In response to a week of sectarian violence in Iraq that has left over 170 people dead, the Iraqi government has ruled that Arabic satellite television channels are to blame, the Arabic media reports.
“Baghdad declares war on satellite channels under the pretext of ‘sectarian issues,’” reads the headline on the Saudi-owned A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The daily reveals that over 10 television channels have been banned indefinitely, including prominent pan-Arab networks such as the Doha-based Al-Jazeera and the Iraqi Al Sharqiya, for “inciting violence” among Iraq’s various religious denominations.
According to the London-based Al-Hayat, the director of the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission, Mujahid Abu Hail, stated that “these television channels have violated all standards of professional conduct as well as the rules of broadcasting and transmission. They are serving as instigators of violence and sectarianism.”
The Shiite-led Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has come under severe attack by Iraqi’s Sunni minority for what it claims is widespread government discrimination. In recent days, the Iraqi army has failed to subdue tribal uprisings in the western Anbar province, which culminated in an attack that left five Iraqi soldiers dead, as well as in the Kirkuk area in the north.
In preparation for a major military confrontation in Anbar province in the west, Iraq has closed its border with Jordan for a period of 48 hours to prevent rebels from fleeing, Al-Jazeera reports. The closure will include passenger and cargo traffic until Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, the government’s responses to its opposition are sparking heated feelings in the region.
The leading editorial in A-Sharq Al-Awsat, titled “A poor exercise of power,” criticizes the Iraqi government for its failure to foster a basis for coexistence among the country’s varied population.
“The new crisis in the old Iraq reveals that the political change the country has experienced since 2003 is meaningless,” the editorial states. “There is still major competition between the different sects. The sect that was once blessed with special privileges [Sunnis] is now marginalized. . . This government must learn that its right to govern is based solely on a broad national consensus. Otherwise, its credibility will be destroyed and it will fail to guarantee the security of its citizens.”
Iran or Syria first?
US President Barack Obama is facing building pressure to launch an invasion of Syria following reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad has begun using chemical weapons against his own people.
The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that US Senator John McCain is proposing the creation of an international military force to topple the Syrian regime once and for all and prevent chemical weapons from coming into the hands of Islamist militants.
How the US should proceed has got Abdel Bari Atwan, the outgoing editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, asking in an op-ed if America will choose to invade “Iran or Syria first.”
“All parties in Syria except for the leading jihadist organizations are under intense anxiety over the American declarations,” Atwan writes. “The jihadist groups seek the establishment of an Islamist state to be the nucleus of a new caliphate. This can only happen if the Assad regime falls. The Assad regime will only fall through direct outside intervention.”
Atwan goes on to remind readers that “Barack Obama has already made a commitment to hit back at Syria if chemical weapons are introduced. His ‘red lines’ have technically been broken and there is irrefutable evidence of this now.”
‘Obama is under intense pressure from the Israel lobby in Congress to go to war with Syria or Iran and he may end up going to war with both’
“Obama is under intense pressure from the Israel lobby in Congress to go to war with Syria or Iran and he may end up going to war with both. . . Israelis want a war with Iran for the sake of destroying Iranian nuclear facilities and to prevent the leakage of chemical weapons in Syria. . . Nonmilitary solutions are not proving effective with either country. But Obama knows that to go to war in Syria or Iran means to create another Iraq-like situation.”