Voices from the Arab press: Qatari revenge at the FIFA World Cup

RUSSIA’S DENIS Cheryshev scores their second goal in the the Russia vs Saudi Arabia World Cup match on June 14 in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium (photo credit: REUTERS)
RUSSIA’S DENIS Cheryshev scores their second goal in the the Russia vs Saudi Arabia World Cup match on June 14 in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al Jazeera, Qatar, June 18
The 2018 FIFA World Cup games that opened in Russia last week have certainly lived up to the excitement that surrounded them, offering viewers dramatic and thrilling matches. In the Middle East, in particular, there was a major build-up ahead of the tournament, in part because of the broad Arab participation, with teams from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others Arab states vying for the title of world champion.
The World Cup has also been interesting on the political level, since it is the frst international event hosted by Russia following its annexation of Crimea and military takeover of Syria. Both of these events left Moscow at odds with others in the international arena, so the fact that Russia is now receiving this kind of global attention should not be taken for granted.
One of the most interesting games so far was the one held between the Saudi and Russian teams, resulting in a humiliating 0-5 loss for Riyadh. Given the Saudi team’s poor historical performance in the World Cup – no more than two victories to date – this defeat was not entirely shocking. But it represented symbolic payback for a country drunk on power that has abused its authority in the Middle East, especially as regards its blockade on Qatar.
One observing the match could not help but notice the sponsorship boards surrounding the field, which proudly boasted the logo of Qatar’s national airline. Indeed, Qatar Airways entered into an agreement with FIFA to become the principal sponsor of the tournament, making Doha’s presence in this global event, to Saudi Arabia’s dismay, more prominent. To the avid soccer fans out there I say: enjoy the matches. Yet don’t be mistaken, as the competition extends beyond the playing field. And in the contest between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, it is clear that the former has won.
– Hasan Abu-Hanina
Al-Rai, Jordan, June 16
When I look at our younger generation here in Jordan, I cannot help but feel as if it has been robbed of its innocence. This is a generation that has come of age during a period of heightened terrorism – an era in which radical ideologies have plagued our societies and consumed our daily lives. We live in a world where suicide bombers are gloried, religious fanaticism is normalized, and there is no telling good from evil.
Therefore, it is important today, more than ever before, to remind our children just how devastating the outcomes of radical ideologies can be. While fanaticism might seem like a sensible solution to their frustrations in the short term, our children must understand the havoc that these beliefs have wrought upon our region over the long term.
We must educate our children in school about what is happening in places like Syria and Yemen, where millions of citizens have been forced to flee their homes while thousands of others lost their lives in brutal attacks. We must talk about the refugee camps that have popped up throughout the European continent, barely giving shelter to the millions of destitute Arabs who have lost everything. We ought to expose younger generations to the unspeakable testimonies of those who survived captivity at the hands of terrorist groups, so that they understand these terrifying experiences.
Simply put, we must explain to our children that violence is a perilous tool; nothing more than a dangerous illusion that will end up backfiring on those who employ it. The biggest threat to our society is misunderstanding the temptations that lure our children to act in such ways. Instead of pretending that they don’t exist, we must bring these ideologies to the fore where they can be addressed and defeated.
Otherwise, we will face a generation of mutinous citizens that refuse to accept the legitimacy of their states.
–Sawsan al-Shaar
Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, June 17
Last week, Saudi-led coalition forces finally managed to seize the international airport and seaport in Hodeidah, Yemen’s fourth-largest city and its principal port on the Red Sea.
This is a monumental development in Yemen’s civil war. Seizing the port will now force the Houthi rebels to the negotiation table, where they will have to make signifcant concessions to Saudi Arabia. The Hodeidah port has been the Houthi militias’ main source of revenue over the past four years. According to several sources, the shippers of each vessel that dock at the port are required to pay upwards of $100,000 to Houthi authorities before being allowed to unload their goods. In addition, the port served as the main gateway for Iranian ships carrying arms to the Houthis, including ballistic missiles used to target Saudi cities and towns. Thus, the capture of Hodeidah will severely weaken the Iranian-backed rebels and allow the legitimate Yemeni government to regain control over one of the country’s most strategic sites.
In an unsurprising turn of events, the United Nations – the same body that has been calling for the Houthis to disarm without any progress to date – is pressuring Saudi Arabia to halt its operation. Various UN agencies have already warned of “hundreds of thousands” of civilian deaths in Hodeidah, as a result of this takeover.
It remains beyond me how detached bureaucrats came up with these preposterous and inflated figures. Yet the bottom line is this: namely, that Saudi Arabia will not stop its mission until the Houthi militias are crushed. This victory will be swift and, once completed, the people of Hodeidah will finally be liberated.
It is a shame that the United Nations not only failed to bring the Houthis to the table, but also provided the conditions for them to enhance their foothold in the country. The least this organization can do at this time is stand on the sidelines and wait for Riyadh to fnish its job.
– Salman al-Dossry
Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, June 16
One of US President Donald Trump’s most vocal opponents to date has been none other than legendary Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, who has made a point of lambasting the president in almost every public appearance. Last week, De Niro took to the stage at the Tony Awards and began his speech with a series of slurs targeting Trump. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. When asked to retract his comments, De Niro stated that the only thing he is sorry for is his “president’s stupidity.”
Seemingly, there is nothing wrong with freedom of speech or expression, especially when it comes to political matters. The problem, however, is that De Niro’s remarks have not only been particularly severe but also come at a time when Trump is actually making astonishing progress in his foreign policy agenda. While Trump was marking the successful completion of his much-anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, De Niro and his colleagues were insulting the president. This coalition of actors, writers and other intellectuals has turned its opposition to Trump into a guiding political principle. They don’t care about the details of the policy the president is promoting. To them, everything Trump says or does is equally bad.
One cannot help but wonder why the leftist media in the US, but also elsewhere in the world, have grown so obsessed in its hatred of a democratically elected US leader. What is it about Donald Trump that makes even the most admired individuals so blindly focused on hatred and aggression? This is true not only in America but also in the Arab media. Denial is dangerous, no matter which side of the political spectrum it comes from.
– Mashri al-Zayidi