Voices from the Arab press: The West, Iran & hostage-taking policy

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

 INDIAN PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi speaks during a Bhartiya Janta Party rally, Dec. 2.  (photo credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP via Getty Images)
INDIAN PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi speaks during a Bhartiya Janta Party rally, Dec. 2.
(photo credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP via Getty Images)

The West, Iran & hostage-taking policy

Al Rai, Kuwait, January 20

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It pays to revisit history from time to time. 

By November 1979, a few months after the overthrow of the shah, Ayatollah Khomeini had eliminated every trace of the shah and his regime. Since that time, for over 40 years, the West – Europe and the US – has been paying the price for its complacency in dealing with the Islamic Republic’s hostage-taking policy in Iran.

Why does Tehran repeatedly resort to taking hostages? This is down to two reasons: the effectiveness of this policy (based on the idea of exporting the revolution), and Western submission to it. 

 PROTESTING IN the Gaza Strip with a picture of Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah.  (credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90) PROTESTING IN the Gaza Strip with a picture of Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah. (credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)

Hostage-taking was first carried out by the Iranian regime at the US Embassy in Tehran, where 52 diplomats worked. At the time, the regime was going through a period of internal transformation toward more extremism and hostility aimed at America – all that is American. The Carter administration carried out an operation to rescue the hostages, while America was still suffering from a Vietnam complex. The operation ended in a fiasco. 

Ultimately, president Jimmy Carter paid dearly for his complacency when it came to dealing with this event and the Iranian regime in general.

Ronald Reagan, the Republican candidate, subsequently struck a deal with the new regime in Iran. The deal, details of which were later revealed by the American media, led to the non-release of American diplomats before the presidential elections. 

This episode revealed a complete ignorance surrounding the nature of the regime in Iran. Successive administrations also failed to comprehend the depth of the relationship that had existed between Tehran and Moscow from the beginning. For years, there was a belief in Washington that the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which raised the slogan “neither East nor West,” would be the best barrier to Soviet expansion. 

It became clear with the passage of time, however, that this kind of thinking was ill-judged. The Ukrainian war confirmed the link between post-shah Iran, on the one hand, and the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation, which came after him, on the other. 

American complacency with Iran reached its climax when the Bush administration handed over Iraq on a silver platter to Iran in 2003. The subsequent agreement between the group of P5+1 countries, (the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) regarding the Iranian nuclear file in the summer of 2015, only served to underscore the point. The Obama administration pushed for this agreement, which constitutes an integral part of the regime’s blackmail policy. The agreement increased the aggression of the Islamic Republic and provided money for its sectarian militias. 

Many questions about Iran have been asked. First, whether Iran seeks to be a normal country, or whether it intends to continue with its policy of hostage-taking. Currently, there is no indication that Iran wants to be the former – a normal country. Indeed, it is still pursuing its hostage-taking policy with full force. Lebanon, for example, has become a hostage of Iran and remains completely at its mercy.

Another important question is – what will it do with its missiles, militias and drones? The answer is simple – they are currently killing civilians in Ukraine.

It is not yet known whether the West has woken up to the Iranian truth and finally recognized the nature of the regime in this country of ancient civilization. The main culprit responsible for the continuation of its hostage-taking policy is the West, especially since it failed to appreciate the dire consequences of acceding to the demands of the Islamic Republic when it detained 52 American diplomats for 444 days back in 1979.  – Khairallah Khairallah 

India and the voice of developing countries

Al-Ittihad, UAE, January 21

Last week, India hosted the Voice of the Global South Summit, bringing together countries from Latin America, Asia and Africa.

This virtual forum provided developing nations with a platform to express their concerns and make their voices heard in global governance.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the South Center of Excellence, the South Science and Technology Initiative and the South Scholarships for the benefit of students in developing countries. He also announced the South Forum for Young Diplomats, to link young officials of the foreign ministries of the participating countries. 

The summit featured the participation of more than 120 developing countries, which Modi described as the largest virtual gathering of the South ever. The aims of the summit included addressing the issues faced by the developing world, such as COVID-19, rising fuel, fertilizer and grain prices, and growing geopolitical tensions.

India is looking to advance its global agenda, and the South Forum aims to help India better articulate the needs and voices of developing countries.

India has also positioned itself as a bridge between developed and developing countries, which is evidenced by its neutrality in the Ukraine war and its offer to help end it. The summit highlighted the need for reform in international forums and institutions to ensure a balanced representation of the developing world.

India’s role in this comes at a difficult juncture, marked by rising tensions due to the Ukraine war and New Delhi’s strained relationship with Beijing over border issues. 

India seeks to be at the forefront of efforts to find solutions to global problems such as climate change and the energy crisis. The South Initiative is an effort by India to take leadership on global issues and to highlight the views of developing countries on them. India is uniquely placed to play the role of a bridge between the rich industrial countries and the countries of the South. 

By referring to the fears and concerns expressed by developing countries to the G20, India is trying to provide solutions to global problems while helping its citizens achieve their desired well-being.

Overall, the summit was a good step for India toward becoming a voice for developing countries. India is well placed to play a pivotal role in creating a new world order that is characterized by greater cooperation toward achieving the priorities of the South. – Zikru Al-Rahman

A strong president who can resist external pressure

Nida Al-Watan, Lebanon, January 22

In his recent speech, Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hezbollah, has called for a brave president who will not be intimidated by the US.

But will Nasrallah accept a president who is equally unafraid to challenge Nasrallah’s own party and its policies? Will he accept a president who opposes the Iranian government’s violations of Lebanese sovereignty? A president who refuses to condone Iranian aggression in the region and who stands up for Arab interests? 

These questions come to mind as we consider the recent tweet from former Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, congratulating his country’s soccer team for winning the Arabian Gulf Cup, which took place in the Iraqi city of Basra. Kadhimi has been committed to restoring Iraq’s sovereignty, implementing a comprehensive strategy to develop the country, and investing in alternative energy sources and gas extraction. 

He has sought to establish connections with Iraq’s neighbors based on identity, belonging, interest and destiny. He has reminded the Arab world that Iraq is a neighbor, not a follower, and that it is committed to the interests of its people and its regional partners. 

In contrast, Hezbollah has sought to blur the lines between Lebanon and Iran, turning Lebanon into an Iranian suburb. The most recent example is the Qasem Soleimani International Prize for Resistance Literature handed out by Hezbollah in Beirut.

It is clear that a president who understands and respects these issues is necessary to ensure a secure future for Lebanon. This president must be unafraid of both the US and Iran and understand the importance of Arab sovereignty and identity. A true leader will not be intimidated by either superpower and will be able to make the decisions necessary to protect Lebanon and its people. – Sanaa Al-Jack 

Will the global economy rebound in 2023?

Al Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, January 20

The global economy is a source of great concern to many people in 2023. The pressing question is whether the crisis will pass or not, and when the anticipated recovery will begin, after a long period of hardship caused by the ramifications of the COVID pandemic and war in Ukraine.

Experts are divided on the possibility of an economic recession due to the stringent monetary policies adopted by central banks in many countries. Some fear that raising interest rates will suppress investment, while others believe a tight policy will curb inflation without hampering economic growth.

Aside from the optimistic and pessimistic outlooks which influence the behavior of both investors and consumers, there are grounds for optimism in 2023. 

Many countries have displayed resilience in the face of tough economic battles in 2022. Most of these countries have managed to avoid a recession, which is a positive sign. Additionally, job and salary growth have exceeded the usual rate under monetary tightening and interest rate hikes, indicating the possibility of a better year than the last, provided there are no major shocks such as the pandemic or war.

Moreover, inflation rates have decreased in an increasing number of crisis economies. If this trend continues in the first four months of 2023, central banks could gradually lower interest rates. Governments have provided social assistance to mitigate the effects of inflation on citizens. A sustained decrease in inflation rates could reignite the investment curve. 

The lifting of the last COVID-19 restrictions in China, if it continues in the current year, could also have a positive impact on the global economy. The slowdown of the Chinese economy due to the restrictions had caused disruption in supply chains, hence the improvement of the global economy may start in 2023. All of this remains to be seen.– Waheed Abdul Majid 

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.