February 11, 2009 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 478

Concerned About Pakistan's Future, Saudi Press Rallies

February 11, 2009 | By Y. Yehoshua*
Saudi Arabia, Pakistan | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 478


Despite the seriousness of the recent Mumbai attacks, they triggered mild and cautious reactions in the Arab press, and were not condemned as harshly as other terrorist attacks throughout the world had been. This discrepancy was acknowledged by the Arab columnists themselves.[1]

It seems that the Arab world fears an escalation in India-Pakistan relations, in light of India's claims that Pakistani elements were involved in the attacks. This fear is manifested in the Saudi press, which has unanimously rallied to clear Pakistan of any responsibility, aiming to prevent conflict between the two countries. All editorials in the Saudi dailies Al-Hayat, Al-Jazirah, Al-Madina, Al-Riyadh, and Al-Watan were devoted to this message. One article in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm even raised the possibility that the attacks had been carried out by Western, rather than Pakistani, elements – a message that was especially prevalent in the Syrian and Iranian press.[2]

The Saudi press expressed serious concern about the possibility of war breaking out between India and Pakistan – both nuclear powers – and about its possible ramifications, e.g. the persecution of Muslims in India and the collapse of the Pakistani political regime and economy. Accordingly, they called on the international community to defuse the tension between India and Pakistan, in the hope that the current situation may present an opportunity for cooperation – rather than confrontation – between these two rival states.

Following are excerpts from the articles in the Saudi press:

Al-Hayat Editor: Pakistan Must Be Saved from Collapse

In an article titled "Saving Pakistan," editor of the London daily Al-Hayat Ghassan Charbel wrote: "…What links the New York and Mumbai attacks is the perpetrators' interest in triggering an open war among religions and civilizations… The Mumbai attacks cannot be separated from the confrontation between the U.S. and terrorism in Afghanistan. Evidently, a decisive end to the war there – if that were possible – depends on the situation in Pakistan... Al-Qaeda would be thrilled to wake up one day to an India-Pakistan war that inflames the Pakistani street and sends it into the hands of those who share Al-Qaeda's beliefs.

"A more terrifying scenario is if Pakistan is pressured by economic and security crises that shrink the central government's control and allow vast provinces to fall under the control of militias and armed chaos. It is the Somali scenario in a nuclear country.

"The world cannot afford the Somalization of Pakistan. This would be far more serious than the September 11 attacks, and the sin committed by the George Bush administration in Iraq. The Somalization of Pakistan will open the gates of Hell in Asia, awakening the fears of giants there. China too will be concerned with any major bloody conflict between India and Pakistan or within their borders.

"It is no exaggeration to say that the world now seriously finds itself facing an urgent mission to save Pakistan, sparing it a war with India as well as massive economic and security failure. Pakistan's failure exceeds the world's capacity for tolerance. If it happens, it will dwarf both Somalia's failure and the threat imposed by its pirates. Saving Pakistan is a mission that President Barak Obama cannot delay."[3]

Al-Madina: The International Community Must Strive to Prevent a War Between Two Nuclear Powers

An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Madina titled "The Gun is Trained On the Wrong Enemy" stated: "It could be that the Mumbai attacks and the [resulting] threats constitute a real opportunity for reevaluating the relations between the two countries, as well as a shift towards their cooperation on the war on terror…

"Terrorism also threatens Pakistan's very existence, and directly or indirectly harms its sovereignty over its territory, every time that the U.S. attacks what Washington claims is a 'terrorist' target within Pakistan. [In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks], India is furious, while Pakistan, already in an extremely complex economic predicament, definitely needs no more crises to add to its existing ones. Considering the prevailing tensions and exasperation, conditions are right for 'uncalculated adventures' and mistakes, whose consequences will be difficult to remedy. The international community must help the two neighbors [India and Pakistan], lest a war break out between these two newly established nuclear powers – because in this event, the cycle of violence will be impossible to stop."[4]

Al-Watan: Condoleezza Rice Is Escalating the Tension Instead of Defusing It

According to an editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Watan, Condoleezza Rice's statements regarding the need for Pakistan's cooperation in the investigation of the attacks are exacerbating tension between the two countries: "Anyone who has heard or read the statements by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a press conference she gave in her private helicopter before flying to London would imagine that Pakistan was involved in the [Mumbai] attacks and that it is refusing to cooperate with the Indian government in anything concerning the tracking and investigation of those responsible for them. The truth is that the Pakistani government hastened to condemn the events in India and from the outset expressed willingness to cooperate with its neighbor…

"Rice does not speak for herself only; her statements reflect the position of the current U.S. administration. She knows that announcements of this kind do not [help to improve] the situation, which has reached the point of a crisis between India and Pakistan… She also knows that even if [the terrorists] did indeed come from Pakistan, this does not in any way incriminate the Pakistani government, since [this government] has for a long time now been waging war on these same terrorists. And if she knows all this, why did she consciously add oil to the fire instead of using the facts to defuse the tension?…"[5]

Saudi Columnist: "A Misguided War on Terror Gives Rise to [Even] More Terrorism"

Saudi columnist for the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Hussein Shubakshi wrote: "…India used to be a symbol of the modern economy and, to use the term coined by U.S. journalist Thomas Friedman, a seat of the 'flat world.' …[However, now,] it seems, India must reap both the sweet and the bitter fruits of [this flattening], including terrorism, which has spread its networks all over the world – like Starbucks or McDonald's. A misguided war on terror gives rise to [even] more terrorism. The world must unite in solidarity, bypassing foolish administrations and avoiding evil intentions."[6]

Al-Jazirah: "[Even] If the Terrorists Did Indeed Come From Pakistan, This Does Not Yet Mean That the Pakistani Government Was Involved"

An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah titled "A War Is Imminent" stated: "The terrorist attacks in Mumbai were extremely serious – in terms of their 'quality,' in hitting a number of targets [simultaneously], and in the [large] number of victims [they claimed]. But worst of all, they gave rise to serious political and military tension between India and Pakistan, which may lead to a war. Such a war would be a war between two nuclear powers whose security has been fundamentally undermined by the U.S. warfare in Afghanistan…

"It cannot be overemphasized how crucial it is to dissociate political issues from security issues. Refusing to wait for the results of the investigation [of the Mumbai attacks] and attempting to anticipate them may impact the investigation process itself and lead to wrong accusations. [Even] if the terrorists did indeed come from Pakistan, this does not yet mean that the Pakistani government was involved [in the attacks] – for otherwise every international terrorist attack… would have brought about interminable wars between [different] countries. This would have undoubtedly gladdened terrorists, since their goal is to cause destruction on the largest possible scale."[7]

Al-Hayat: India May Exploit the Mumbai Attacks for Political Purposes

In an article titled "Beware of India's 9/11," Al-Hayat columnist Daoud Al-Shirian wrote: "…The Western media is determined to slap the label of terrorism on the Muslims, even though this matter has not yet been investigated and there is no evidence [to that effect]. It seems that [in India,] the Mumbai attacks will increase fervor for what is commonly called the war on terror. The problems related to the situation of Muslims in India, the ramifications of the Kashmir problem and its impact on India-Pakistan relations, a [constant] search for a pretext to complete the program of chasing down the Islamists in Pakistan – all this will set a political stage favorable for exploiting the Mumbai attacks for political purposes and for announcing 'India's 9/11.'

"India's 9/11 will bring back the atmosphere of the U.S. 9/11. The Indian brother may have already given the Americans a mandate to launch wars in the Indian subcontinent, whose management will be India's responsibility, since it is possessed by the same 'vengeance obsession' that struck the Americans [in 2001]. These wars and attacks will cause the Muslims in India to experience the same guilt feelings as the Muslim Arabs have been laboring under for the past seven years. Any talk of the liberation of Kashmir will be labeled terrorism and extremism, just like any mention of the Palestinian liberation. Moreover, the world's preoccupation with India's 9/11 will cause it to forget the situation in Iraq, just as Iraq eclipsed the situation in Palestine…"[8]

Saudi Columnist: Western Elements May Be Involved in the Attacks

Saudi columnist Hafiz Al-Rahman Al-A'zami wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm: "The U.S., Western, and Jewish intelligence apparatuses cannot possibly be free of all responsibility for [the attacks], considering the Americans' eagerness to escalate India-Pakistan relations in a way that would promote the interest of Bush and his administration to maintain anarchy in the region. Nor is Obama much different from [Bush] in this respect. It is not enough to announce that a rabbi and several Jews have been taken hostage and then released in order to convince [India's] security services that the Israeli Mossad or other Western intelligence apparatuses are not responsible for [the attacks]!

"It is America, Israel, and their allies who have most profited from these incidents. They are in a position to exploit them by expanding the international anti-Pakistan front under the guise of the war on terror, as they have done with the U.S [9/11] attacks. To some, such a possibility may seem illusory. However, it may prove very real, especially if we take into account the repeated statements by White House spokesmen to the effect that Pakistan is the center of terrorist activity and the source of the gravest threat to U.S. interests, [since] any attack against the U.S. will [necessarily] come from the Pakistani territory."[9]

* Y. Yehoshua is Director of Research at MEMRI


[1] Statements critical of the Arab press for refraining to harshly condemn the Mumbai attacks were made by 'Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id in an article published December 3, 2008 in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and by Khaled Al-Jenfawi in an article published December 2, 2008, in the Kuwaiti daily Arab Times.

[2] For articles in the Syrian press discussing the possibility of Israel and U.S. involvement in the Mumbai attacks, see the front page of Teshreen of December 2, 2008; the article by Ahmad Hammada in Al-Thawra of December 1, 2008; and the article by Hassan Hassan in Al-Thawra of November 11, 2008. In addition, the Iranian daily Kayhan of December 1, 2008 raised the possibility that the governments of India, the U.K., the U.S., and Israel were behind the attacks, and claimed that neither the Pakistani government nor Al-Qaeda had been involved in them.

[3] Al-Hayat (London), December 1, 2008. The article appeared in English.

[4] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), December 2, 2008.

[5] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), December 2, 2008.

[6] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 29, 2008.

[7] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), December 2, 2008.

[8] Al-Hayat (London), December 1, 2008.

[9] Al-Yawm ( Saudi Arabia), December 3, 2008.

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