Diplomatic efforts to stop the violence in Syria are still making headlines in the Arab media Thursday.
An interesting escalation in tension between Saudi Arabia and Russia surrounding their positions on Syria is reported in Al-Hayat, a fairly liberal London-based daily. The Saudi foreign ministry sent a harsh letter to its Russian counterpart accusing Russia of “giving the Syrian regime a license to continue its crimes against his unarmed people.”
The Saudis blame Russia for repeating Assad’s lies about the Syrian opposition being composed of terrorists and members of Al-Qaeda. On March 4 the Russian foreign ministry blamed Saudi Arabia for supporting “terror” in Syria.
A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned daily published in London, runs the same story, attaching a photo of Syrian female refugees making the victory sign after reaching safety in the Beqaa valley in Lebanon.
The headline of A-Sharq Al-Awsat, which has consistently been gung-ho about military intervention in Syria (reflecting the official position of Saudi Arabia), reads, “International emissary: Homs is destroyed and Washington does not rule out force.” Another news outlet favoring foreign intervention is Al-Jazeera, which represents the position of Qatar. According to the news channel, the Syrian regime has begun executing “entire families” in Homs. Syrian opposition forces, which constitute the primary source of information from within Syria, report that 80 civilians have been killed on Wednesday.
A-Sharq Al-Awsat editor Tariq Homayed addresses the fear of Syria’s minorities from the fall of Assad.
“The best way for these minorities to secure their position is to participate in drawing up the future of post-Assad Syria… these minorities must express their view now, in order to protect Syria as a whole, and guarantee their own future,” Homayed writes.
Hamas’s tenuous relations with Iran and Syria
A surprising statement by Hamas official Salah Bardawil is receiving high coverage in the Arab press Thursday. Bardawil announced on Wednesday that the Palestinian Islamic movement will not intervene in any war between Israel and Iran.
Palestine-focused daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi quotes another Hamas official, Ahmad Youssef, saying: “Iran doesn’t need Hamas to respond if it is attacked, because Iran has enormous military capabilities which can hurt Israel.”
On Hamas’s political trajectory, Youssef added that Hamas “is not part of a regional military or political axis. We work in Palestine.”
But the Al-Quds Al-Arabi editorial paints a grimmer picture of Hamas’s situation. In an article titled “Hamas and the gradual distancing from Iran following Syria,” the editor writes that Hamas has taken a strategic decision to turn its back on Syria and Iran and forge new alliances with other Arab countries. Khaled Mashal has left Damascus for Qatar, while his deputy, Moussa Abu-Marzouq, has settled in Cairo.
“It is certain that Bardawil and Youssif are not expressing their personal views but rather a new strategy for the movement,” the editor writes.
‘Israel always needs enemies’
Commenting on President Obama’s speech at the AIPAC conference, Al-Hayat columnist Hassan Haidar writes that the speeches have become a “boring play” in which Netanyahu voices frustration with America tying Israel’s hands and in return President Obama must promise further military and economic aid to Israel.
The editorial, titled “What scares Israel: Iran or peace?” claims that if a threatening Iran didn’t exist, Israel would have to invent it.
“Israel always needs enemies, because peace does not please it and contradicts the nature of its existence,” writes Haidar, adding that Israel continues to support the Assad regime in order to perpetuate its image as a country under constant threat.
‘Alphabet day’ vs. ‘Women’s day’ in Lebanon
Feminist activists in Lebanon are protesting a government decision to designate March 8 as national alphabet day instead of the national Women’s Day, which is also recognized internationally.
Lebanese daily A-Nahar reports that demonstrators in downtown Beirut carried signs reading “We will fight against the theft of our holidays” and “We demand the right of Lebanese women to transfer their nationality to their children,” which is one of the basic demands of Lebanese feminists.
Jordan to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian talks
Jordan has not given up hope on its efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Despite the miserable failure of the last round of talks hosted by the Hashemite Kingdom in January, foreign minister Nasser Judeh declared on Wednesday that “intensive meetings” would take place in the very near future.
Judeh met Palestinian President Mamoud Abbas in Amman Wednesday. King Abdullah often speaks of the urgent need to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.