All eyes on Bahrain
Arabic media review

All eyes on Bahrain

Iran's interest in the Shiite-majority Islands of Bahrain raise the specter of Persian domination of the Gulf in the minds of Arab columnists Friday

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

Illustrative: Riot police fire at anti-government protesters in Bahrain (photo credit: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Illustrative: Riot police fire at anti-government protesters in Bahrain (photo credit: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Iran looms large in Arab news outlets Friday both in its diplomatic relations with the Arab world and concerning its nuclear program.

“Iran: the unity project means the end of Bahrain,” reads the headline of Al-Jazeera‘s Arabic website, quoting Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman. The statement, viewed by the Arab world as a tacit threat of war, coincides with Iran summoning Bahrain’s charge d’affairs in Tehran to reprimand him for condemning Iran’s intervention, Al-Jazeera reports.

Arab-nationalist daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi leads its news with a report on the attendance of two Bahraini ambassadors at the opening of the European Jewish Parliament in Brussels Thursday.

“I feel like my place is here today with the Jewish parliament,” Bahrain’s Jewish ambassador to the United States Huda Nunu tells Israeli daily Israel Hayom, quoted in Al-Quds Al-Arabi. “This is a proper podium to raise the issue of Iranian aggression.”

Iranian columnist Amir Taheri writes in A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned daily published in London, that Iran is committing three policy mistakes: in Syria, Iraq and Bahrain.

In Syria, Iran hopes to salvage the Baath regime of Bashar Assad, its ally. In Iraq, claims Taheri, Iran wishes to establish a separate Shiite state in the south that will function within Iraq’s federal structure. The third Iranian program includes annexing Bahrain.

“In these three important cases, Iran’s interests as a nation state do not correspond with Iran as a vehicle for Khumeini-inspired ideology,” writes Taheri.

Zoheir Quseibati, a columnist for liberal daily Al-Hayat writes Friday that the blow to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the recent parliamentary elections have weakened his say in Iran’s international affairs.

“As soon as the option of Gulf unity arose … Iran moved to the second phase of its confrontation with the GCC countries, which Iran always addressed with the language of supremacy and guidance. Iran implemented regionally the same behavior in adopted in the Middle East, giving ‘good behavior reports’ to ‘patriots’ and dubbing traitors all those who don’t belong to them,” he writes.

The lead editorial in Al-Quds Al-Arabi attacks Bahrain for the attendance of its two ambassador in the Jewish Parliament conference in Brussels.

“We do not know if the Bahraini ambassador in Brussels and his colleague in Washington consulted their government before attending the conference and releasing these statements. Whether or not they consulted, what they did cannot serve the interest of Bahrain,” writes the editor.

“We try to understand the statements of Mrs. Nunu who participated in the conference in light of the fact that she is a Jewish Bahraini. But why did the Muslim ambassador Ahmad Muhammad Darsi participate, asking for Israeli assistance in confronting the Iranian menace?”

Syrian forces bombard Rastan

The Syrian government’s bombardment of the Syrian city of Rastan is widely reported in Arabic news Friday.

“Three bombs a minute on Rastan and students in Aleppo surprise the regime,” reports the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat in is headline. The article features an image taken from a YouTube video in which a Hezbollah fighter is seen in military garb alongside Syrian government forces in the Al-Qaboun region, validating opposition claims that the regime’s Lebanese ally is engaged in fighting.

The daily reports that hundreds of students in Aleppo protested against the government for hours, protected by UN monitors who prevented government forces and thugs from attacking them. The Syrian soldiers had surrounded the university campus in which the protest was taking place.

Meanwhile, Saudi-owned news website Elaph reports that hundreds of Swedish children demonstrated in solidarity with children in Syria, acting out their sudden death on the street.

France’s new Arab ministers

The nomination of three ministers of North African origin in the new cabinet of French president Francois Hollande is capturing the interest of Arab media Friday.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that many ministers in the new cabinet of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault are children of immigrants. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a 34-year-old Moroccan who immigrated to France at the age of four, will be the Minister of Women’s Affairs and the government spokeswoman.

The daily reports that Vallaud-Belkacem’s nomination constitutes “heavy responsibility in depicting a positive image for the French citizens of foreign extraction, and will expose her to heavy criticism and attacks by elements of the extreme right.”

Two other ministers of North African extraction are Algerian-born Junior Minister for Veterans Kader Arif and Yamina Benguigi, Junior Minister for Francophony and French Living Abroad.

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