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DAMAGE CREATED by debris is seen after ballistic missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi militia fell on a house in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in March 2018.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Voices From the Arab Press: IMAGINE A MISSILE ATTACK ON NEW YORK
By MEDIA LINE
04/04/2019
The Houthis have signed more than 70 agreements but refused to abide by a single one... all under the eyes of the international community and US Congress.
IMAGINE A MISSILE ATTACK ON NEW YORK
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, March 31

On May 19, 2017, a few hours before US President Donald Trump landed in Saudi Arabia, the Houthi rebels fired a Type 2 “Volcano” missile toward Riyadh. The Iranian newspaper Kayhan, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, celebrated the attack and announced that the next target would be Dubai [in the United Arab Emirates]. In just four years, the number of ballistic missiles fired by the Houthi rebels against Saudi Arabia reached more than 220. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia attacked thousands of Houthi installations in Yemen.

This continuous violation of Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty at the hands of a terror group finally pushed the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to express his irritation with Congress, which called to end the military cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia over alleged “violations of human rights” in Yemen. During a recent hearing in the House of Representatives, Pompeo unequivocally asserted that “The Kingdom has the right to defend itself and its people, just like the United States would if a missile were to target Denver or Los Angeles.”

Pompeo was right. The problem with some Western elites, especially those in Congress, is that they easily criticize this war because they are not actually experiencing the threat of these missiles. It is only after sustaining hundreds of missile attacks by terrorist militias that Riyadh decided to take military action in Yemen. If we imagine for a minute that one of these missiles hit an American city, these members of Congress would themselves demand action against the perpetrators of the attack, even at the cost of violating human rights. But of course, this only happens when the threat is posed against the United States, not a different nation.

Many people overlook the fact that when Operation Decisive Storm was launched by Saudi Arabia in Yemen four years ago, war was a necessity, not an option. The Houthi militias are continuously firing Iranian missiles at Saudi towns and cities. Can we imagine what the situation would be if the Houthis were able to unhinderedly import and store more weapons and missiles from Iran? How would the safety of hundreds of hundreds of international ships, carrying 30% of international trade through Bab al-Mandab, be ensured? Is it possible to imagine how the interests of the United States, not even those of Saudi Arabia or the Arab countries, would have been protected from Iranian aggression?

Is there even a question that without operation Decisive Storm, Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, would already control Yemen? Everybody knows the answer, but many are too scared to admit it out loud. Saudi Arabia does not seek war. It also supports the diplomatic resolution of regional conflict. To date, the Houthis have signed more than 70 agreements but refused to abide by a single one. All of this was done under the eyes of the international community and the US Congress. If American legislators are concerned about human rights violations, they should start by putting themselves in Saudi shoes and begin holding the Houthis accountable to their crimes. – Salman al-Dosari

WHO WILL REGULATE SOCIAL MEDIA?
Al-Arab, London, March 29

Immediately after any terror attack in the Western world, the old debate about the role of Internet companies and social media platforms in inciting violence resurfaces. In the wake of the tragic attack on the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, March 15 – which resulted in the death of 50 Muslim worshipers – this controversy again broke out when Australia officially called for tightening control on social media platforms during the recent G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said bluntly on his Twitter account: “G20 leaders must assure that there are consequences not only for the perpetrators of these heinous attacks, but also for those who spread messages of violence.”
Yet this begs a bigger question: Who is responsible for Facebook, YouTube and other platforms used by terrorists? Shortly after the Christchurch attack, which was aired by the perpetrator in real-time on Facebook, the New Zealand police and government sent urgent requests to Facebook to delete the content, but Facebook took hours to respond.

Have we now gotten to a point where these companies are simply unafraid to protect criminals while refusing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies? The leaders of Apple, Google, Twitter and Facebook claim that they are the embodiment of a modern, liberal ideal of free and unfiltered exchange of ideas, knowledge and information. But does this freedom of information imply the spread of a 17-minute-long video of a terrorist shooting innocent worshipers inside a mosque? These platforms claim that they interact and delete all offensive content, but this is not true. These companies do not care about cleaning up their content, especially content supporting and promoting terrorism and extremism. They must be held accountable for the content they help spread or be banned from operating in our countries. – Mashry al-Zayidi

IRAQ AND ITS ARAB ROLE IN THE HEART OF THE REGIONAL CONFLICT
Al-Mada, Iraq, March 30

On the eve of the 16th anniversary of the US invasion of Baghdad, Iraq has still not risen from the ashes and regained its role as a normative state in the Arab world. Furthermore, the Arab regional system, which was wounded at its core as a result of this invasion, could not restore its cohesion and overcome the political vacuum created by the war. The sequence of events since 2003 has shown that the downfall of Iraq continues to shake the Arab world.

Following the so-called defeat of Islamic State, Iraq finds itself fighting a new war being waged between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both of seek to expand their influence over Iraq. The Iraqi elites must transcend the deadly divisions and external loyalties and launch a national rescue campaign to save Iraq from a foreign takeover.

On May 10, 2003, then-president George W. Bush declared “victory” in Iraq, and the neo-conservatives envisioned the first decade of the 21st century as the birth of a “new democratic Middle East.” Today, 16 years later, Iraq remains at the center stage of regional politics. The American-Iranian tensions and strife in 2010, the US military withdrawal in 2011, the rise of ISIS and the recent actions enacted by President Donald Trump show that Iraq is where great powers settle their regional disputes.

President Hassan Rouhani’s latest visit to Baghdad highlighted Tehran’s preoccupation with Iraqi affairs and its hope of leveraging the popular Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to improve Iran’s status in the country.

Iran’s hope is to use Iraq as an economic outlet to ease the impact of US sanctions on Iran. In the mullah’s vision, Iraq is set to become Iran’s new regional hub, especially with its influence in Lebanon waning. Saudi Arabia and Egypt hope to counterpoise this influence by enhancing their security and economic cooperation with Baghdad. This exacerbation of conflicts does not contribute to the improvement of the situation of Iraqis. The revival of Iraq’s role in the Arab world will be linked to the establishment of a national Iraqi government that can bring all Iraqi sects and ethnic components under one umbrella. Until then, Baghdad will continue to succumb to external pressures exerted by foreign powers. – Khitar Abu Diab

The Media Line
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