Voices from the Arab press

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

SAUDI CROWN Prince Mohammad bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh (photo credit: HAMAD I MOHAMMED / REUTERS)
SAUDI CROWN Prince Mohammad bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh
(photo credit: HAMAD I MOHAMMED / REUTERS)
Al-Khaleej al-Jadid, UAE, October 24
“Media reports recently revealed the details of a dramatic event in the Middle East: a secret visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Israel.
“According to several Israeli sources, the prince embarked on the two-day trip last month in order strengthen the growing partnership between Riyadh and Tel Aviv. Nor is it the first meeting of its kind – several Israeli intelligence officials, army officers, and even cabinet members previously met with Saudi delegates. So what is at the core of these warming ties? Why has Saudi Arabia suddenly shifted its attitude toward Israel?
“The answer is multifaceted. First and foremost, Iran is a common enemy of both Riyadh and Tel Aviv. The two countries see eye-to-eye on almost all matters pertaining to Tehran – namely, the need to curb its activity in the region, tame its regime, and limit the spread of the Revolutionary Guard Corps throughout the Middle East.
“But there are other motivations for this rapprochement that might be less obvious. For example, both nations face a growing threat of terrorism and the Saudi armed forces have a lot to learn from their Israeli counterparts in this regard. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, much to Israel’s pleasure, has publicly denounced Hamas as a terrorist group. By working more closely with Israel, the Saudis are also hoping to revamp their police and military forces. According to several reports, Israel has already agreed to export weaponry to Riyadh, including advanced missile warning systems.
“Finally, there is the most important motivation: Prince Salman is determined to reinvent Saudi Arabia’s image and rid the kingdom of its ties to terrorism. By aligning with Israel, he is hoping to win over leading members of the US Congress and even Jewish organizations in America. In other words, the two countries seem to have entered a new era in their bilateral relationship. While the rapprochement is still kept under the table, it is becoming less of a secret than in the past. One day, in the not-so-distant future, the growing ties might even be made public.”
– Saleh al-Noami
Asharq al-Awsat, London, October 26
“Saudi Arabia is undergoing nothing short of a historic revolution right before our eyes.
“The courageous speech given by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman last week in which he swore to fight all extremism, including radical Islam in the kingdom, is a true milestone in the Arab world. We must understand the magnitude of the prince’s words – Salman has a vision for Saudi Arabia and is willing to go to great lengths to actualize it.
“The House of Saud has realized that in order to ensure stability in the country and the future prosperity of generations to come, Saudi Arabia must be transformed. In an honest, concise and brave speech, the prince vowed to do exactly that: to move Saudi Arabia forward irrespective of those who try to stand in the way, including Muslims with extremist interpretations of religious texts. Saudi Arabia is setting an example for other Arab countries by calling for a more moderate form of Islam, with the prince having already announced a series of laws that will allow authorities to better identify and eliminate extremist organizations. Riyadh also cut ties to Qatar for as long as the latter continues supporting radical groups in the region.
“The kingdom has launched a zero-tolerance policy toward anyone attempting to hinder the country from becoming an inclusive place for members of all religions and backgrounds.”
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Al-Dostour, Jordan, October 27
“North African leaders are growing increasingly concerned about the prospect of Islamic State and even Iran, showing up at their doorsteps.
“After ISIS lost its strongholds in Iraq and Syria, the organization has shifted its focus to the North Africa, working assiduously to establish a foothold in countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. In an effort to prevent attacks within their territories, security authorities in some North African countries have started conducting widespread campaigns against terrorist infrastructure. In Egypt, close to 30 members of the local ISIS affiliate were killed last week in a military raid. In Morocco, a cell of some 20 Islamists was recently uncovered, its members jailed following a televised trial. In Libya, authorities continue to monitor the borders closely for any suspicious activity.
“However, one unwelcome guest seems to have walked straight through the front door: Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recently visited North Africa, calling on leaders there to work more closely with Tehran. Iran’s motives for this move remain, as always, largely unknown, yet its emergence in the region is a source of concern. In fact, the Algerian government, fearing a restive Shi’ite minority in the country, has started compiling a database of its citizens according to religion. You can be certain that Algerian officials are closely listening to the sermons emanating from of Shi’ite mosques, while being careful not to damage fragile relations with leaders of the Shi’ite community.”
“It seems as though seven years after the Arab Spring, the real upheaval in North Africa might only be beginning.”
– Mamduh al-Mihini
Al-Rai, Kuwait, October 23
“With the 39th annual Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit scheduled to take place in Kuwait City next month, sources have revealed that Kuwait is trying to postpone the meet by six weeks in order to resolve the current crisis with Qatar. The hope is that a reconciliation deal could be reached within that timeframe, allowing Doha to participate in the conference with its neighbors.
“Saudi officials, meanwhile, reiterated their commitment to holding the event as scheduled, suggesting even that it would be hosted in Riyadh if Kuwait refuses to abide by the schedule. Either way, one must acknowledge that the GCC is alive and well. All GCC member states – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait – agree that Qatar must mend its ways before it can be allowed back into the organization, and the upcoming summit is a prime opportunity for moderate Gulf leaders to remind citizens of the Council’s founding principle; namely, the belief in mutual cooperation and support for its members.
“The Qatari government, along with its media outlet Al Jazeera, has been spreading its toxic agenda, with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, having repeatedly refused to listen to what those around him have advised: stop with the terrorism and reunite with your neighbors. The conference will therefore be used as a platform to remind the Qatari government and its people of what must be done to restore normal ties with the GCC – to terminate ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, limit Al Jazeera’s hostile coverage, extradite convicted terrorists to their countries of origin and reaffirm a commitment to the sovereignty of regional states.
“Without accepting these basic demands, Qatar and its people will remain ostracized and the GCC will continue to function with or without them. Over the next few weeks, however, Doha might be urged to reexamine its ways.”
– Sawsan al-Shaar