Voices from the Arab press: The alleged victory against the United States

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

BURNING AMERICAN and Israeli flags in protest of talks on disputed maritime borders with Israel, in Naqoura near the Lebanese-Israeli border, November 11. (photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
BURNING AMERICAN and Israeli flags in protest of talks on disputed maritime borders with Israel, in Naqoura near the Lebanese-Israeli border, November 11.
(photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
 THE ALLEGED VICTORY AGAINST THE UNITED STATES
Nida al-Watan, Lebanon, November 9
Lebanese-American relations have known many ups and downs. However, it seems to me that, recently, it has become trendy among people in Lebanon to deride America and speak about it with vitriol. Anti-Washington slogans have become commonplace in Lebanon, including the spread of baseless conspiracy theories about American policy in the region.
The reality, however, is that wishing America away won’t achieve anything for Lebanon. Cursing America and spreading lies about its motives won’t change the reality on the ground.
In American eyes, Lebanon is a failed state ravaged by corruption and chaos. What Washington cares about – and, ultimately, the reason for its intervention in Lebanon – is to ensure a baseline degree of stability in the country in order to protect America’s main ally in the region, Israel.
The United States wants to create stability by improving Lebanon’s economic and social conditions, developing productive economic sectors, fostering investment opportunities and creating new employment opportunities. Ironically, this is exactly what the average Lebanese citizen prays for. The United States wants to see a strong and centralized army in Lebanon that demonstrates that the state is in charge of its own sovereignty and that it can stand up to the dangers of terrorism. Based on this dynamic, the United States can actually be an asset to Lebanon, as its interests often converge with those of the Lebanese public.
The recent negotiation between Israel and Lebanon over the demarcation of the two countries’ maritime border is a recent example of how important the American role in the region can be.
Antagonizing the United States and ruling out its role in the region are not only nonsensical but also contradictory to Lebanon’s interests. We would be wise to think about our country’s relations with Washington more strategically and remember that in asymmetrical relations of this kind, it is always the superpower that has the final word. At the end of the day, the losses to Lebanon from a conflict with the US will far outweigh any of its potential benefits. – Bassam Abou Zeid
BIDEN, THE GULF AND IRAN
Asharq al-Awsat, London, November 10
Confronting Iran’s aggressive activities has marked the policy of Gulf states for nearly four decades, and it is still the main driver shaping their policies and alliances.
The preemptive step taken by the UAE and Bahrain to establish comprehensive relations with Israel paved the way for dealing with the coming changes, including the new US presidency. There are Gulf-Israeli overlapping issues. The common enemy of the Gulf and the Israelis today is the Tehran regime, which explicitly adopts a project that threatens the security and existence of all these countries.
Joe Biden’s administration will further limit Iran’s expansion by signaling to it that the US will stand by its allies in the region. Biden pointed out two mistakes made by former president Barack Obama’s team when he negotiated with Iran and signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The first is that Iran’s nuclear obligations in the agreement do not prevent it from building a ballistic system, which is a serious flaw. There are now only five years left in the period of time in which Iran is not allowed to enrich uranium. This is a short wait for a patient regime that is determined and insistent on possessing a nuclear weapon in the long run.
The second mistake is that the agreement neglected to put a brake on Iran’s regional threats using its conventional weapons, as well as its quest for change and control in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, the Gulf, Yemen and Afghanistan. I cannot imagine peace with Iran without modifying the agreement, and Biden reiterated this position time and again – directing his words toward the mullahs, who closely monitored his statements on the campaign trail.
Tehran has proven that it is never to be trusted, even by the American team that assumed its goodwill. A case in point was its humiliating arrest of US sailors during the end of the Obama era, even though Obama was the one president who gave Iran its greatest opportunity.
Two new realities created in the Trump era will continue during the Biden administration. This includes the close alliance between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Emirates and Bahrain, as well as the close security coordination with Israel in the face of Iran.
Qatar will try to dismantle the coalition, but it will not succeed. Iran and Turkey, despite their attempts to work together against this alliance, are facing difficulties due to conflicting expectations between the two countries, in addition to the dire economic situation each country is going through.
Therefore, I feel cautiously optimistic about Biden’s win, without underestimating the challenges that his administration will need to face in the near future. – Abdulrahman al-Rashed
THE LOST WORLD OF UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 11
There was a time in Riyadh when people weren’t glued to the screens of their phones and when the most popular sites in town were actually libraries.
I remember those days, when I was a young university student who visited our country’s glorious libraries to enrich my knowledge and travel, through books, to faraway lands. I specifically remember the library of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, which I used to frequent a lot. It has many unique books that weren’t available in other libraries. I remember spending hours in that building, reading heritage texts and Islamic writings. When I found a book that was of interest, I would photocopy select pages so I could continue to read it at home. To this very day, I still have a stack of snippets of books I photocopied more than 20 years ago.
Make no mistake: I wasn’t the only one who loved that library. Most students I knew enjoyed spending time in it, if not for the books then for the building’s beautiful architecture and the unique atmosphere inside it.
I remember the mosque next to the library, in which I often prayed, and sometimes worshipers would come into the library and look at books.
Another library I loved was the King Fahd National Library, where several notable authors, including Abdullah Abdul Mohsen, Muhammad al-Qasimi and Abd al-Karim al-Juhayman, used to work. I would often find them sitting in there, working on their manuscripts. It was there that some of the most important books on the social, cultural and political history of Saudi Arabia were written.
These libraries were places of research, discussion and learning. They provided us with a platform to engage with diverse ideas and expand our horizons. And they were a centerpiece of our educational experience. Before social media platforms corrupted our minds and confined us to our screens, there was a special and vigorous world of libraries that drew our attention. – Hasan al-Mustafa

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.