January 27, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3540

Three Perspectives on Recent Events in Arab World

January 27, 2011
Egypt, Iran, Jordan, North Africa, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia | Special Dispatch No. 3540

The media in different Arab countries have taken varying perspectives on the recent events in the Arab world, specifically the ousting of Tunisia's former leader Ben Ali, the violent demonstrations in other Arab countries, especially in Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, and the overthrow of the Al-Hariri government in Lebanon.

Saudi journalists have held Iran responsible for the events.

The Iranian press has concurred with this interpretation, presenting the developments as a victory of the resistance camp, led by Iran, over the West, led by the U.S., and predicting that other pro-Western Arab regimes will soon go the way of Tunisia's former regime.

The editor of the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, who over the years has opposed the West and expressed support for Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, said that the U.S. and Israel were the parties most deeply concerned by the events, for they were the ones bound to suffer the most from the collapse of the pro-Western Arab regimes.

The following are excerpts from articles expressing each of these three perspectives:

The Iranian Position

The Iranian daily Kayhan, which is close Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said that what is happening in the Middle East is both an armed battle and a "soft war" between the resistance, led by Iran, and the regime of arrogance, i.e. the West, led by the U.S, adding that the resistance front is winning in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Sudan, just as Iran had triumphed in the nuclear talks in Istanbul. The paper called for removing the defeated forces, who are allies of the West, from the region.[i]

The weekly Sobh-e Sadeq, which is close to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, said that the crisis in Lebanon has regional repercussions that are extremely damaging to the U.S. It added that the Saudi-Syrian initiative had failed because Saudi Arabia's moves, made on behalf of the U.S., were aimed solely at buying time until the release of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) indictment. According to Sobh-e Sadeq, Walid Jumblatt's joining the Syria-Hizbullah camp was a turning point that rendered Prime Minister Al-Hariri superfluous. The paper praised Hizbullah for its wise moves, pointing out that contrary to the dire predictions made by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S., as well as by certain circles and figures in Lebanon such as Samir Geagea, Hizbullah had not turned to violence but had maintained a patriotic stance on the political, media, and security levels. Sobh-e Sadeq assessed that following the Tunisia uprising, the pro-American Arab regimes are bound to collapse one by one, like dominos.[2]

The Saudi Position

The director-general of Al-Arabiya TV and the former editor of the Saudi London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, hinted that Iran instigated unrest in the countries that opposed it: "Some two years ago, Tehran shook with the [rage of] demonstrators who protested against the election fraud and vote stealing [in the June 2009 presidential elections] and presented Ahmadinejad's rule as illegitimate. Today the ground is shaking in Tunisia, Ramallah, Beirut, Egypt, and Jordan, while other countries are preparing for strife. From a political perspective, the map [of the Arab world] is divided in two, between the Iranian [camp] and the anti-Iranian [camp]. All the recent upheavals have taken place on the anti-Iranian part [of the map]. Tunisia's Ben Ali fell. The leader of Hizbullah overthrew Sa'd Al-Hariri's government. [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas's government was subjected to a brutal smear campaign, and Cairo's Liberation Square was flooded with 'Facebook and Twitter [demonstrators]'[3] with a list of demands, wanting to topple the Egyptian regime, along with its government and parliament. In Jordan, the government's decision to cancel the [planned] price increases did not stop the demonstrators, who presented a long list of demands, from basic livelihood to the severing of ties with the U.S..."[4]

Responding to the appointment of Najib Mikati, the candidate of the Lebanese opposition, to form the new Lebanese government, Saudi liberal columnist 'Abdallah bin Bjad Al-'Otaibi wrote that this was the doing of Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who served as Khamenei's official representative in Lebanon.[5] A similar position was expressed on January 27 by an analyst in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah.

The Position of Al-Quds Al-Arabi

The editor of the daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, known for his criticism of the moderate Arab regimes, stressed the that the political and economic demonstrations are taking place in countries with ties to the U.S., such as Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen, and assessed that Mubarak, like Tunisia's Ben Ali, would have to spend the rest of his days in exile. He assessed that these developments are profoundly worrying for Israel and America:

"There is no doubt that the two countries most deeply disturbed by the situation in the Middle East... are the U.S. and Israel. The fire of protest has begun to lick at the edges of the moderate Arab regimes, one after the other, in a way that threatens these dictatorships, known for aligning themselves with America's foreign policy...

"Three countries are facing profound change that could topple their regimes... namely Egypt, Yemen, and Lebanon. Each of these countries has its own unique importance, and each meets a strategic need of the U.S.: Egypt... provides security for Israel, leads the Arab plans for normalization [with Israel], and combats all forms of political and Islamic extremism that oppose its [regime]. Yemen is considered to be the cornerstone of America's war on Al-Qaeda and a buffer between [this organization] and the sources and deposits of oil. As for Lebanon, it is considered to be the spearhead of the resistance camp and of Iran's geopolitical and military aspirations. It should be noted that it is [precisely] in these pro-American [countries] that protesters are holding loud demonstrations, demanding to bring down their current regimes just as the Tunisians ousted their dictatorial regime...

"The U.S. will possibly accept its fate and decide to tolerate the changes brewing in the region, but Israel will find it difficult not to panic – because the state of stability, wellbeing, and arrogant [domination] that it has enjoyed for the past 30 years is now dependent upon [the actions of] the Egyptian protesters. It could be said that its fat years are over and its lean years are about to begin, for it is surrounded [by dangers]: a 'democratic' intifada armed with 40,000 missiles and with a martyrdom-seeking leadership [i.e., Hizbullah], a popular revolution with a 7,000-year history [i.e., the protesters in Egypt], a Palestinian Authority that has lost its authority, and a Jordanian government that is on the brink of collapse, if it hasn't collapsed yet...

"As a matter of fact, Mubarak has only one option: to quietly hand the [reins of government] to the army, just as Farouq, [the last king of Egypt], did... Saudi Arabia will never close its gates to him and will never surrender him to the next Egyptian government, for it does not abide by [international] law. Moreover, Mubarak does not have many years [to live], and I sincerely wish him a long life in whichever country he chooses as his place of exile... I recommend Saudi Arabia, because the weather there is better than in Britain, and because it can provide him with a summer house similar to his favorite summer house in Sharm Al-Sheikh..."[6]

[1] Kayhan (Iran), January 26, 2011.

[2] Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), January 24, 2011.

[3] This is a reference to the fact that the demonstrations were organized through Facebook and Twitter.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 27, 2011.

[5] Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 26, 2011.

[6] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 27, 2011.

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