November 25, 2013
Special Dispatch No. 5536

Reactions In The Arab Press To The Geneva Deal: Some Call It An Historic Agreement Leading To Greater Security And Stability – While Others Claim It’s A Bad Agreement Leading To Regional Arms Race

`Following the November 24, 2013 signing of the Joint Plan of Action in Geneva between Iran and the 5+1 group, most Arab countries – including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE – officially welcomed the deal, each for its own reasons, and expressed hope that it would be a step towards a permanent arrangement that would preserve security and stability in the region.

In the Arab press, there were mixed reactions to the deal, with some supporting it and calling it "historic" and others expressing reservations and even calling it "a bad agreement."

The Syria government press and the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is known for its support for Hizbullah and the resistance axis, called the deal a "victory" for Iran, which, they said, had finally managed to "subdue the West" and has now become a nuclear state. Al-Akhbar even claimed that the Iran-Syria-Russia-Hizbullah axis is stronger as a result of the deal.

The Saudi press expressed reservations regarding the deal along with fears that it would start a regional arms race or strengthen Iran's position in the region at the expense of its neighbors.

Other Arab papers claimed that the deal proves that the world recognizes the strong and withdraws in the face of steadfast positions like those of Iran. Some even predict the advent of an American-Iranian alliance at the expense of Arab countries, which appear weak and unable to formulate a joint strategy.

At the same time, some articles called for going even farther and for working for nuclear disarmament across the Middle East by dismantling and destroying Israel's nuclear arsenal.

This report reviews reactions to the Geneva deal in the Arab press.

Saudi 'Al-Watan': The Countries Of The region Have Many Problems With Iran Besides The Nuclear Issue

An editorial in the government Saudi daily Al-Watan stated: "...The way in which U.S. President Barack Obama described the agreement yesterday – a path toward a world that is more secure – is only a partial description, since the purpose of the agreement is to neutralize a nuclear Iran. As for the military imperialist Iran, which sends its tentacles into other regional countries, or [at least] tries to do so by all means necessary – [this Iran] has yet to be neutralized or to receive stern messages from the international community to cease doing so. This means that the problem with Iran, provided that it commits to the agreement [signed with the 5+1 group], was solved vis-à-vis the international community at the [current] stage, but not vis-à-vis the countries of the region...

"The problem faced by countries that neighbor [Iran] is not just the nuclear issue, but a variety of issues of which Iran and the 5+1 group are aware. These issues neither begin nor end with [Iran's] support for factions that spark riots in other countries, [or with] its sending its forces to kill the Syrian people to defend Bashar Al-Assad's regime. Is Iran willing to solve all these issues in a way that would satisfy the countries of the region and their peoples? Herein lays the problem. As for the solution, it is in Iran's hands, if it decides to change for the better and distance itself from dubious ambitions."[1]

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Iran the big winner (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, November 25, 2013)

Saudi 'Al-Sharq': We Fear That Iran Has Been Given Excessive Freedom Of Action In The Region In Exchange For Nuclear Concessions

The Saudi daily Al-Sharq's editorial expressed fear that in return for the nuclear deal, Iran received concessions from the 5+1 group on solving the Syrian problem and authorization to operate more freely in the region while interfering in other countries' affairs: "The Middle East treats the agreement cautiously due to the fear that Iran made concessions in the nuclear dossier in return for more freedom of action in the region or privileges in the Syrian conflict... The U.S. administration sacrificed the decision to punish Assad for using chemical weapons in the Al-Ghouta region of Damascus [in August 2013] in order to improve its relations with Russia... This raises fears that this scenario may repeat itself here, and that what remains of the Syrian problem will be sacrificed [to the cause of] signing an agreement with Iran that would end decades of tension between Washington and Tehran. If this happens, it will be a declaration by world powers that the authority of the international community has ended and that its role has been relinquished. No one wants the Geneva agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue to give Iran concessions that will allow it to continue interfering in the affairs of regional countries.[2]

Former Al-Sharq Al-Awsat  Editor Tariq Alhomayed: A Regional Arms Race Is Now Wide Open

Tariq Alhomayed, former editor of the London-based Saudi Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote: "...It is clear that there are two major winners [in the agreement] – Iran and Obama. Regarding Iran, it is no secret that President Rohani is wrestling with a debilitated domestic economy and needs [time] to recuperate, at any price. This agreement provides him with an important opportunity to recover. As for President Obama, the agreement allows him to avoid conflict with Iran and hand the crisis down to the president who succeeds him...

"We are faced with a bad agreement that more closely resembles a discussion of bad debts than a diplomatic agreement to defuse a crisis. It portends not only destruction and war, but also the advent of a wide-open nuclear arms race in the region. If Iran claimed that its nuclear program was for civilian purposes, what will now prevent other countries from attaining a similar program, that at any moment can turn into a full-fledged [military] nuclear program, as occurred in India and Pakistan?"[3]

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The U.S. and Iran sign the precarious "nuclear agreement" (Al-Ittihad, UAE, November 25, 2013)

Egyptian 'Al-Ahram': A Historic Agreement That Will Strengthen Regional Stability And Security

In an editorial, the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram called the deal an historic one that will increase the stability and security of the region: "The Western powers and Iran have reached a settlement regarding the [Iranian] nuclear program that could remove one of the main sources of tension and threat in the region. This agreement can be described as historic... Although the agreement is an interim one, it can be characterized as a first practical step that reassures the international community regarding Iran's nuclear activity and ensures that [this activity] will be for peaceful [purposes] only. In addition, the agreement may enable Iran and the powers to turn over a new leaf [in their relations]...

"Though several countries and forces in the region, chiefly Saudi Arabia and Israel, oppose the agreement for various reasons, its expected contribution to strengthening the stability and security of the region must not be underestimated. Israel has attempted for years to recruit international forces to attack Iran's nuclear [facilities], in order to serve its own interests, and this agreement will largely remove [the threat] of such a confrontation, for which Israel strives... [However,] since some Gulf countries still eye the agreement with suspicion and concern and believe its implications are unclear, there is no choice but to take additional steps that could assuage the fears of the region... and use [the agreement] that has been reached as a basis for a solution acceptable to all sides."[4]  

'Al-Quds Al-'Arabi': The Agreement Paves The Way For A U.S.-Iran Alliance At The Expense Of The Arab Region

The London-based daily Al-Quds Al-'Arabi, which was recently purchased by Qatar, stated in its editorial: "Thirty-four years after the outbreak of Iran's [Islamic] Revolution and its dangerous effects on the Arab and Islamic world, and after a protracted conflict with the West that has not yet ended, it appears that Iran is about to normalize its relations with the West and replace the violent revolutionary stance that typified its relations with it [the West] with gradual normalization leading to a comprehensive and permanent solution based on the agreement, and to international legitimacy [for Iran] and a distribution of the influence on the region...

"The agreement paves the way for a comprehensive regional settlement, [and] we believe the major Arab states will have little influence in [setting] its guidelines... Some believe that the agreement effectively paves the way to a U.S.-Iran alliance with Russian backing at the expense of the Arab region, [as previously happened] in Iraq, for example, and that Syria and Lebanon are expected to be its victims. [This alliance] will make use of Iran's proxies in the region, such as the Shi'ite factions in Iraq and Hizbullah in Lebanon, in order to eliminate the organizations that are close to Al-Qaeda, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and [Jabhat] Al-Nusra, now that  they have appeased Israel by eliminating Syria's chemical weapons program.

"As long as the Arab states are incapable of planning and agreeing upon a regional and international strategy, this scenario will remain realistic and possible... The Arabs who were not invited to this joyous wedding will be content to emerge [from it] unscathed."[5]

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The U.S. and Iran sign the deal on the Arab back (Al-Ghad, Jordan, November 25, 2013)

Syrian 'Al-Thawra': Iran Has Been Recognized As A Nuclear Power

An article in the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra published statements from across the world welcoming the deal, under the headline "The Agreement between the 5+1 and Tehran Recognizes Iran's Right to Enrich Uranium... Iran Has Been Recognized Globally as a Nuclear Power and the World Welcomes This..."[6]

Syrian 'Teshreen': A Victory For Iran, Which Claimed Its Nuclear Right By Force And Pushed The West Into A Corner

The Syrian government daily Teshreen called the deal "a victory for the diplomacy of Tehran, which claimed its right to enrichment by force." An article reviewing the responses to the deal stated: "[Despite] intensive international pressure, Iran managed, through a difficult marathon of negotiations over the nuclear dossier, to reliably establish its right to develop nuclear energy for civilian purposes, and managed to force official recognition of this right. During the last three rounds [of negotiations], Iran cornered the West, and with its steady positions and principles regarding cooperating with the international community, it managed to produce an agreement that lays the foundation for additional wise steps leading to a permanent arrangement and that has put the entire region in the history books..."[7]

The Lebanese 'Al-Akhbar': "The West Has Capitulated – Iran Is Nuclear"; The Russia-Iran-Syria-Hizbullah Axis Has Grown Stronger

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hizbullah, published a number of articles on the implications of the agreement for Iran and the region. An article titled "The West Has Capitulated – Iran Is Nuclear" stated:  "Iran is celebrating its victory. Following intense efforts, it has finally managed to attain the world's recognition of its right to nuclear [capabilities], despite the West's efforts to deny it [this right]."[8]

Sami Kleib, a columnist for the daily, agreed that Iran's greatest achievement is "the world's direct or indirect recognition of Iran's right to enrich [uranium]," but also pointed to another Iranian achievement: "Iran has considerable military might and [engages in] extensive diplomatic activity, but it began to feel a real need for monetary sources. Things reached the point where [officials] with crucial [roles] in the strategic struggle were not paid their salaries. A fresh flow of funds into [the Iranian] banks is a very significant [achievement for this country...

Kleib stressed that the achievement is not only Iran's but is also an achievement of the resistance axis as a whole and of Russia. He wrote: "The signing of the agreement between Iran and the West has opened the door to every possibility in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and even Afghanistan, but what is certain is that the Russia-Iran-Syria-Hizbullah axis is [now] in a better situation, perhaps a much better one."[9]   

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Obama welcomes the Iranian nuclear peace dove while Israel undermines his efforts (Al-Watan, Qatar, November 25, 2013)

The Omani 'Al-Watan': The Agreement Proves That The West Recognizes Only The Strong And Capitulates When Faced With Determination

The Omani daily Al-Watan's editorial (Oman participated in the mediation between the U.S. and Iran) stated: "The agreement, in form and content, gave the Iranian diplomacy a medal for its steadfastness and its insistence on its principles, for its refusal to make concessions on matters pertinent to [Iran's] national security, sovereignty and economic interests, and for preserving the Iranians' [sources of] livelihood.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran's success in extracting recognition of its right to possess nuclear technology and use it for nuclear purposes proves that the West recognizes only the strong and withdraws only in the face of determination and insistence on principles. Under the agreement, Iran will suspend its nuclear program for six months and will not add new centrifuges or advance the construction of the heavy water plant in Arak. That is, the scope of the Iranian nuclear project, which is under the full supervision of the IAEA, will remain unchanged for the next six months, in return for an easing of the sanctions. According to the former president of the Iranian chamber of commerce, Ali Naghi Khamoushi, the U.S. unfroze $8 billion in Iran assets yesterday. In addition, the agreement permits Iran to export limited amounts of oil and petrochemical [products], to trade in gold and [other] precious metals, and to import auto parts; in other words, it reopens the door to cooperation and mutuality in economic [relations] between Iran and the world, and shatters the isolation that [Iran's] rivals tried to impose upon it..."[10] 

Qatari 'Al-Raya' And UAE 'Al-Khaleej':  Similar Action Should Now Be Taken Against Israel

The UAE daily Al-Khaleej stated in an editorial: "The agreement between the powers and Iran on the nuclear issue poses a major challenge for these countries [i.e., the powers]. They claim that they labored to assure themselves and the world that Iran would not develop military nuclear capabilities by imposing restrictions on its nuclear program and supervision over its development.

"[U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry emphasized that this agreement also guarantees Israel's security. It appears that Israel's security is what concerns the American administration. However, what about the Arabs' security and the security of countries that oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestine? How can the Arab states be calm when there is an entity near them that is clearly endowed with immense nuclear military capabilities?

 "The issue of Israel's nuclear capabilities has been discussed at the United Nations for decades. The international organization specializing in the nuclear issue [the IAEA] – like the U.N. itself – cannot do anything on its own regarding this issue. This is because the Western countries, and the U.S. in particular, oppose all the reasonable attempts to handle this issue.

"The Arabs have already made major efforts to realize two important [goals]. The first is purging the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, [an idea] that the Zionist entity has stubbornly opposed with backing from the U.S. and Western countries... The second issue is getting Israel to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, [another notion] that the Zionist entity opposes with Western support. In the agreement with Iran, the West had no excuses. Therefore, security [matters] must be uniform with regard to all countries, and preventing the proliferation of nuclear [weapons] must apply to all parties..."[11]

The editorial of the Qatari daily Al-Raya stated similarly: "The international community, which managed to achieve this agreement after many years of difficult negotiations and a policy of economic sanctions on Iran that damaged its economy, should join efforts and turn the Middle East into a region free of nuclear weapons. This [should be accomplished] by forcing Israel to submit its nuclear weapons to international inspections in preparation for its dismantling and destruction. [This] would realize the goal that regional countries and the international community aspire to, which is turning the Middle East into a region free of these destructive weapons..."[12]

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The U.S. waters the nuclear cactus (Al-Bayan, UAE, November 25, 2013)

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), November 25, 2013.

[2] Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), November 25, 2013.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 25, 2013.

[4] Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 25, 2013.

[5] Al-Quds Al-'Arabi (London), November 25, 2013.

[6] Al-Thawra (Syria), November 25, 2013.

[7] Teshreen (Syria), November 25, 2013.

[8] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 25, 2013.

[9] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 25, 2013.

[10] Al-Watan (Oman), November 25, 2013.

[11] Al-Khaleej (UAE), November 25, 2013.

[12] Al-Raya (Qatar), November 25, 2013.


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