Voices from the Arab press: US attack on Saudi Arabia isn’t justified

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

 RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin watches joint drills by the Northern and Black Sea Fleets off the coast of Crimea, 2020.  (photo credit: Alexey Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin watches joint drills by the Northern and Black Sea Fleets off the coast of Crimea, 2020.
(photo credit: Alexey Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

The American attack on Saudi Arabia isn’t justified

Al-Rai, Kuwait, October 14

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US President Joe Biden formally launched the campaign against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by announcing last week that he is waiting for Congress to discuss sanctions against Riyadh. This comes against the backdrop of the recent OPEC+ decision to reduce oil production by two million barrels per day, and what was subsequently interpreted by Washington as indirect Saudi support for Moscow in its war against Ukraine. It is important to remember that, as we enter the midterm election season in the US, political flames tend to be fanned by American politicians. 

In the meantime, several observations can be made. First, the decision of OPEC+ to limit the production of oil is a decision made by all member countries, not just Saudi Arabia. These countries saw that the decline in oil prices is taking place at an accelerating rate that may threaten their economies and development projects, and therefore decided to fight it through a reduction in production. Choosing to focus only on Riyadh and insisting on pointing fingers at Saudi Arabia by some members of the Republican Party is related to internal political considerations, especially against Biden himself, who visited the kingdom a few months ago.

Second, the decision to reduce production will benefit oil-exporting countries, not only the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and at the heart of this system is Kuwait and the Gulf states. Therefore, full solidarity is required with the kingdom, not only as a “big sister” to other Gulf states, but also on the basis of historical ties. Riyadh has been singled out and targeted in a fabricated smear campaign, but it is certainly not the main beneficiary of this situation.

 A 3D-printed oil pump jack is seen in front of displayed OPEC logo in this illustration picture, April 14, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/FILE PHOTO) A 3D-printed oil pump jack is seen in front of displayed OPEC logo in this illustration picture, April 14, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/FILE PHOTO)

Third, the oil market has its own rules and laws, and this is not a nuclear secret. When the need arose years ago to raise production, Russia became angry and considered the matter a personal offense, leading to negative attitudes toward the kingdom and other OPEC countries. At that time, the Republicans and Democrats didn’t rush to use the same vitriol they’re now using. They didn’t describe the increase in production as some “conspiracy,” as they do today. The strangest thing with this recent development is that countries such as Germany and the Asian tigers, which are in greatest need of oil, did not deal with the OPEC+ decision as the US did, but rather took the path of dialogue and understanding. 

Fourth, with all due respect and appreciation to our friends in the US, and without ignoring what they have done and are doing to establish cooperation and stability in the region, the Americans are the last people who have the right to talk about respecting the interests of other nations. Biden himself is ready to do anything before the midterm elections to tell his voters that he has lowered energy prices. He is now exempting Venezuela from sanctions and helping it raise its oil production to drive prices down. Somehow, the arch-nemesis has now become a helpful friend. Whoever negotiates with “the devil” to achieve his interests, must understand that others have their own interests as well. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is our Arab sister. Its strength is our strength. Its power is our power. And when it comes to oil production, its policies are prudent and far-sighted. We stand by Saudi Arabia as partners building a better future for our younger generations. – Jassem Budy  

The Russian-Ukrainian War: A struggle of wills

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, October 12

The worst part about the Russian-Ukrainian war is that it is not a conflict over land, nor is it a border clash that has escalated into an armed confrontation. Similarly, it cannot be described as a Russian desire to occupy Ukraine in a similar fashion to old colonialism. Rather, it is a conflict of wills, in which each party desires to establish new rules in its relationship with the other side. On one side, there is Russia, which seeks to redefine its national identity and national security doctrine vis-à-vis Europe. On the other side, there is Ukraine, which is defending its borders and its interest, representing the Western world. 

The problem is that Russia will not be willing to emerge from this war defeated. At the same time, it is also highly unlikely that it will emerge victorious. Russia’s dilemma of annexing part of Ukraine’s territory through the use of armed force is considered a redline by the international community. It simply cannot be allowed because it will encourage other countries to act in a similar way. Further, Moscow’s hope of breaking the spirit and will of the Ukrainian people and leading to the collapse of the government in Kyiv also failed, especially in light of the unlimited support provided by the West to Ukraine. The annexation of the four regions – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – to the Russian Federation was not accepted by the international community, and Russia has entered a long war of attrition and hit-and-run battles that will inevitably diminish its economy and the capability of its forces. 

The decision to annex four regions, comprising a majority of Russian speakers and nearly half of ethnic Russians, will continue to impose huge costs on the Kremlin. The move further complicates the war and limits the chances of reaching a settlement or compromise, because it creates a zero-sum game: Either Russia manages to control these new territories or Ukraine manages to liberate them. There’s likely little in between. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky surprised many with his steadfastness, his decision not to leave the battlefield, and his insistence on refusing to hand over any Ukrainian territory to Russia, including Crimea. Zelensky refused to make any concessions to Russia since the beginning of the crisis. The country could have avoided the evils of this war, for which the Ukrainian people paid a heavy price. 

As for Russian President Vladimir Putin, he imagines breaking Ukraine’s spirit and defeating it in the battlefield, which would represent Russia’s return to the international arena, not only as a superpower, but also as an important and prestigious international player; something that Ukraine and the West will simply not accept. – Amr Al-Shobaki  

On the maritime border demarcation agreement between Lebanon and Israel

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, October 15

It is not possible in any way to underestimate the importance of the maritime border demarcation agreement that was achieved between Lebanon and the Israeli occupation after a long period of negotiations that reached its climax in recent days. The crisis between the two sides escalated at a more rapid pace ever since last year, especially given the Russia-Ukraine war and its impact on global energy markets. On the Israeli side, division has flared up in the past few weeks against the backdrop of the upcoming parliamentary elections. On the Lebanese side, the unified stance was remarkable, especially in terms of the complete and full alignment between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah. 

No sane person can expect the Lebanese government to proceed with this historic agreement without the “approval” of Hezbollah, whose control over Lebanon’s political sphere has become almost absolute, for many reasons. The main one, of course, is that it possesses a huge military arsenal. It can be said that, were it not for freedom of opinion and expression, which is still applicable to such a large extent in Lebanon, there would have been complete control of Hezbollah over all aspects of Lebanese political life. What is important now is that Lebanon has achieved an important breakthrough that it desperately needed, especially in light of the deterioration of its economic and social conditions, the decline in the value of its national currency, and its unprecedented levels of inflation, which leave effects on the Lebanese public. 

Nonetheless, a few legitimate fundamental questions about the implementation agreement still remain. What if, at this very moment, the interest of the Lebanese state does not intersect with the interest of Hezbollah? Was this agreement going to follow its course, or would it falter due to the “veto” from Hassan Nasrallah? And by extension, what if Tehran rejects this agreement or wants to use it for its own benefit, as it negotiates a new nuclear deal with the West? What political possibilities would Lebanon have if it were faced with such a scenario? 

There is another aspect to this agreement that is no less important for Lebanon and the Lebanese people: How will wealth accumulated from future gas extraction be distributed to the public? The gas that will be made available to Lebanon is estimated at billions of dollars, and here emerges the inevitability of establishing a national oil company similar to other oil-producing countries. 

How will the private and public sectors work together to prevent corruption and maximize Lebanon’s financial return on its investments? Transparency, good governance, and laws and regulations are needed. Lebanon must fight waste and corruption at all costs. The wealth of future generations of Lebanese citizens must not be wasted, otherwise Lebanon will miss a historic opportunity to get out of the crisis that has plagued it for decades. – Rami Al-Rayes 

The crime of misspelling

Al Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 11

Last week, I read about a tragic case of a nine-year-old girl who lost her life due to a spelling mistake. Yes, this might sound shocking. But the news article described an incident that took place in an Arab country, where a teacher committed the heinous crime of hitting one of his students on the head with a wooden stick, after the latter failed to properly spell a word. The girl suffered from a brain hemorrhage and skull fracture, ultimately leading to her death. 

Just a few days ago we celebrated International Teacher’s Day. This is a day that deserves to be celebrated and honored because teachers are some of the most important people in our society. They are not simply those in charge of bestowing academic knowledge upon our children; they are educators and role models first and foremost. A good teacher is a role model for students. He may change a student’s life by simply listening to them or being there for them. He may help a child build up their character and resilience. Needless to say, the teacher who beat his student due to a spelling mistake is an abomination to the teaching profession and to teachers around the world. 

Most teachers around the world possess the qualities of patience and empathy. They can motivate and empower their students, even when they make mistakes or experience failure. Indeed, there are many ways and various teaching methods to correct mistakes. All of them proved effective and virtually none of them consists of threats, reprimanding and, certainly, not physical violence. Using violence against children must disappear from our world. It has been shown, time and again, that violence has a strong adverse effect on children, their social and cognitive development and their overall well-being. 

In fact, studies show that even when children aren’t affected by physical violence but simply witness it as bystanders, they bear its negative effects. There is a good reason for which education officials strictly prevent the use of violence in classrooms. This doesn’t mean canceling the principles of reward and punishment, which are crucial for a child’s development. But it does mean finding and using alternatives to physical punishments that have been used in our education systems for decades and decades. 

Is a spelling mistake a “crime” worthy of physical punishment? Is it worthy of a child’s death? Is this the education system we want to build?! – Youssef Al-Qublan 

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.