Voices from the Arab press: Did Washington revive military option against Iran?

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

 DEBRIS FLIES during a Russian drone strike, with what local authorities said was Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAVs, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 17.  (photo credit: Roman Petushkov/Reuters)
DEBRIS FLIES during a Russian drone strike, with what local authorities said was Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAVs, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 17.
(photo credit: Roman Petushkov/Reuters)

Has Washington really revived the military option against Iran?

An-Nahar, Lebanon, December 2 

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It was remarkable that the White House envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, spoke last week to the American magazine Foreign Policy and announced what could be interpreted as the revival of a military option against Iran in the event that nuclear negotiations fail. In his interview, Malley said that if none of the diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb succeeds, US President Joe Biden will agree as a last resort to a military option. Malley added that “we’re not there yet.” This position is new, and it comes in the wake of the growing pace at which Washington is holding joint military exercises with allies in the Middle East, especially Israel. It became clear how serious the situation is when the American and Israeli militaries distributed video footage of a squadron of fighter jets from the two countries as they flew over the region in a joint maneuver. The footage shows advanced F-35 and F-15 jets, accompanied by a Boeing aircraft designated for refueling. This means that the maneuvers are taking place in the context of preparing for long-range missions.

It’s worth remembering that, about a month ago, the American and Israeli militaries distributed video footage of an Israeli escort of two American B-52 bombers that flew back and forth from one of the American bases near the Mediterranean Sea toward the Persian Gulf region. This coincided with news reports about an Iranian attempt to attack Saudi Arabia. Notably, a large part of the disagreements between Washington and Tel Aviv during the Biden presidency have centered around Israel’s claim that the US has abandoned a “credible military option” despite Tehran’s continued violation of the commitments stipulated in the nuclear agreement. Israeli officials protested the Biden administration’s refusal to revive the military option, claiming that this gives tailwinds to the mullahs in Tehran.

Iran’s delivery of Shahed-136 explosive drones to Russia for use in its war on Ukraine, is an indication that the mullahs intend to go far in expanding Iran’s sphere of power, taking advantage of the war in Ukraine in order to win over Moscow’s support on the nuclear negotiations. In any case, there are no indications that President Biden is inclined to use force against Iran, as the matter is more complicated than making simple remarks in an interview. However, the latter’s dash toward a nuclear bomb has become a serious matter that worries the West, Israel and their Arab allies in the Middle East. Hence, the US administration is determined to show Iran that it will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear bomb at any cost. – Ali Hamada

 MAKING DELIVERIES in Cairo.  (credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images) MAKING DELIVERIES in Cairo. (credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images)

The Saudi citizen: The biggest tool of soft power!

Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, December 1

While the Saudi government spent millions of dollars and many years of work in an effort to strengthen its “soft power” abroad, the most significant change in the world’s perception of Saudi Arabia actually happened thanks to the average Saudi citizen. The World Cup games changed the face of Saudi Arabia forever. As Saudi masses flocked to Qatar to attend the World Cup games, the kingdom’s true – and beautiful – nature was finally shared with the world. 

This wasn’t the product of ministries concerned with improving the kingdom’s reputation, nor of institutions that are supposed to work day and night to build Saudi soft power abroad. Rather, it was spontaneous behavior of Saudi football fans swooping up, with their sincerity, the hearts of other fans from around the world. The Saudi fans amazed the Western media, which couldn’t help but wonder: Are these the very same Saudi people we’re busy attacking day and night? The Arab citizen, who for decades imagined the Saudis as mere Bedouin with money and oil, was surprised.

For the first time, the Arab world was able to appreciate the Saudi people, their culture and their history. The impact didn’t end in the Doha stadiums, but rather spread to football fans around the world. A video of a young Saudi man on the Doha metro singing in Spanish to Argentinean fans after their team suffered a defeat spread virally on social media. Viewers were shocked to discover that he was proficient in a language that isn’t Arabic or English.

The vitality of the Saudi fans didn’t end there. Those attending the matches will notice that the largest group of fans present in the stadium is Saudi. Indeed, the Saudi chants have become those heard most loudly from the bleachers. Several research centers monitoring social media noted that the use of the emoji of the Saudi flag has grown by over a million during the World Cup. Unbeknown to the Saudi government, the Saudi football fans proved to be an effective force in spreading the kingdom’s soft power in Western and Arab capitals. They brought their true, unfiltered selves to the streets of Doha – and showed the world the real magic of the Saudi kingdom. – Muhammad Al-Saed 

Jobs will become extinct and professions will disappear

El-Watan, Egypt, November 30

The scene of delivery guys flocking in the streets on motorbikes has become known to all of us. They park their vehicles and knock on doors carrying and delivering products ordered online. And yet, not a single day passes by without a dozen people approaching my vehicle’s window at a red light, offering to sell an iron, mobile phone, laptop, makeup or other goodies. This begs the obvious question: Over the course of the next decade, what will brick and mortar shops sell? What will be the fate of their employees? 

This might be a disturbing and painful question, but it is a very realistic one nonetheless. The entire world is discussing and reviewing the jobs that will become extinct and the professions that will disappear. There are reports that, by 2030, many jobs will disappear due to the progress made in artificial intelligence. For example, we are likely to see the driver profession disappear from the world. Whether we’re talking about taxi drivers, bus drivers or truck drivers, all of these roles will be replaced by autonomous self-driving vehicles. These vehicles will be cheaper, safer and more efficient to run. Other professions that likely will be affected are travel agents, data entry workers and personal assistants – all will be replaced by technology. 

At the same time, new jobs will emerge. Specialties like mobile app developers, virtual reality specialists, drone pilots and social media managers will become increasingly popular due to technological advances. Jobs that require strong communication skills and leadership qualities also will be essential, as technology becomes more automated. Jobs such as lawyers or engineers may become more common in the future.

By 2030, it is expected that about 40% of jobs could face some form of automation. Therefore, countries must start adapting and preparing for the future labor market by changing their training and education models and focusing on the jobs of the future. – Khaled Montaser 

The Ukraine War ‘Americanized’ Europe and weakened its unity

Asharq Al-Awsat, London, December 1

Certain events can be described as pivotal in terms of their repercussions, which may affect political systems, laws and the conditions of societies around the world. Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, for example, led to the collapse of the international system that existed since the end of World War I. Similarly, the collapse of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 is another example, which led to the demise of the bipolar system that had prevailed since the Potsdam Conference in 1945, after which the world was divided into a capitalist camp led by the United States and a socialist camp led by the Soviet Union. 

Today, we can say that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a pivotal event that undoubtedly led to global repercussions. However, it is not yet clear what the world will look like once this war comes to an end. The possibilities are many, and each of them indicates a change in the international system. Russian President Vladimir Putin may have had his reasons and motivations to invade Ukraine, but his decision lacked almost any knowledge of his own army’s capabilities. He also grossly miscalculated the European and American reactions to his campaign. 

One of the leaders of the Russian opposition who took refuge in London recently said that Putin believed that the world would look the other way following the invasion, as it did when Russia annexed Crimea. Putin’s biggest mistake was that he overestimated Europe’s reliance and dependence on Russian energy and food resources. The Russian president also believed that if Europe acquiesces to American pressure to repel the invasion, he will simply head east to break the blockade. China and India are in dire need of gas, oil, minerals, wheat and fertilizers – which Putin hoped to supply them with in lieu of European exports. The problem for Russia is that its gas pipeline infrastructure is largely designed to ship gas to Europe. A European boycott of Russian gas will inevitably lead to a major decline in Gazprom’s revenues, without any backup markets. Europe, which is facing many difficulties as a result of the Ukraine war, will not back down from its position, even if this leads to the complete halt of production.

It realizes that it will suffer economically, politically and socially for a few years, during which it will correct a mistake it made in the form of reliance on Russia as a primary energy provider. The cost of this mistake is certainly very high, and it may lead to growing tensions within the European Union; but as a result of the war there is also a clear European pivot toward the United States and NATO. In an interview with Henry Kissinger, the veteran US statesmen predicted that there are three possibilities for the war in Ukraine. The first is the stationing of the Russian army in Donetsk and Luhansk and annexing them to Russia, which will be considered a Russian victory, albeit a moral one. The second possibility is a complete Russian withdrawal from Ukraine, except for Crimea, which would be a humiliating defeat for Russia and Putin. The third possibility is the continuation of the battles and their transformation into an endless war.

Kissinger hinted that he prefers the first possibility as a solution to the impasse. The question is, how will Russia act when it becomes abundantly clear that demands that Russian officials have repeatedly described as “absolutely inevitable” will be rejected by Western countries?– Huda Al-Husseini

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.