Voices FROM THE ARAB PRESS

I truly hope that Addis Ababa will come to its senses and resolve its issues with Cairo in peaceful ways

ETHIOPIA’S GRAND Renaissance Dam undergoes construction work on the Nile River in Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, on  September 26.  (Tiksa Negeri/File Photo/Reuters) (photo credit: TIKSA NEGERI / REUTERS)
ETHIOPIA’S GRAND Renaissance Dam undergoes construction work on the Nile River in Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, on September 26. (Tiksa Negeri/File Photo/Reuters)
(photo credit: TIKSA NEGERI / REUTERS)
SOCIAL MEDIA GENERALS
Al-Shorouq, Egypt, October 17
Beginning in 2014, Egypt signed several important military deals. Chief among them were deals for the provision of fighter jets and assault ships from France, aircraft from Russia and submarines from Germany – in addition to a few other types of weapons, which allowed Egypt to establish a new fleet and a new military base at El-Hamam.
When the deals were first announced, many voices in our country criticized and mocked them, claiming that there was no need for these weapons, given Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. These voices also claimed that we only needed light weapons and helicopters to fight terrorists – the same logic that Israel and America followed when they demanded, during the Camp David Accords of 1978, that the Sinai Peninsula be demilitarized. Now, suddenly, these critics are talking about concepts like “military superiority” and the need to solve political problems using military force. They bring up, for example, Ethiopia’s stubbornness and rejection of any logical solutions regarding the Renaissance Dam, which affects Egypt’s water rights, and claim that building up our nation’s force is crucial to counteract these measures.
I do not wish for war with Ethiopia unless it is a very last option, and I truly hope that Addis Ababa will come to its senses and resolve its issues with Cairo in peaceful ways. Yet the important question is if, God forbid, we find ourselves in such a scenario, what do we do? This question is aimed directly at those who criticized the Egyptian military deals years ago but now openly call for war in defense of our water rights.
Back in the day, they were outraged by the idea of purchasing weapons worth billions of dollars while public funds for education, health and employment were lacking. Today, they are thanking the Egyptian military for signing these deals. Granted, this dilemma is not unique to Egypt; any country making large military acquisitions understands that other government investments must be cut down. All nations, even the very wealthy ones, have finite economic resources. Yet not a single nation chooses to deprioritize its security because it’s expensive. This should be especially true for Egypt, whose military challenges are growing larger and more complicated by the day. While Ethiopia is challenging our water rights, Turkey continues to arm various Brotherhood, Salafist and terrorist groups in Libya, with which we have an open border of 1,200 km.
We also have an existential enemy called Israel, and despite the cold or warm relations with it in recent years, it remains a strategic enemy whose presence is the cause of the majority of calamities and disasters we are suffering from. Sooner or later, small side-conflicts will be settled and we will quickly discover that the real enemy is Israel. We should therefore be prepared for this day. Given these complicated threats, it only makes sense for us to build up our army. Perhaps it’s time for the so-called social media “generals” who criticized the buildup of our forces to take a step back and let our nation’s real leaders direct us down the right path.
–Emaad Al-Din Hussein
PUTIN’S IMPORTANT VISIT TO THE GULF
Al-Etihad, UAE, October 18
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are of preeminent importance to the Arab world for at least three reasons, the first being historical, the second structural, and the third related to timing.
The historical reason is that the Soviet Union played a crucial role in the Middle East after World War II, mainly by supporting liberation movements in Arab countries and helping Arab nations with their development efforts. Let’s not forget the Soviet position on issues such as supplying Arab states with weapons when the Western world refused to do so, in addition to Soviet support with the nationalization of the Suez Canal and blocking the tripartite aggression against Egypt.
On a structural level, it is known that the power of balance in the international system greatly affects the world’s nations, especially the medium- and small-sized ones. After World War II, the bipolar world order provided a considerable freedom of movement for Arab states as a result of Soviet-American competition.
But the breakthrough in the relations between the two superpowers, beginning in the early 1970s, greatly reduced this freedom. Things took an additional downturn for the Arab world following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the rise of American hegemony over the world. With the rise of unipolarity and the absence of any restraint on American will, bad decisions have been made in regard to the Arab world, such as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. But now, President Putin has managed to erode the unipolar system and restore Russia’s position of global leadership. This is good news for us. As a reminder, the Russian position on issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and the preservation of the Arab nation-state is almost identical to the official position of the Arab world.
Finally, in terms of timing, Putin’s visits are taking place at a time when the region is in a state of tension and upheaval. We are on the very brink of war. Under such circumstances, it would be useful to listen to Russian ideas on how we can ease these tensions and emerge victorious from the current crises experienced in the Middle East. For all of these reasons, Putin’s visit to the Gulf is of great importance to us all.

–Ahmed Yousef Ahmed.
FINALLY, A REAL LEBANESE REVOLUTION
Al-Nahar, Lebanon, October 19
Over the span of just two days, millions of Lebanese took to the streets, and the number of protests throughout the country does not seem to be on the wane. The people who are demonstrating are not your regular political activists, but rather ordinary citizens who have had enough. They are people who are demanding accountability from their leaders. They are people who have profound concerns over their future livelihood.
Despite several serious protests that took place in Lebanon since 2011 – ranging from the campaign to abolish the sectarian quota system to the sit-ins of 2015 – most political mobilization efforts in Lebanon have failed to date. This time, however, events on the ground are already showing that the protests are moving way beyond what we have previously seen in the country. This is happening for two key reasons.
The first is the change in Lebanon’s politics, which have become more sectarian than ever before and given rise to crony capitalism and economic corruption. The second is the role that the Arab revolutions have played (and continue to play) in opening the eyes of the Arab public to the potential change citizens can bring, alongside the role of social networks in developing and promoting public awareness.
What is happening in Lebanon today is the build-up of all the smaller protests that have taken place in the country in the past. Today’s events can finally be described as a true revolution, a political revolution in the fullest sense of the word. It is a revolution of young men and women who carry the pain of the vast majority of Lebanese people in the wake of growing uncertainty and fear of where their country is headed. It is a revolution of people belonging to all denominations and all ages. It is a revolution of people who are determined to restore their rights – as human beings and as citizens. And they will not take “no” for an answer.
–Jamal Al-Kura
A HISTORIC CONCERT IN RIYADH
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 17
If a K-pop band’s recent concert in Riyadh had been held in any other city, there would have been no fuss. At best, the local media would have covered it in the Arts section. Perhaps there would have been a short interview with one of the band members airing alongside a clip highlighting the concert the next day. None of this would have attracted a large crowd. But the situation we witnessed in Riyadh was exceptional.
Forty years ago, the residents of Riyadh would not have been able to attend a single concert, let alone one put on by Korean superstars. The last time I saw a concert was in the Saudi club Al-Nasr on Al-Khazzan Street. It happened sometime during the seventies, when Saad Ibrahim and a number of young artists performed in small clubs, awaiting their turn to become stars. In 1979, they were on the lookout. I don’t think there is a single person in Riyadh who didn’t talk about the Korean band this week.
I truly believe that the day will come when people look back at this event and celebrate this concert as a major milestone in the history of the kingdom. Just like the Chinese have the “Year of the Dog,” the “Year of the Pig,” the “Year of the Tiger” and so on and so forth, the Saudi people can now look back at the “Year of the K-pop.” When the King Fahd Stadium shut down after reaching its maximum seat capacity, I thought that was an exaggeration. But it turned out to be true. Our younger generation is truly reinventing our country. May God bless the young people who lead Saudi Arabia, headed by Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
–Abdullah Bin Bakhit
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.

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