Voices from the Arab press: The Crown Prince’s vision for a ‘new Europe’

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

STRONG ECONOMY: Inside the new Haramain high-speed train in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on September 18. (photo credit: REUTERS)
STRONG ECONOMY: Inside the new Haramain high-speed train in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on September 18.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Crown Prince’s Vision for a ‘New Europe’
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 29
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s vision for Saudi Arabia is no longer confined to the domestic sphere. At the recent investment conference held in Riyadh, the crown prince spoke about Saudi investments in other Arab states, in an effort to innovate and grow their economies together.
Bin Salman’s visit to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and a host of other countries will help open these doors and pave the path toward a fruitful process of Arab cooperation. As one of the strongest economies in the world, Saudi Arabia is able to improve the living conditions of millions of people through economic support and cooperation. The crown prince presented this vision and suggested that the Middle East should become “the new Europe” – a model for regional integration and cooperation that would benefit the countries of the region.
Arab states have gone through many difficult centuries, dominated by failed religious ideas, repeated military coups and fundamentalist regime models. These unfortunate historical milestones led to the current crises we are witnessing in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The crown prince’s vision is therefore the only way to move away from the region’s woes.
Economic development brings about intellectual development. An improvement in the living conditions of the average Arab citizen will spur improvement in education, promote freedom of thought and inspire modernization of society.
Arab citizens have also experienced the horrors of terrorism, and Bin Salman’s vision can help them finally nip terrorism in the bud. Arab leaders will have to choose whether to adopt the crown prince’s vision and become thriving nations, or turn their backs on Saudi Arabia and maintain societies that remind us of the Dark Ages. This is a choice between development and destruction; between becoming a Europe, or succumbing to evil forces like Hezbollah, Hamas and Boko Haram.
 – Fahed Suleiman al-Shakiran
Al-Ayaam, Egypt, November 30
“I can no longer keep my eyes closed to this… this is becoming too alarming.” This is how Tunisian President Beji Kayed al-Sebsi opened his remarks at a recent meeting pertaining to the existence of an underground intelligence and terrorist organization belonging to the Tunisian Renaissance Party.
During this meeting, attended by representatives from Tunisia’s National Security Council, al-Sebsi was warned that his attempt to dismantle the movement poses a grave “personal threat” against him, which could cost him his life. But al-Sebsi remained undeterred. He repeated his claim that Tunisia’s greatest source of instability comes from its domestic enemies that wish to undermine the nation’s sovereignty from the inside.
Security experts present at the meeting provided the president with evidence of a past attempt to take his life during a state visit of French former president François Hollande to Tunis in 2013. The attempt, which was successfully thwarted at the time, had been co-opted by the secret apparatus of the Renaissance party.
Interestingly, once details of this meeting became known to the public, Tunisia’s Renaissance Party was quick to launch a smear campaign against the president. The movement’s leaders denied the allegations made against them and claimed that they are “full supporters” of the democratic process in Tunisia.
This wouldn’t be the first time that the Renaissance Party makes use of doublespeak. When it appeals to the wide public, it makes use of terms such as “democracy” and “liberty.” But when it speaks to its affiliates in its inner circle, the party quickly adopts the rhetoric of its founding fathers, who sought to “liberate” the Arab world from non-believers. In public they preach acceptance; in private they preach jihad. This behavior is only expected of organizations of this sort, which drew inspiration from the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and adopted a strategy of secret resistance.
This party should be dismantled and outlawed before it causes irreversible damage. – Mashri al-Zayidi
Al-Quds al-Arabi, London, November 28
The relationship between Hamas and Iran has been widely debated, especially in recent years when ties between the two sides deteriorated due to the conflict in Syria and Hamas’s ambiguous stance on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The question of this relationship comes up from time to time, but Hamas refuses to clearly spell out its position on the Syrian civil war, leaving it in a neutral area somewhere between heaven and hell.
Neither Iran’s friends nor its opponents are satisfied with Hamas’s vague stance. In the current regional circumstances, there is no longer any justification for the hesitant position on Iran. It is in Hamas’s interests to restore relations with Iran and to admit that the position taken in 2012 by some of its leaders on Syria was a political mistake. Hamas should have removed itself from the debate surrounding the Syrian conflict, since it has nothing to do with the Palestinian cause.
The relationship between Hamas and Iran today must be based on the following rules and premises: (1) Hamas is a Palestinian organization operating under occupation, not an Arab state. It has nothing to do with the conflicts taking place in the region, nor with internal revolutions. Thus, it is not required to adopt a formal position on each and every conflict or crisis in the region. (2) Iran is an integral part of this region and should be viewed as an important strategic player in the Middle East. The Palestinians or the Hamas movement have nothing to do with the conflict between Tehran and some Arab states, and should thus not join calls to boycott Tehran. (3) If Iran remains loyal to the Palestinian cause and does not rush to normalize its ties with Tel Aviv – as so many Arabs regimes have done so far – it is an important ally to protect.
Finally, the claims of Shi’ism and fears of the spread of the Shi’ite doctrine in the Middle East, which is used to justify hostility toward Iran, is nothing but nonsense. Shi’ites already exist throughout all corners of the Arab world, with or without Iran’s influence. The bottom line is that relations between Hamas and any country in the world, including Iran, must not be governed by other crises. Iran is a powerful actor in the region and it may be in Hamas’s best interest to ally with it.
– Muhammad Ayesh
Asharq al-Awsat, London, December 1
Although the G-20 Summit held in Buenos Aires was framed as an “economic” conference, it is a political one par excellence.
One of the themes of this year’s conference was none other than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which found itself under the spotlight as a result of the war in Yemen and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. There had been widespread attempts to prevent the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman from attending the conference. Riyadh was repeatedly pressured to send a lower ranking official to Argentina. But Bin Salman did not waiver and insisted on participating. He visited no fewer than four countries en route to Argentina, making his trip a public campaign to defend his country.
Most political pundits claimed that he would avoid confrontation in Buenos Aires, but he did the exact opposite. He showed up determined to engage with world leaders. Interestingly, his participation comes at interesting time for Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest economies participating in the summit this year, after paradoxically taking over Turkey’s spot in the global ranking. More ironically, the kingdom’s request to host the next G-20 summit in Riyadh was approved, making its opponents even more furious than they had been before.
The summit will be a stage to discuss the most burning issues on the international agenda, including the situation in Crimea, Brexit and the trade war between the United States and China. In the wake of these burning topics, it is highly unlikely that Khashoggi’s death will assume the center of attention. Yemen will be yet another focus of the meetings, with the hope of finally bringing an end to the war there. Since none of the countries in the conference are interested in deploying troops to Yemen, the only viable alternative is to support Riyadh and the coalition forces in their campaign against the Houthis. This will mark yet another victory for Bin Salman, who will gain the international backing he needs for his military campaign.
Indeed, the crown prince may have been asked to withdraw his participation in the summit, but so far he is emerging as one of its biggest stars.
 – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
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