Al-Ahram Weekly Online   8 - 14 March 2012
Issue No. 1088
Press review
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

'Syria is ours, Yemen is yours'

Gamal Nkrumah sees what the West intends to take from the Arab Spring

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Sea, the Arab world is waiting for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to make up his mind. Al-Thawra, the mouthpiece of the ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party of Syria, the onus was on the victory in the presidential poll of Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin.

"American strategists thought that they had thrashed the Soviet Empire in a devastating and final blow. They also imagined that they had dealt a fatal strike to the Russian Federation, the solid core of the former Soviet Union. They felt secure that the American era had emerged and that the United States had emerged as the world's sole superpower. They considered it a matter of discretion that all nations ought to acknowledge the factâê¦ That was not to be," Syrian political analyst Khalaf Muftah writing in Al-Thawra observed. "We are anticipating a strong, powerful and politically effective Russia in the international arena. Putin's victory at the polls fills millions around the world with hope."

Ali Kassem, also in Al-Thawra, concurred. "Our expectations of Russia are boundless and immeasurable," Kassem commended the Russian presidential poll. "Russia under the capable leadership of Putin, proves that we don't live anymore in a world with one domineering superpower. We are especially grateful that a resurgent Russia, under the wise leadership of Putin will be especially effective in restraining American hegemony in particular in the hot spots around the world. The hegemony of Western powers over world affairs is coming to an abrupt halt. Russia under the leadership of Putin will remedy the wrongs of the past," Kassem concluded on an upbeat note.

There was not surprisingly muted treatment of the Syrian uprising in the Syrian press with the official Tishreen pointing an accusing finger at Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey for funding, aiding and abetting what it termed "armed extremists, hooligans and religious zealots".

Tishreen editorials were especially critical of the Gulf Arab countries for fomenting "religious and sectarian strife" and in particular in the flash-point central Syrian cities of Homs and Hama.

As far as the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat is concerned, so much time has been spent diddling around. A front-page headline of the paper quoted Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal as warning that "Al-Assad had become a burden on his people". The paper also revealed that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had communicated by telephone with Al-Assad to stop the brutal clampdown on Syrian opposition forces. "If you don't have a proper plan for reform then you better step down," Asharq Al-Awsat was quoting King Abdullah as counseling the Syrian president.

In a provocative op-ed entitled 'The Islamic revival, the brotherhood and the Arab spring' commentator Hamad Al-Majed called the Islamic revival, or sahwa, "a cocktail of diverse forces of old and new reformist groups," Al-Majed lamented. "The real danger in the hegemony of the sahwa ideology over the various Islamist ideological orientations is that it is actually a kind of sabotage and resistance to the wave of religiosity that has dominated the Arab and Islamic worlds in recent decades," he added. "And which has become a focus of anti-Westernisation and a rejection of Western values and philosophical thinking."

The London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat was equally explicit in its condemnation of the Syrian Baathist regime. "The attacks on Homs and its surrounding countryside continues unabatedâê¦ the inhabitants are fleeing by foot to Lebanon," the paper reported. However, the banner was reserved for the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Yemen.

"Tens of dead and injured military men and Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups seize tanks and rocket launchers," the paper's headline noted on Monday. Al-Hayat highlighted the outbreak of violence in Yemen's Hadramout province that is by far the largest region in the country covering around 38 per cent of Yemen's total land mass. The paper reported that Al-Qaeda and Ansar Al-Sharia, the Defenders of Al-Sharia, a militant Islamist group, had confiscated large quantities of arms and ammunition from Yemeni armed forces.

Editor-in-Chief of Al-Hayat Ghassan Charbel harking back to the Syrian crisis noted in his column that Lebanon's Hizbullah is in a "sea change". Charbel pointed out that Hizbullah has chosen to side with Syrian President Al-Assad against his opposition forces. "The question now uppermost in the minds of the Lebanese people is whether or not there is a political future for Hizbullah in Lebanon if and when the Al-Assad regime is ousted. The burning question now puzzling the Lebanese is whether the close personal and ideological friendship that binds Hizbullah with the Baath regime of Al-Assad has pitted Hizbullah against the forces of the Arab spring," Charbel muses.

Tuesday's edition of Al-Hayat reverted back to Syria. "A Saudi-Qatari summit assesses carefully the regional situation. The two countries have emerged as the engines behind the Arab spring. Petrodollars are the key to preventing Arab spring paralysis."

How sound are the arguments of Saudi-Qataris? The two states must ensure that the Arab spring is affordable. But in making such calculations, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two Sunni Muslim powers and financiers in the region, must also beware of false precision. On one point everybody agrees: democracy and political reform is prerequisite.

'The regional calculations of the Syrian revolution', Palestinian pundit Maged Kayali writes in Al-Hayat. "Israel remains the country most impacted by the repercussions of the Arab spring. Israel is facing a new regional situation it is not used to. For the first time since the establishment of the state of Israel it is confronted with Arab societies that are determined to secure their national interests and determine their priorities, especially since the Arab regimes that have been traditionally subservient of the West have now ascertained their position in the regional arena, a stance that does not necessarily serve Israel's interests."

Kayali continues his tirade against Israel, one in which he is sure many Arab spring activists support him unequivocally. "Israel is a country of contradictions. It cannot continue to be a democratic state and a Jewish one at the same time. In determining its future it must identify its identity."

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