Voices from the Arab press: About the killing of Zawahiri

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

 ELIMINATED AL QAIDA leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a still from a 2011 video.  (photo credit: SITE Monitoring Service via Reuters TV)
ELIMINATED AL QAIDA leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a still from a 2011 video.
(photo credit: SITE Monitoring Service via Reuters TV)

About the killing of Zawahiri

Al-Ahram, Egypt, August 5

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On the one-year anniversary of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, which left America’s global reputation scarred and tarnished, we woke up to the first successful American strike against terrorism: the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaida. Zawahiri assumed his duties in 2011 following the killing of the former leader of the organization, Osama bin Laden, also in Pakistan. The two operations carried out by the US on Pakistani soil, the first to kill bin Laden in 2011 and the second to kill Zawahiri last week, were quite similar. The first took place under president Barack Obama, while the latter took place under President Joe Biden.

Despite the American commitment to find and eliminate these terrorists, there is no doubt that the chief victims of radical jihad have been Arabs. Indeed, our region has suffered the pain of terrorism to a far greater, longer and harsher degree. I remember when al-Zawahiri first came into the public eye in 1981 when he was put on trial for the assassination of Anwar Sadat. The Egyptian Islamic Jihad stood behind the killing that took place at a military parade. Zawahiri was sentenced to three years in prison and, following his release, he left Egypt for Afghanistan, where he planned his return. He believed that by getting rid of Sadat, the Egyptian hero of war and peace, Islamic Jihad would be able to establish its foothold in Egypt. 

Ever since that date, the Egyptian authorities have been enduring an endless confrontation, both overt and covert, with these terrorist forces. Islamic Jihad repeated its crimes in 1993 when it killed over 1,200 Egyptians and attempted to assassinate president Hosni Mubarak. Consequently, an Egyptian military court sentenced Zawahiri to death in absentia. The Egyptian Armed Forces also confronted Zawahiri’s forces, which sought to establish an Islamic emirate in the Sinai Peninsula. 

So now the question to be asked is: Will the curtain of terrorism finally come down with the death of both bin Laden and Zawahiri? I can’t imagine that will be the case because the war on terror has multiple dimensions, many of which have nothing to do with the use of force. What we need to defeat terrorism are extensive operations that take place away from the battlefield and, most importantly, away from American television screens. – Osama Saraya

 MARKING THE two-year anniversary of the August 2020 Beirut port explosion in the city, August 4. (credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR/REUTERS) MARKING THE two-year anniversary of the August 2020 Beirut port explosion in the city, August 4. (credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR/REUTERS)
Is Europe prepared for a long, cold winter?

Al Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, August 3

It seems that the Russo-Ukrainian War will enter its fourth phase in the coming months. The first phase of the war began on February 24, when Russian forces launched an attack on Ukraine’s military bases, airstrips, command centers, and air defense systems and began advancing toward Crimea, the republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, the city of Kharkiv, and the capital Kyiv. Ukrainian forces responded by pushing Russian troops into their cities, where they had the upper hand and could slow down the attacks directed at them. This slowed down the Russian advance and caused significant Russian casualties. 

Indeed, the method succeeded, especially in blocking Russia’s attack on Kyiv. From there, the Russian forces began the second phase of their offensive operations by changing the direction of their main attack toward eastern Ukraine, in the direction of Kherson, Mariupol, Donetsk and Luhansk. The Russian forces succeeded in seizing Mariupol, following a scorched-earth policy, which entailed the complete destruction of Ukrainian cities using massive firepower.

The Russians began making use of ballistic missiles like the Kinzhal, Iskander and Kalibr missiles. In response, the US and NATO equipped Ukrainian forces with the Stinger anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, which have a short range of 3-6 km. and are used primarily for defensive purposes. America’s goal was to prolong the war and tire Russia. When Ukraine asked the US for long-range ballistic missiles, President Biden rejected this request. In my view, this was a wise decision, since the introduction of weapons that could threaten Russia’s home front would have seriously exacerbated the war. 

On the economic level, the results of this war affected most countries, especially poorer Third World countries that have been disproportionately affected by the shortage of grain, particularly wheat, coming from Ukraine. Consequently, Russia found itself compelled to ease the blockade on Ukraine. Therefore, in late July, the Kremlin agreed to a safe passage agreement mediated by Turkey, under the auspices of the UN, which allows Ukrainian ships to export grains for a period of 120 days. The agreement stipulated the establishment of a center in Istanbul to monitor and inspect all movements of ships and to ensure that no weapons or military equipment is smuggled, in exchange for a Russian pledge not to attack ships carrying grain during their voyage. Meanwhile, the European Commission urged EU member countries to reduce their gas consumption by at least 15% in the coming months, in anticipation of Russia’s shrinking supply of natural gas to Europe. 

Russia is currently confident about its economic conditions and has proved to the world that the economic sanctions imposed upon it have not been effective. Hence, Moscow is preparing for a long war in the coming months, which will constitute the fourth stage of this conflict: starving Europe of gas this coming winter. The question is: What will Europe do from now on to be prepared for next winter’s war? EU states are looking for quick alternatives to Russian gas, which can be implemented immediately in the coming months. Some have already contracted with alternative providers such as Italy and Algeria, while others are purchasing natural gas liquefaction stations to increase imports from Gulf countries. Regardless, everyone in Europe is now busy preparing for a cold and harsh winter, which was not taken into account when this war began. – Samir Faraj 

What will Aoun say in New York about justice?

Nida Al Watan, Lebanon, August 4

What will the president of the Lebanese republic, Gen. Michel Aoun, tell UN officials during his upcoming speech before the General Assembly? When Aoun stands in front of the leaders of the free world, will he tell them about the ongoing investigation into the catastrophic crime that took place in August 2020, almost two years ago? Will he explain to them how justice is still being obstructed and no one has been held accountable to date? 

Many things will happen between now and September 20, when Aoun will travel to New York. Chief among them is the fate of the indirect negotiations between Lebanon and Israel over the demarcation of the two countries’ maritime borders. The UN has a key role in enforcing any border agreement, which Aoun may address during his visit, especially if he meets Secretary-General António Guterres. 

However, the key event is Aoun’s scheduled meeting with the UN’s Human Rights Council, where several international organizations concerned with human rights in Lebanon formed an international fact-finding committee for the Beirut Port disaster. If the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva responds to these organizations’ request to form the committee, what will Aoun say before the General Assembly? What will the Lebanese president tell the International Support Group for Lebanon – comprising the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany, Italy, the European Union, and the Arab League – about the judiciary’s decision to halt the investigation into the August 4 disaster? Does Aoun expect the victims’ families, and those who were injured and wounded in the explosion, to simply absolve the Lebanese government of any and all responsibility? – Walid Choucair

Saudi Arabia’s battle against money laundering

Al Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, August 2

Ten days ago, the Public Prosecution Office in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia issued its ruling in a money laundering case. The case included a Saudi woman, her Arab husband, and a third, foreign, partner. The accusation against the three included laundering nearly $17 million obtained from unknown sources. The woman placed her business affairs at the disposal of her husband, and the husband teamed with the foreign individual to set up a business entity that would launder the funds in exchange for $2,700 per month. The defendants were fined $13 million and sentenced to 12 years in prison, along with the confiscation of their funds. The Saudi citizen will be prevented from traveling, and her resident husband will be deported following the execution of the sentence. 

Money laundering began thousands of years ago, originally in the Chinese empire, but it became a widespread phenomenon in the West with the rise of the Italian-American mobster Al Capone, who smuggled alcohol to America during Prohibition, under the Volstead Act. Capone made millions of dollars through the sale of liquor but was only prosecuted for tax evasion, since money laundering wasn’t criminalized in America until 1986. 

In Saudi Arabia, the matter is governed by the Anti-Money Laundering Law issued in October 2017. The countries of the world spend $8 billion each year to combat money laundering. The percentage of cash that goes into global laundering operations is estimated at over 5% of the global economy, or nearly $4 trillion each year. Laundered money is the primary way in which terrorist groups and crime networks fund drugs and arms smuggling, organ trade and sex slaves. Indeed, laundered money has been at the center of the Pandora and Panama papers, which shed light on extensive Russian money laundering, along with the Altaf Khanani organization, which works to launder money for the benefit of al-Qaida, the Taliban, and Hezbollah, in addition to drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia. 

Saudi Arabia is committed to international anti-money laundering standards. To date, the Saudi government implemented 38 out of the 40 priorities it has set for itself in the field of combating money laundering, putting it at the forefront of the Financial Action Task Force, an international group launched to develop policies to combat money laundering. It is also the only Arab country that is a member of the group. Most recently, Saudi Arabia launched four specialized committees that monitor suspicious money activity, consisting of the Central Bank, the Presidency of State Security, and the Foreign Affairs and Interior ministries, all of which work together to protect the national economy. – Badr Bin Saud 

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.