Hot off the Arab press 493866

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East

President Donald Trump and former president Barack Obama before the president’s inauguration ceremony on January 20, Washington (photo credit: REUTERS)
President Donald Trump and former president Barack Obama before the president’s inauguration ceremony on January 20, Washington
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Trump in Riyadh and the mistakes of Obama
Asharq al-Awsat, London, May 20
US President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, his first stop in a series of international visits, has sparked great concern among the Iranian regime. As the final votes of the Iranian presidential elections were being counted, Iran’s reelected president, Hassan Rouhani, has great reason for concern: there is a new cop in town by the name of Donald Trump.
The Iranians are not the only ones to understand that a new political order is about to beset the region.
Just a few days ago I stumbled upon an op-ed published in Politico Magazine, written by several former staff members of the Obama White House. In their article, the former officials warned President Trump from jeopardizing the nuclear agreement with Iran and endangering the United States’ interests in the Middle East.
But what these officials fail to understand is that Trump and Obama are not one and the same. Their former boss is not the same one sitting today in Oval Office. Unlike Obama, Trump decided to send a clear message to the mullahs in Tehran – not from Washington DC, but directly from Riyadh, the beating heart of the Arab world. In his words and actions as one, Trump decided to set clear and undeniable red lines to Iran.
Just last week he ordered the bombing of Iranian- backed forces operating by the Jordanian-Syrian border, signaling to the Iranians that extending their reach into Jordan is simply out of the question. Last month, he ordered an attack on Assad’s airfield in Al- Shuayrat, sending a clear message to the Syrian regime against its use of chemical weapons. More recently, American forces began collaborating with their Saudi counterparts against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
All of these signs led to an inevitable conclusion: Trump is determined to tame the Iranian regime and teach the mullahs a lesson. They cannot simply extend their reach anywhere they want in the region without any repercussions. Trump might be a controversial figure at home, in the United States, but in Riyadh he is emerging as what that the Middle East has long waited for: a firm and unwavering leader that is determined to stop Iran.
For too many years of Obama’s presidency, Tehran has taken the US hostage. Today, in Riyadh, this Iranian celebration ends.
– Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
The PA ’s stance on the prisoners’ strike
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, May 15
More than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners are now ending their fourth week of hunger strikes in Israeli prisons.
Their struggle drew widespread international attention, including statements of support issued by several organizations and governments around the world. However, the one body that has still not commented on the strike is, curiously enough, the Palestinian Authority.
It is no secret the PA opposed the strike from the getgo.
This is the reason for which only a handful of prisoners began the strike, before managing to draw the support of several hundred others. Disagreements between PLO and Hamas prisoners, as well as rifts within the PLO itself, led to a relatively meek participation rate in the strike during its first days.
As the strike drew more and more traction, however, the PA began changing its attitude. Seeing as he can-not ignore the mass protest of thousands of its prisoners, President Abbas finally issued a statement of solidarity.
But it remained evident that the president is diffident in his support. What is standing behind this restraint? The answer has to do with American pressure.
The strike began in perfect timing with Abbas’s visit to the United States. There, President Trump insisted that the Palestinian Authority cease its payments to prisoners sitting in Israeli jails and retract its support of individuals convicted in acts of terrorism against the Israeli occupation. Israel, too, launched an aggressive campaign that painted all foreign aid given to the Palestinians as money funneled to fund terrorism.
Growing international pressure pushed Abbas to the corner. While the American demand has not been met, it did seem to push the PA to adopt a more reserved stance regarding the Palestinian hunger strike.
As President Abbas prepares to host President Trump for an official visit next week, the Palestinian Authority is working hard to lower its tone on the prisoners.
This might merely be a temporary stance, but it could also, potentially, mark a dramatic change in attitude toward the Palestinian prisoners and their families.
– Husam Kanfany
The dismal failure of the Palestinian elections
Al-Quds News, Ramallah, May 18
Not many have noticed, but the Palestinian Authority held municipal elections in Palestine last week. The elections were extremely quiet and managed to fall off the radar screen of most political commentators and major news outlets.
They were marked by very low participation rates, together with Hamas’s refusal to participate in the process altogether. Granted, even if Hamas had chosen to participate, it is likely that the PA’s security agencies, together with Israel, would have detained its nominees in order to prevent them from running for office.
This casts a big doubt on the actual democratic nature of Palestinian elections, whether all Palestinian factions support them or not.
The elections were indisputably a dismal failure, spelling out a worrying future for democracy in Palestine.
First, most Palestinian organizations did not bother competing in the elections. The few that did chose to run under family lists in the large villages. This leads me to my second point: the growing appeal of clan politics.
In the absence of well-defined political organizations, families and clans took the place of political parties.
Palestinians went to the ballots and voted for their representatives on the basis of tribal interests.
This is a dangerous development. Tribal politics will divide the Palestinian public, instead of bringing it together.
It will weaken the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Israeli occupation. Finally, the low participation rates signal that the Palestinian public lost faith in its political leaders and institutions. The public has little, if any, faith in the democratic political process.
These elections should raise a red flag to anyone who cares about the future of Palestine. Their dismal failure marks the disintegration of the Palestinian Authority and, possibly, the beginning of the end. When the people, their representatives, and even their leaders lose faith in the process, the system is left with very little legitimacy to operate.
– Abdul Sattar Kassem