Voices from the Arab press: Goodbye Trump, Hello Biden

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

GETTING VACCINATED in Kuwait City in late December. (photo credit: REUTERS/STEPHANIE MCGEHEE)
GETTING VACCINATED in Kuwait City in late December.
(photo credit: REUTERS/STEPHANIE MCGEHEE)
CONSPIRACY THEORIES – BETWEEN A WELL-KNOWN PHARMACIST AND MY GRANDMOTHER
Al-Qabas, Kuwait, January 22
Although there are nearly 70 years between what my grandmother told my father about vaccinations, and what was stated by a well-known pharmacist in a clip that spread on Kuwaiti WhatsApp groups, the idea, content and logic of both messages are the same.
Despite the immense scientific and medical progress our world has experienced, it seems as if some habits die hard.
I still recall the time when the government announced its plan to vaccinate all schoolchildren against polio. The following week, almost all schools in Kuwait were empty of students. A large percentage of parents were afraid to send their children to school for the fear that the “authorities” would forcibly vaccinate them – and thus diminish their fertility or stunt their development.
I specifically remember the argument that broke out between my father, a proponent of vaccinations, and my grandmother, who warned us against taking the shot. As a mischievous child, I sided with my grandmother, hoping to use the vaccination as an excuse to stay at home and avoid school.
Meanwhile, last week, a well-known pharmacist released a video urging the public to avoid the COVID-19 vaccination, suggesting that it has secret adverse effects on those receiving it. According to the video, the vaccine was not thoroughly and scientifically tested and was rolled out in a hasty manner to quell public pressure.
Granted, the pharmacist’s tirade was utter nonsense, based on conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated rumors. But this didn’t stop the spread of the dangerous video.
Actions like that of the pharmacists, alongside other vaccination skeptics, are a crime against modernity, science and logic. These people are an insult to human progress and a shame to all of us. Think of the scientist who developed the vaccine, the test participants who took part in the clinical trials, the nurses who administer the shots to patients. All of these people have risked their lives in order to protect hundreds of thousands of others – including this notorious pharmacist.
There is no way to end this phenomenon but to name and shame those who spread conspiracy theories. Ultimately, they are the ones who should be held liable for the preventable deaths of thousands of people who foolishly followed their messages and believed their lies. Are we really willing to let our friends and loved ones die because of the foolish actions of others? 
– Ahmed al-Sarraf
A WILDFIRE HIDING BENEATH THE EMBERS
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, January 23
With the decline of the dream of a “world professor” and the dream of the return of the so-called caliphate, with the fall of its rule in Egypt in 2013, Arab countries hastened to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, starting with the United Arab Emirates and ending with Saudi Arabia, which finally announced this, eradicating it from the mosques.
After that, the Brotherhood had no choice but to flee and disappear into some “European enclaves.”
Little by little, step by step, the Brotherhood is finally coming down. This began with the fall of its regime in Egypt in 2013, followed by an Arab-wide crackdown on the movement, and its designation as a terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
With nowhere else left to operate, the Brotherhood relocated its activity to various locations in Europe.
Recently, some European countries have realized this danger and began shutting down mosques and charity associations serving as a cover for Brotherhood activity. Of note were the German and French governments, which declared a full-fledged war against extremist Muslim organizations and their cells in Europe.
But in contrast to the French and German roles in pressing the European Union to take a harsher stance against the Brotherhood, other countries are turning a blind eye to the problem.
Britain, for example, has completely neglected the problem. Muslim Brotherhood cells – and radical groups, more broadly – have proliferated across the United Kingdom unabated over the past two decades.
Two British prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, were the first to discover that there is no such thing as “moderate” political Islam: in all places where it is allowed to exist, its advocates end up rebelling against the state. While David Cameron pledged to “drain the swamp,” his successor, Theresa May, didn’t take the same interest in the issue. Then, Jeremy Corbyn – perhaps the biggest proponent and defender of political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood – was elected to lead the Labour Party.
Britain seems busy now, dealing with the repercussions of Brexit and the onset of a new strain of the coronavirus, which has sent the country into a painful lockdown. But perhaps British officials should realize that under the soft embers there burns a strong fire that is waiting to erupt with might, as soon as it possibly can. And it will ignite everything in its path. 
– Abdel Latif el-Menawy
WHEN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS PROTECT THE HOUTHI MILITIAS
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 22
We can all unanimously agree that Iran is a rogue state. It consistently violates human rights and international law and pursues notorious practices unmatched by any other state. At a time when more and more countries around the world are confronted with terrorist attacks, Iran remains completely immune to terrorism – confirming the fact that it is the key force standing behind global terrorism to begin with.
Just before leaving office, former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced America’s decision to designate the Yemeni Houthi militias loyal to Iran as a terrorist organization, and put three of its leaders – including Abdul Malik al-Houthi – on the international terrorist watchlist. According to Pompeo, the designation was meant to hold the Houthi militias accountable for their crimes, including cross-border attacks against civilian populations and commercial shipping lines in Saudi Arabia.
Although America was long overdue in making this decision, it is certainly better to do so late than never. This is especially true since Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, has previously claimed that such a designation will “only lead to more suffering for the people of Yemen.”
Furthermore, as soon as the designation was announced, leading human rights groups decided to criticize the US and protested that the designation would severely impede humanitarian aid efforts, such as those carried out by the United Nations. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths announced that he is very concerned about the US decision to classify the Houthis as a terrorist group.
Sadly, the United Nations has long become a protector of terrorist groups that undermine the very liberal agenda on which the organization rests. Its envoys conveniently call for diplomatic solutions at times when terrorist groups are on the brink of defeat, while ignoring bloodshed when terrorist groups have the upper hand. The official spokesman for the Arab Coalition Forces to Support Legitimacy in Yemen, Col. Turki al-Maliki, has previously confirmed that some UN officials are taking non-neutral positions regarding the conflict in Yemen, and revealed that international humanitarian organizations are subject to Houthi pressure.
The American decision terrified the European Union and the United Nations, which issued a statement claiming that the designation is a “dangerous and useless policy that would endanger the lives of innocent people.”
However, those with deep familiarity with the situation in Yemen agree that the Houthi militias are the primary beneficiaries of humanitarian aid flowing into Yemen, through the imposition of exorbitant royalties and fees and the seizure of donated goods.
– Hasna al-Qunaeer
GOODBYE TRUMP, HELLO BIDEN
Asharq al-Awsat, London, January 21
When Henry III of England died while his son Edward was fighting on the battlefront, the Royal Council decided to install him immediately, declaring: “The throne will not remain vacant, and the country will not exist without a king.”
A similar situation happened in France, when the son of Charles VI was declared king immediately following his father’s death. This led to the famous proclamation: “The king is dead, long live the king!”
Joe Biden is the president, the United States is the empire, and the vacuum of power is the most significant threat to the existence of America. This is why the presidential arrangements do not allow for any ambiguity about who is in power. The president-elect takes the 35-word oath before the chief justice of the Supreme Court, after the president whose term has expired leaves.
According to the American political system, Biden’s inauguration was certain, despite the fact that a large portion of the American public disputed his win. This is because the nation’s highest legislative authority, Congress, and the highest judicial authority, the Supreme Court, rejected Trump’s case.
Trump himself failed to convince his supporters, his cabinet members and his party leaders. His attorney-general, who protested and resigned, accused Trump of spreading nonsensical accusations. Like other members of Trump’s cabinet, he refused to accept the story that the elections were rigged and the presidency was stolen.
But Trump’s departure from the White House will not erase the great impact his policies had at home and abroad. Confronting China, for example – which is the most important issue for the United States – will remain a top priority even for the Biden administration.
What will be the new administration’s policy? It’s still too early to tell. Many in the Middle East fear that Biden will simply continue former president Barack Obama’s policies. Indeed, a large number of faces announced as candidates for leading posts in the Biden administration have already worked for Obama.
Obama’s policy in the Middle East, especially the one designed to deal with Iran, has been a failure. Then Trump came and besieged Iran, destroying its political and economic capabilities. Consequently, returning to the same point as when Obama left office is almost impossible, even if Biden were interested in doing so. Furthermore, the geopolitical conditions have changed: the Russians entered the conflict in Syria, the Iranians expanded their reach into Iraq, and Israel normalized its ties with several Gulf states.
The statements that came from President Biden and his team on the campaign trail certainly gave Middle East leaders a reason for concern. But over the past few days, these messages have changed. For example, the nominated secretary of defense, Gen. Lloyd Austin, praised the assassination of Qasem Soleimani. Similarly, the nominated secretary of state, Antony Blinken, blamed the Houthis for the situation in Yemen and assured Congress during his confirmation hearing that the new administration would consult Israel and the Gulf states on any future agreement with Iran.
All of these are positive developments indicating that the tides are turning even in the new White House. 
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.