Voices from Arab Press: The Iranian opposition is in desperate need of leadership

Those who monitor the domestic situation in Iran will find that there are numerous protest movements that have not coalesced into one popular revolution because there is no unified leadership.

PROTESTERS LAMENT Lebanon’s economic and political state, in Beirut on December 23. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PROTESTERS LAMENT Lebanon’s economic and political state, in Beirut on December 23.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran is under an economic siege by the United States, an unprecedented blockade designed to undermine Tehran and force the mullahs to comply with American demands.
Those who monitor the domestic situation in Iran will find that there are numerous protest movements that have not coalesced into one popular revolution because there is no unified leadership. It is exactly this kind of leadership that is missing in Iran and preventing the overthrow of the mullah regime. The mullahs have robbed Iran of its wealth for the sake of their extremist ideology; however, like all theocratic regimes, it, too, will eventually fall.
This is because it is based on theological myths and not rational interests. I firmly believe that Iran’s religious rulers would capitulate if protesters were wise enough to form one cohesive opposition. But to do so, they need help from their neighbors, as it is impossible to succeed at such an immense task without the support of external players. Iranian opposition groups, which are already subjected to repression by the state, desperately need foreign sources of financial and organizational support. There is good reason to help these forces develop a strong leadership that can represent the people of Iran.
There is also no need to hide this initiative, as the mullahs certainly don’t bother hiding their interventions in other countries. The regime has relentlessly tried to wage its battles as far away from Iranian territory as possible. Bringing the war back within Iran’s borders might finally shake the ground beneath the mullahs’ feet. This may very well require them to abandon their radical agenda.  – Muhammad al-Sheikh

2019: Will Lebanon Fall To The Hands Of Extremists?

Al-Anba, Kuwait, January 2
The past year was not a good one for Lebanon. Sadly, the prospects in early 2019 of forming a Lebanese government capable of tackling the country’s political, economic and social crises seem lower than ever before. Despite holding parliamentary elections in May – this, after a delay of about five years – Lebanon has remained for the last eight months in a political stalemate. Despite the recent convening of the Cedar Conference in Paris, during which some $12b. was pledged to Beirut, the Lebanese economy is on the verge of collapse due to gross mismanagement. Add to this the problem of Syrian refugees and the return of Hezbollah fighters from Syria and one has a recipe for disaster. Moreover, Israeli threats against Lebanon have peaked following the discovery of cross-border tunnels spanning the two countries and the release of a United Nations report acknowledging their existence.
In this context, it is remarkable that Hezbollah, which would normally respond to any Israeli provocation, continues to be silent. Hezbollah is exacerbating Lebanon’s political instability and placing the nation at risk of military confrontation with its neighbors. The Lebanese state, which is supposed to be governed in accordance with the constitution and the rules outlined by the Lebanese people in the Taif Agreement, is de facto run by Hezbollah. It is impossible to form a government when state institutions are weak and one of the political parties maintains a separate military force.
It has thus become virtually impossible to make any decisions in Lebanon without the consent and approval of Hezbollah, which aims to both sit in the ruling coalition and control the opposition. 2019 is going to be a watershed year for Lebanon as Iranian influence in the country grows, and Hezbollah drags Beirut towards war. Unless a dramatic change occurs, Lebanon will be further pulled into the hands of extremists.  – Ali al-Amin

Is Al Jazeera On Congress’ Radar?
Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, January 4
An old Arabic proverb holds that when something grows too big it can easily turn against its creators. This is certainly true of the Qatari media – filled with noise, evil and darkness – which like an octopus extends its tentacles into every peaceful corner of the world. Qatari authorities have invested an immense sum of money into developing and expanding this media both openly and covertly, using a network of institutions and individuals in countries far away from Doha.
But now the beast seems to have turned on its masters. According to reports, preparations are underway in the United States Congress to enact a new bill targeting Qatar-backed news outlets, forcing them to reveal their funding sources or otherwise risk losing their licenses to operate in America. The US has long been concerned about Qatari channels, fearing that stations such as Al Jazeera spread fake news and provide a platform for extremists. The proposed legislation would also apply to Russian companies such as RT (formerly Russia Today) and the Sputnik agency, which have placed emphasis in recent years on the American audience.
The bill is currently supported by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers that have grown concerned over foreign intervention in domestic affairs. This is a good omen for anyone that believes in a free press. If Al Jazeera maintains its operations abroad, moderate Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt should seriously consider launching a joint news conglomerate in an effort to combat the Qatari propaganda machine. But before this happens, Qatar’s rulers may find themselves with their backs against the wall, forced to answer some difficult questions from US leaders. – Mashry al-Zayidi

Why The Arab Counter-revolutions Have Failed
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, January 3
As 2019 begins, taking a close look at the Arab world reveals that the phenomenon of counter-revolutions therein has ended. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, several regimes – most notably in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – implemented measures to keep themselves in place and thus prevent true political reform.
We saw this when Bahraini armed forces took control of the Pearl Roundabout in the capital city of Manama and violently cracked down on protesters in the streets. We saw it in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, which pushed into exile former president Ali Abdallah Saleh. This has even been apparent in Syria, where money from the Gulf was funneled to radicalized Syrian youth in Daraa in an effort to ignite an all-out war to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from gaining power.
However, all of these efforts seemingly have failed. With respect to Riyadh, the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi has placed the House of Saud, including Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, at immediate risk. The UAE, similarly, recently recognized Bashar Al-Assad’s rule and agreed to re-establish diplomatic ties with Syria. In Egypt, President Abdel al-Fatal al-Sisi achieved nothing besides increasing the debt of and instability in his nation. The Arab Spring, which began eight years ago this month, symbolized the Arab public’s call for liberty and freedom, which, over the next few years, was muzzled. But the wheels continue turning and change will eventually come. Indeed, it has already started.  – Ali Anuzla
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