Commentators accuse Iraqi PM of dictatorship
Arabic media review

Commentators accuse Iraqi PM of dictatorship

UN appeals for international peacekeeping forces for Syria, daily reports

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A family crosses a street piled with rubbish in Aleppo, Syria, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Andony Lubaki)
A family crosses a street piled with rubbish in Aleppo, Syria, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Andony Lubaki)

Syria, Iraq and Egypt all top Arab news on Sunday, with new reports of a possible breakthrough in international efforts to put an end to violence in Syria.

“Discussions on sending peacekeeping forces to Syria,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, which reports, quoting unnamed sources in London, that the office of the UN secretary general has discussed with a number of member countries the sending of international forces to Syria . Theses countries, the sources reported, inquired whether the forces would be sent as part of a “larger deal” or only in order to halt the violence in the country.

Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports an exchange of letters between the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia through their foreign ministers surrounding developments in Syria and Iraq.

In a press conference held following the foreign minister meeting, Egyptian minister Mohammed Kamel Amr described the situation in Syria as “catastrophic” and said that Syrians demanded a peaceful regime change.

Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad is expected to deliver a televised speech on Sunday afternoon, the first since the outbreak of clashes between government and opposition forces at the outskirts of Damascus.

The channel also reports that Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Miqdad is expected to arrive in Tehran on Sunday to hold talks with Iranian officials on the situation in Syria. Miqdad recently met with officials in Russia.

Maliki bears the brunt of Iraqi crisis

As demonstrations continue in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is the main target of criticism.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that a Sunni cleric, Abdul Malik Saadi has united the protesters and is emerging as leader of the Iraqi opposition. According to the daily, Shiite hardliner cleric Muqtada Sadr sent a delegation to the predominantly Sunni Anbar province where Saadi lives in order to unite the opposition stance.

Al-Hayat columnist Abdullah Iskandar writes on Sunday that Maliki may be facing the toughest challenge since taking the premiership by overcoming his adversary Ayad Allawi, who actually received more votes than he did in the last presidential elections.

‘[Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] Maliki will leave, but only after destroying the country like Assad did’

“It is no secret that Maliki succeeded in wresting the position through American-Iranian agreement, each for their own reasons,” writes Iskandar in an op-ed titled “Saving Iraq from Maliki.” “The Iraqi prime minister leaned on that accord in order to establish an exclusive regime both on the personal and sectarian levels. This has given true meaning to the process launched following the collapse of the former regime.”

A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Abdul Rahman Rashed is no less harsh in his assessment of the Iraqi premier. In a Sunday op-ed titled “The difficult task: uprooting Maliki,” Rashed compares Maliki to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

“Maliki’s sole concern is remaining in power,” writes Rashed. “It will not be easy to uproot Maliki from his post, be it through constitutional means — through parliament — or through demonstrations and disobedience… Maliki will leave, but only after destroying the country like Assad did.”

Meanwhile, London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports the rare TV appearance of Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri, Saddam Hussein’s right-hand man and a top member of the US’s most-wanted list.

Douri appeared in a video clip broadcast on the Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya, accusing Maliki’s government of implementing “a Persian agenda” designed seven years ago to divide Iraq into statelets.

A cartoon published in Al-Hayat by the daily’s caricaturist Habib Haddad portrays Iraq being cut by a giant eagle with a pair of scissors for a head, presumably representing the United States.

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