two and a half decades ago, during the early 1990s. Despite having a shared language, government and flag, Iraqi Kurds still haven’t been successful at gaining independence and international recognition.
A similar situation can be seen in Somalia, where several subnational groups declared independence, but none have been officially recognized to date. Even Scotland, which has been talking about secession from the UK, will not be able to achieve full autonomy without consent from London.
Separation is a tricky process that often results in more bloodshed and war. Tribal loyalties are alive and kicking in Yemen, and any attempt to split the country into two might result in the outbreak of even more fighting. Do not mistake what I am saying: separation is not inherently a bad idea. However, it will only be an effective solution if and when a stable regime is established in Yemen.
When stability is restored, the Yemeni people can take to the ballots and vote on a wide range of solutions, from full secession to the establishment of a federal state. Until then, it remains in our best interest to keep Yemen as one contiguous country.
– Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed