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

POLICE ARREST a Palestinian demonstrator in a village north of Jerusalem in 1987A MINARET is seen in the background as Egyptian security force members stand guard on the outskirts of Cairo (photo credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH / REUTERS)
POLICE ARREST a Palestinian demonstrator in a village north of Jerusalem in 1987A MINARET is seen in the background as Egyptian security force members stand guard on the outskirts of Cairo
Asharq al-Awsat, London, December 30
The 2009 wave of demonstrations in Iran caught the mullahs by surprise. The thousands of protesters who took to the streets across the country almost nine years ago could be stopped only by a heavy crackdown, using live ammunition.
Today, the demonstrations we are witnessing in Iran are slightly different. While they are much smaller in size, they are more widespread, erupting in numerous locations throughout the country, from small towns to large cities.
Here, too, the mullahs were caught off guard. They expected to gain the support of the Iranian public following great military victories in Syria and Iraq. But anger over these campaigns has become a major reason the public has taken to the streets.
Iranians are simply unhappy with their leadership’s excessive waste of money on projects abroad.
There are also things at home that require attention. While Tehran has become capable of projecting its power across the world, its level of civil development remains quite low. In many ways, Iran has much more in common with Libya, Yemen and North Korea than with Western countries.
This is compounded by the fact that the Revolutionary Guard Corps reaches deep into all parts of society, monitoring people’s everyday moves and maintaining control over key industries, including the energy sector.
Therefore, it is only a matter of time until the Iranian people unite and attempt to topple the regime. However, I don’t think that time has come yet, as these demonstrations will not bring down President Hassan Rouhani’s government. But they are certainly the beginning of a new era, one in which the Iranian public stands up for its blatantly disregarded rights.
Iran’s leadership might succeed in asserting its dominance over almost every corner of the region, yet this cannot come at the expense of losing power at home. – Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Al-Nahar, Lebanon, December 23
Several weeks ago, Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid Bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, appeared on national television and described US President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem declaration as a “secondary” issue that should not stand in the way of confronting the “real” threat – namely, the ongoing crisis with Qatar.
In downplaying the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and classifying it as a secondary issue, Khalifa revealed a concerning truth: that, in return for US support, several Arab regimes have forsaken their principles, while aligning themselves with the Zionist regime.
Bahrain is not the only culprit, as more and more Arab governments begin to normalize ties with Tel Aviv under various pretexts, some more credible than others. We must remember, however, that any recognition of the Israeli state is tantamount to supporting the occupation.
Luckily, some voices have reminded us of this. In 2001, the former Coptic patriarch, Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, explained that he would never visit Christian holy sites in Jerusalem unless he was traveling on a Palestinian visa. Similarly, the grand sheikh of al-Azhar, the supreme religious authority in Egypt, denounced Muslim pilgrimages to Jerusalem so long as the city is controlled by the Israelis. His position is in line with that of his predecessors, all of whom banned visits to al-Aksa Mosque, including Abdel Halim Mahmoud, who refused to accompany president Anwar Sadat to Israel during his 1977 tour of Jerusalem.
If there is one thing that history has taught us, it is that any attempt to sweep the problems of Arab nations under the rug results in the strengthening of Israel. In this respect, the Arab preoccupation with Qatar and Iran seems to have pushed some governments, including those claiming to lead the Muslim world, away from the very basic principles of their own religion. This is a sad reality, but one we must face nonetheless. – Wael Kandil
Al Jazeera, Qatar, December 21
Is the United Arab Emirates adopting the political tactics and rhetoric employed by US President Donald Trump? A series of events over the past week certainly suggests so.
In true Trump fashion, Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan launched a Twitter attack on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing the latter’s “Ottoman ancestors” of stealing religious texts from the holy city of Medina and transporting them to Istanbul.
As if that weird incident was not enough, a few days later the UAE’s national carrier, Emirates, prevented women from boarding a scheduled flight from Tunis to Abu Dhabi, citing “security concerns.” Male passengers, meanwhile, were allowed to board without any interference. While these are undoubtedly peculiar events, they likely would have been forgotten, had the Emirati government issued an apology.
Instead, the lack of response spoke louder than words.
Perhaps we should not be surprised by this type of behavior. After all, ever since the 2004 death of founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the UAE has been undermining the authority of other countries in order to promote its own goals.
For example, Abu Dhabi has distanced itself from its Arab neighbors by siding with neoconservatives in Washington. This partnership brought extensive investment into the small country but also enabled its takeover by the American Jewish lobby.
Meanwhile, the Emiratis have become involved in all sorts of conspiracies, including attempts to meddle in revolutions in other Arab countries by supporting various rebel groups. We have all heard rumors of the UAE’s funding of the Egyptian opposition and even its stirring of the pot in neighboring Saudi Arabia.
This has been a huge gamble. While it might be paying off now, there is no guarantee that it will continue to do so in the future. The Emirati leaders, who have turned their backs on their own people, should be more watchful than ever before.
– Osama Abu Arshid
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, December 22
Over 300 worshipers were killed in an attack on Egypt’s Al-Rawdah Mosque last month. A few weeks later, negotiations between Cairo and Addis Ababa over the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam hit an impasse. Shortly thereafter, US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
If this list of events isn’t a testament to the colossal ineptitude of the Egyptian government, then I don’t know what is.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has failed time and again to protect his country’s interests, while blaming the Egyptian people for his own shortcomings.
The mosque massacre was the fault of the tribes living in Sinai; the plan to build the controversial dam was supposedly devised by the Muslim Brotherhood; and Trump’s announcement was a result of the diplomatic failings of Turkey and Qatar, not Egypt.
In Sisi’s world, there is always someone to blame, always a scapegoat to deflect responsibility onto; in particular, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members, although sitting in maximum-security prisons, have repeatedly been accused of plotting against the regime. Even newspaper editors have adopted Sisi’s narrative and continue to propose outrageous explanations for the country’s ills.
A society cannot begin to heal itself until it comes to terms with its problems.
The voices of the people will never be heard so long as their representatives refuse to take responsibility.
The Egyptian people have fought against tyranny, but their country, under the current leadership, is increasingly becoming a dreadful autocracy.
– Osama al-Rashidi