The defection of Syrian prime minister Riyad Hijab on Monday leads the news in most Arab language dailies Tuesday. There now seems to be a rare media consensus that the Assad regime is teetering.
“The defection of the prime minister shakes Damascus and the government considers it ‘singular’,” reads the headline of the London-based daily Al-Hayat, referring to the defection as “the hardest blow to the regime” since the explosion in the National Security building in July which killed a number of Syrian officials.
Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, with a simple headline reading “Assad’s prime minister defects,” says that the Syrian regime has received a “double blow” — first with the defection of Hijab and second when a group of diplomats announced the creation of a new body called “Syrian diplomats for a civil, democratic state.”
In a separate article, the daily reports that three of the 48 Iranians abducted by opposition forces near Damascus on Saturday were killed in a bomb explosion. Their captors are reportedly threatening to kill the remaining Iranians if the government bombardment does not cease. Meanwhile, Iran denied the Syrian opposition’s claim that the men are members of the Revolutionary Guard.
‘What will Iran’s situation be like without its terrorist enclave in the region, namely the Assad regime?’ asks Homayed
London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi claims in its top headline that Hijab had already smuggled his family out of Syria a month ago, proving that his defection was premeditated. It quotes the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) as saying that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya are arming the opposition.
In an op-ed titled “strong blows to the Assad regime,” editor-in-chief Abd Al-Bari Atwan writes that Assad will “not sleep calmly” during the next few nights. Atwan claims that Hijab was chosen as prime minister by Assad himself, not his security agencies, and therefore his defection is both a political and security setback for the regime, which tried to display a more moderate facade since Hijab’s appointment in May.
Meanwhile, A-Sharq Al-Awsat editor-in-chief Tareq Homayed advises his readers to start thinking not only about “Syria on the day after Assad” but also about Iran on the day after Assad.
“What will Iran’s situation be like without its terrorist enclave in the region, namely the Assad regime?” asks Homayed. “How will [Iran] break the siege being placed today on Hassan Nasrallah, whose weapons may turn to scrap metal in Beirut’s southern suburb following Assad’s downfall?”
Rafah attack – Israel or Hamas?
The terrorist attack near Rafah which cost the lives of 16 Egyptian soldiers continues to occupy the Arab media Tuesday.
Mazloum adds that the Jihadist agenda is to portray the security situation between Israel and Egypt as shaky, noting that these groups are ‘funded externally and by Hamas’
Al-Hayat notes that the attack has again placed the issue of security in Sinai and the presence of Jihadists in the region at the forefront, and also tests the relations between the new Egyptian government and Hamas. The daily reports that mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip towards the Kerem Shalom border crossing during the attack.
Meanwhile, A-Sharq Al-Awsat highlights the three-day mourning period announced in Egypt for the victims, reporting that Egyptian security forces have begun destroying smuggling tunnels from the Gaza Strip on the Egyptian side of the border.
An Egyptian security expert, Maj. Gen. Gamal Mazloum, tells that daily that some of the extremist Jihadist cells who carried out the attack are based in Sinai while others are based in the Gaza Strip.
Mazloum adds that the Jihadist agenda is to portray the security situation between Israel and Egypt as shaky, noting that these groups are “funded externally and by Hamas.”
‘Israel’s security forces always attempt to create a split between Egyptians and Palestinians, pitting Egyptians against the Palestinian resistance’
Meanwhile, the opposite theory — whereby Israel was somehow involved in the attack — a theory propagated Monday by President Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, gains traction in Arab media as well.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi dubs the attack an “unprecedented blow to Egypt’s national security” and says that the attack is a setback for President Morsi in his struggle with the military. While “official Egypt” blames elements in the Gaza Strip for the attack and vows revenge, the Muslim Brotherhood accuses the Israeli Mossad for involvement in the attack.
The daily’s editorial Monday claims that credence should be given to the Brotherhood’s claim of Israeli involvement due to the timing of the attack, and the benefit Israel stands to reap from it.
“Israel’s security forces always attempt to create a split between Egyptians and Palestinians, pitting Egyptians against the Palestinian resistance. This will intensify the siege placed on the Gaza Strip and serve the Israeli strategy,” writes Atwan.