Arabic media review

An ‘Iranian Spring,’ perhaps?

Also, a Syrian ‘wanted’ list is exposed by Al-Jazeera and an Arab editor bemoans Morsi-bashing by Israel and the West

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

A Free Syrian Army fighter displays damaged ordnance in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 (photo credit: Andoni Lubaki/AP)
A Free Syrian Army fighter displays damaged ordnance in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 (photo credit: Andoni Lubaki/AP)

Carnage in the Syrian city of Aleppo and projected unrest in Iran’s periphery lead the news in Arab media Wednesday.

The London-based daily Al-Hayat reports the death of at least 200 civilians across Syria, including 80 in the engineering building of Aleppo University. According to the paper, there are contradictory versions as to who is responsible for the explosion.

The governor of Aleppo has called it “a terrorist attack,” placing the blame on the anti-Assad opposition, while opposition activists in Aleppo claimed that aerial bombardment by regime aircraft caused the havoc.

The Qatar-based outlet Al-Jazeera dedicates a TV report to the death toll across Syria, displaying footage of young girls, covered in white dust, coughing and crying. The now-daily images of rows of body bags accompany the widespread destruction around the Aleppo University.

In a separate article, Al-Jazeera reports that it has obtained a list of nearly 100,000 names of Syrian activists wanted by the government. The list includes numerous names of young teenagers, as well as a few 100-year-olds (the station wonders whether they are still alive).

One child born in 1999 is described in the list as an “armed and dangerous terrorist.”

In an op-ed in Al-Hayat titled “If only Syria were Mali,” Randa Taqi A-Din describes the quick intervention of the French government in the Mali crisis in a bid to safeguard its interests in the West African country.

“It is disappointing that this war in Africa pushes away any chance of another military intervention, to rid the Syrian people of its regime. The Security Council is deadlocked on the issue and the American administration will not move. Those involved in the Syrian issue report that Iran is a greater obstacle to Assad’s departure than Russia is. Military intervention is implausible in Syria even if the situation in that country threatens the Middle East region and the world,” writes Taqi A-Din.

Following sanctions, Iran may face turmoil

An unusual statement by the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s college in Iran, Colonel Nasser Shaabani, saying his organization expects unrest across Iran following crippling Western sanctions, leads the front-page of Saudi-owned newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

Shaabani told the Iranian newspaper Qanun that “standard of living issues and the poor situation of the working class could light the fuse of unrest, but we have the experience necessary to deal with this.”

Meanwhile, Al-Hayat reports that the Arab minority in Iran is beginning to rise up against the central government. Citizens of the Ahvaz region of southwestern Iran, an Arab minority within the country, tell the daily of “Persian occupation of their region” which has included “eight decades of oppression.” According to local activists, the Iranian regime has changed the original Arab names in the region to “blur the Arab identity of the occupied land.”

Nasser Jabr, spokesman for “the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz,” tells Al-Hayat that his movement turned to the Arab League for assistance during the tenure of secretary general Amr Moussa in 2001, only to be told “let’s end the Palestinian issue first and then open the Ahvaz file.”

Jabr said his movement intends to turn to the Arab League once again.

‘Zionist campaign against President Morsi’

The lead editorial in the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi on Wednesday accuses “the Israel lobby” of waging a “McCarthyist” campaign against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi following televised statements he made in 2010 about the Jews.

“What Dr. Morsi said was undoubtedly shocking to Jews and Zionists. The descriptions he used are unacceptable in the West and in Israel, even if he made them before coming to power… the White House’s condemnation of them is to be expected.

“We do not debate the White House’s right to issue such a condemnation. What we take issue with is its failure to address Jewish and Israeli statements that are harsher and more racist against Arabs; statements made by religious figures, highly regarded by their followers.”     

The editor then proceeds to cite comments by Israel’s Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in which he called Arabs “insects.”

“Israel and its allies in the West use the accusation of anti-Semitism against any person who criticizes Israel, its racism, and its war crimes against the Palestinians,” the editorial asserts.

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