For the first time in weeks, Syria is not alone in capturing the headlines in all the Arab newspapers on Monday. The AIPAC conference in Washington, DC, a sharp escalation of violence in Yemen and the continued Syrian crackdown on the city of Homs all compete for the attention of the Arab reader.
Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Aswat, however, is leading with Syria. According to the daily, clashes between the army and the opposition have moved from Homs to the city of Idlib and surroundings of Damascus. Residents of Baba Amr in Homs are fleeing to the nearby neighborhood of Jobar under heavy government bombardment. A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports, based on opposition sources, that the army is preventing the Red Cross from entering Baba Amr with humanitarian aid. Opposition sources also tell the daily that 44 soldiers who attempted to defect from the Syrian army were executed on Friday in a military airbase near Idlib and their bodies thrown into a lake.
The article features a photo of Syrian protesters in Idlib carrying a banner thanking Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar for their calls for international intervention in Syria.
In a separate article, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports, quoting Turkish sources, that Israeli-made drones were detected by Turkish radar systems flying over Syria with the intent of “spying on the activists and striking them.” According to the anonymous Turkish sources, this event indicates one of three possibilities: either Israel is collaborating fully with the Syrian regime, or there is “semi-collaboration,” or the drones were sold to the Syrian regime by Russia and is operating them using Russian experts.
The Saudi-owned news site Elaph writes that the Syrian army is implementing a “scorched earth policy” in Homs. According to the site, Syrian opposition forces are unable to confront the Syrian army and have begun fleeing to neighboring countries. Bashar Assad, claims Elaph, is still far from succumbing to international pressure.
Abd Al-Bari Atwan, editor of the hard-line London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, lashes out at Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, for offering humanitarian aid to Syrian citizens.
“This is not only an extreme insult, but also the height of insolence,” writes Atwan in an editorial Monday.
“The Syrian people, regardless of sect and denomination, cannot even think of accepting any aid from Israel, the country that attacked it in June 1967 and continues to occupy its land and the Arab land of Palestine. It perpetuates all forms of terror against more than four million Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Obama at AIPAC
US President Barack Obama’s speech at the AIPAC conference in Washington, DC, is making headlines in the Arab media Monday.
Liberal daily Al-Hayat, published in London, ties Obama’s speech on Iran to the preliminary results of the Iranian parliamentary elections. According to the daily, Obama will not hesitate to use force in order to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Al-Hayat then switches its focus to the results of the Iranian elections, noting that supporters of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei achieved a “sweeping victory” over supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya leads with Obama’s sadness at speaking about a military solution to the Iranian issue. The channel dedicates an entire article to Ahmadinejad’s sister, who lost to her hardline opponent by nearly 1,000 votes. Quoting the hardline website Mashreq News, Al-Hayat says that Ahmadinejad’s sister’s failure marks the beginning of the end of “Nejadism” is Iran. According to an Iranian analyst quoted by the daily, Ahmedinejad’s role in Iranian politics is gradually coming to an end.”
“Why are the Iranian elections considered a satirical play?” asks Iranian commentator Ardashir Amir Arjomand in an opinion piece in A-Sharq Al-Awsat Monday. Only twice did recent Iranian elections reflect the will of the Iranian people. First in 1997, when liberal-minded Mohammad Khatami was elected, and then again in 2009 when reformist Mir Hossein Moussavi managed to boldly compete in a rigged election.
A-Sharq Al-Awsat quotes Obama’s promise to the pro-Israel AIPAC conference that “Israel’s security is sacred,” adding that Iran is isolated and threatened by the Arab Spring.
Abbas not worried about Palestinians in Syria
In an interview with the Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterates his promise not to run in the upcoming presidential elections in the Palestinian authority. Asked whether he was worried about the plight of Palestinians residing in Syria, Abbas says he is not.
“Palestinians in Syria are committed to quiet… Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon consider themselves guests in Lebanon, even though 60 or 70 years have passed… they want to return to their country. There is not one Palestinian who will tell you he wants so settle here [in Lebanon or Syria] for good. They consider themselves guests.”