Voices from the Arab Press: Growing Regional turmoil, threat of war

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

Palestinians mark 'Land Day' with protests on Israel-Gaza border (Reuters)
Al-Ittihad, UAE, March 19
A growing number of security experts speculate that the Middle East is on the brink of a full-fledged war. According to some, this war will begin in May, once the Trump administration announces its plan to nix the Iran nuclear deal.
This conflict could be launched by Israel, which would take action against Tehran’s growing foothold in Lebanon and Syria. Alternatively, it could erupt over Russian-American tensions in Syria. There is ample evidence to support both hypotheses, and it therefore remains unclear what the exact source of the next confrontation will be. Either way, this war will involve multiple parties in the region, in addition to larger blocs of countries abroad.
Russia already has an advantage over the United States in the Syrian arena, where it has been gaining control over more and more territory and achieving the public legitimacy required to oversee the political transition in the country. International conferences like those held in the Russian city of Sochi have granted Moscow the international recognition it desires.
Still, the United States is making strides in northeast Syria, where it has established close partnerships with Kurdish fighters seeking independence. Washington also has access to numerous air bases throughout Jordan, making it easy for American forces to act in Syria.
On the Israeli front, a lot will depend on the actions taken by the White House against Iran and how the Islamic Republic responds. It may choose to exacerbate the situation by acting out against Israel in Syria and Lebanon or relaunch its uranium enrichment program.
The main problem is that all players involved in this mess refuse to heed the advice of experts and instead remain on a direct collision course. Unless immediate action is taken to facilitate direct communication between the White House and Kremlin over the future state of the region, we will quickly find ourselves immersed in a proxy war waged by two giants in our very own backyard. – Radwan al-Sayed
Al-Khaleej al-Jadid, UAE, March 20
As the people of Palestine gear up for their “Mass March of Return” set to take place on May 15 – the day marking the Nakba – Israeli authorities are growing increasingly concerned over what could be a pivotal event. Although the Israeli political echelon has publicly dismissed the protest, it is clear beyond any doubt that there is real fear in Tel Aviv about the possible repercussions of such widespread demonstrations. The Israeli military has already started preparing special units to quell the violence that is likely to erupt throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
What makes the situation tenser is that the march is set to take place around the same day the US Embassy will be relocated to Jerusalem, thereby raising the prospect of the outbreak of another armed Palestinian intifada.
The Palestinians have nothing to lose. Recent studies by the World Bank indicate that the Palestinian unemployment rate has reached a staggering 40%. Palestinian youth have zero opportunities to build a better future for themselves, as they remain trapped in an environment of perpetual violence and poverty.
The recent car-ramming in the West Bank, in which two occupation soldiers were killed, only highlights how faulty the Israeli perception of security is. The situation on the ground is extremely volatile, and even the smallest event could trigger a fullblown uprising.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the Israelis have been busy convening international panels to discuss the situation in Gaza, while US President Donald Trump is preparing to release his framework for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
An armed Palestinian uprising could thwart this effort by bringing an end to the Arab apathy surrounding the Palestinian issue. The Mass March of Return might just be the wake-up call that the Palestinian people so desperately need. There is certainly deep concern in Tel Aviv over the potential ramifications. – Saleh al-Naami
Asharq al-Awsat, London, March 23
Almost eight years after the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East, propelling millions of men and women onto the streets to protest against despots, some Arab societies seem to have forgotten the meaning of liberty and freedom. In several of these countries, calls have recently been made to allow tyrants (or their relatives) to return to power.
In Yemen, for example, growing swaths of the population have been calling for the cousin of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to be appointed president.
They seem to have forgotten the role Saleh played in fueling the current war in the country, which has claimed the lives of over 5,000 innocent civilians.
Allowing Saleh’s cousin to assume power would be nothing short of a disgrace.
In an even more shocking turn of events, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the second- born son of former Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi, has announced his intention to run for president in elections expected later this year. Without a semblance of shame or dishonor, a Gaddafi representative announced that “the majority” of Libyan people support Saif al-Islam’s candidacy. Again, too many appear to have forgotten the havoc the former dictator wreaked upon Libya, robbing the country blind and stripping the Libyan people of their dignity.
There too, thousands of innocent civilians lost their lives due to crimes committed by the ruling family.
To add insult to injury, some Iraqis are now publicly lauding the era of Saddam Hussein, expressing their longing for the Butcher from Baghdad who incarcerated, tortured and murdered thousands of men and women.
Yes, it is certainly normal for people to romanticize the past and long for better days, but it is reprehensible, indeed appalling, when victims of abuse begin sympathizing with their oppressors. Bringing tyrants back from the dead is a mistake that will set the Arab world many years back. – Mashari al-Zaidi
Al-Mada, Iraq, March 20
With the unfortunate passing of Stephen Hawking, one cannot help but stop to reflect on the life of this great giant. I am surely not qualified enough to speak or write about Hawking’s monumental achievements in the field of physics, but, like many other people I, too, couldn’t help but be amazed at the contributions he made to humanity; this, despite not being able to move or speak, a man given two years to live, who ended up becoming the undisputed successor to none other than Albert Einstein.
On a more personal level, one cannot help but admire Hawking for visiting Bir Zeit University in Ramallah a few years ago, while refusing to visit the Zionist entity or meet with its leaders [Editor's Note: Hawking visited Israel in 2006 and attended a conference with Israeli high-school students]. He was a staunch human rights advocate and did not shy away from expressing his admiration for the Palestinian people, despite strong pressure against him from the pro-Israel lobby.
Sadly, however, Hawking never received the honor he deserved from us in the Arab world. Instead of celebrating his accomplishments, many of us labeled him an infidel. His teachings were banned and outlawed in more than one Arab country, as they challenged the teachings of Islam. This is a sad and uneasy truth, yet one that we must acknowledge.
What have we offered to humanity? What has the Arab world done to advance mankind? Unfortunately, nothing. We have come to rely on Western inventions, use Western technologies and enjoy Western medical inventions – all the while dismissing Western science as useless and labeling Western researchers as heretics. This is the worst kind of hypocrisy. Let’s be honest: if Stephen Hawking had lived in the Arab world, he would have been a beggar on the street and not an accomplished scientist who left such an incredible legacy behind. – Adnan Hussein