Voices from the Arab Press: Has Israel given a green light to Assad?

A roundup of Arab media.

PROTESTERS LAMBAST the Iran deal before then-US vice president Joe Biden’s visit to the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Florida, on September 3, 2015 (photo credit: REUTERS)
PROTESTERS LAMBAST the Iran deal before then-US vice president Joe Biden’s visit to the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Florida, on September 3, 2015
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Have the Israelis given a green light to Bashar Assad?
Al-Hayat, London, July 2
The distance between the Syrian city of Dara’a and the closest Israeli town is less than 40 km. Last week, the Syrian Army advanced towards the area and imposed a siege on all roads leading to Dara’a, in preparation for an armed takeover of the city. Many of the Syrian rebels stationed in the city have already surrendered, leaving one of the last remaining opposition strongholds in Syria at the behest of Assad’s forces. The outcome of the battle has already been determined. The town will be bombarded and Assad’s forces will prevail.
Yet the most important part of this story has little to do with the battle itself. Rather, it revolves around the greater geopolitical dynamics at play. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that just a few weeks ago such a scenario of Syrian forces advancing towards Dara’a would have been unimaginable. Israeli forces have maintained a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone coming close to the Israeli border, in particular forces loyal to the Assad regime and their Iranian counterparts. The Israeli Air Force hasn’t been shy of attacking targets that seemed even remotely suspicious – often with Russian support or, at the very least, acquiescence. Now, all of a sudden, the bombings have stopped. Assad’s forces have been allowed to act freely in Dara’a, opposite Israeli towns and cities.
The inevitable conclusion here is, thus, the following: Tel Aviv gave the Syrian Army permission, through the Russians, to enter Dara’a. And they have done so with a specific demand in mind: that all Iranian forces be withdrawn from Syria. Moscow seems to have agreed to this deal, which ensures the survival of Assad’s regime and the contentment of the Israeli government. At the end of the day, Tel Aviv cares less about Assad’s fate and more about the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah operatives on its borders. It therefore deviated from its usual policy and enabled the Dara’a offensive. As always, the ultimate victim is neither Israel nor the Syrian army. Rather, it is the defenseless and helpless Syrian citizen in Dara’a who is now fighting for survival as the city goes up in flames.
– Hazem Amin
Obama’s disastrous legacy on Iran is now exposed
Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, July 4
Just as we thought that we learned everything there is to know about the previous administration’s blindness towards Iran’s crimes, new leaks reveal that Barack Obama’s myopia was even worse than we imagined. We’ve already learned that Obama let Hezbollah off the hook in the past, when he ordered the US Drug Enforcement Administration to cease its decade-long operation against Hezbollah’s billion-dollar sales of narcotics worldwide. Obama was worried that by targeting the movement’s major sources of funding he would jeopardize the Iranian nuclear deal. He risked American lives in order to preserve the deal he so desperately coveted. Now come even newer discoveries about Obama’s scandalous behavior.
According to a Fox News investigative report released last week, Obama’s administration granted residency permits and citizenship to hundreds of Iranian nationals associated with the mullah regime. Among them were relatives of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. These individuals were allowed to enter the US freely, where they formed networks of Iranian propaganda. They attended leading US universities, formed several lobby groups, and even joined local politics. All of this was done to promote Iran’s interests in the US and protect the horrendous nuclear deal. Thankfully, the days of such outrageous behavior are over.
The Iranian regime, which has grown used to manipulating Obama’s team, is learning the ropes of this new reality that hard way. They are scrambling, together with the Europeans, to salvage whatever is left of their deal, but to no avail. The time has come to expose Obama’s lies and put Iran in its place.
– Mashri al-Zayidi
The sanctions on Iran are beginning to take their toll
Al-Itihad, UAE, July 6

Things have taken a downturn for Iran, after the United States called all parties dealing with Tehran to end their imports of Iranian goods, especially oil and gas, by November 4. Oil is the backbone of the Iranian economy, and without the ability to sell it the Iranian economy will be severely damaged. The sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump Administration are already taking their toll on the average citizen on the street, as is evident from the widespread protests that have swept Tehran.
Fearing a complete collapse of their regime, the mullahs have now turned to doing what they do best: wreaking havoc and confusion in the region. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif was immediately dispatched to Europe, where he is frantically roaming the corridors of the European Union in an attempt to salvage his deal. Although he often appears to be smiling alongside his European counterparts, his smirk hides a deep-seated fear of what is next to come. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, has also been sent on his own mission: threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz if the US sanctions come into effect.
The Revolutionary Guards have also been given their own instructions, crafting plans to target US interests in the Middle East, in places like Lebanon, Jordan and even Afghanistan. In other words, the Iranian regime is continuing to play games with the West. On one hand, its representatives are smiling, shaking hands, and signing treaties, while, on the other hand, it is sending covert operatives to plan attacks abroad, block international shipping routes, and manipulate EU diplomats.
Luckily, the Americans understand this duplicitous game very well. They are calling things as they are and putting Iran in its place. The Europeans, meanwhile, seem to maintain their pitiful gullibility. They are negotiating with Iran even as Iranian attempts to carry out attacks in Vienna and Paris have been exposed. This naiveté will cost them dearly. The Iranians only understand the language of power and coercion; not that of diplomacy and mediation.
– Abdallah bin Bujad al-Oteibi
Why lift the female ban now?
Al-Jazeera, Qatar, July 1
When Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on female drivers a few weeks ago, international human rights organizations lauded the Saudi government. It was explained to us that this move is as a true milestone in the rights of women across the entire region, and not just in the Gulf.
We were told that the Saudi leadership, under the guidance of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, is pursuing extensive reforms that would improve the rights of women and minority groups in society. But what exactly inspired this sudden change of heart? After all, it is Muhammad bin Salman himself who ordered the crushing of the women’s demonstrations in Riyadh in the early 1990s, when he served as governor. It is also he and his family who passed cruel pieces of legislation limiting the rights of women and subjugating them to their husbands.
The real, unfortunate, answer is one that human rights groups will not tell us. It has to do with politics and money. First, bin Salman and the royal family have launched a rebranding campaign aimed at marketing Saudi Arabia as a moderate country with liberal politics. In an attempt to rid itself of its dubious past, which included the sponsoring of Salafist terror groups, the Royal House of Saud is generating a lot of excitement around policies that bring little improvement to women. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Royal House quickly learned that in order to have a functioning private sector – one that doesn’t rely on oil exports – women must be integrated into the economy.
And the only way to do so, as we all know, is by allowing them to commute to work themselves. Therefore, I remain skeptical of these reforms. I am doubtful about the true intentions of the Saudis. Actions speak louder than words, and, so far, their deeds have taught me not to trust them as a woman.  – Ana Khamry