Contradictory statements by the IDF’s top brass have left newscasters and pundits in the Arab press with more questions than answers.
In an article Saturday entitled “Israel’s Increasing Ambiguity on Iran,” Elaph, a leading Arabic online newspaper, cites IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz saying that economic sanctions have been effective against Iran, and further, that “I do not believe Iran will decide to develop nuclear weapons.”
Elaph juxtaposes his stance with Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s statement on Friday that sanctions had almost no chance of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The newspaper features a follow up article which includes the Iranian response to Barak and Gantz. Iranian Spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ramin Mehmanparsat said that sanctions had actually “strengthened” the Iranian economy by making it more “self sufficient.” He also said that the Iranian military was in a position of unprecedented strength, and the chance of an attack on Iran was “very small.”
An editorial in Al Arabiya entitled “War on Iran” also addresses the effects of economic sanctions. Saad bin Ajami compares Iran to North Korea and argues that, indeed, economic sanctions are working. The crippling effect on the North Korean economy and continuing food shortage have dissuaded Iran from pursuing a similar course. Ajami further argues that the irrational and often erratic behavior of North Korea’s leaders could not be expected from Iran.
Al Ahram also cites Barak’s comments in discussing the potential for a regional arms race between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey, should Iran acquire nuclear weapons. Headlined with a front page photo of Barak addressing a unit of IDF soldiers, the article does not mention Gantz’s statement, but highlights Barak’s view that Israel remains a regional power “from Tripoli to Tehran.”
Upcoming anniversary of bin Laden’s death
Ahead of the May 2 anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, numerous Arabic papers feature articles on his legacy and family. Both Al Quds and Elaph cite White House Press Secretary Jay Carney saying that much of the Al Qaeda “nucleus” had been destroyed. According to the report, the threat of further attacks still remains, and is intensified by the geographic depth of Al Qaeda and the enduring support for “global Jihad.”
A Sharq Al Awsat focuses on potential security risks in the United Sates ahead of the coming anniversary. The newspaper cites the Obama administration’s announcement that it was not aware of any credible threats, but still urged “caution” and prudence. A Sharq al Awsat also mentions Joe Biden’s comments this week at a speech at New York University. Taking jabs at likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the newspaper views the outright criticism of Romney’s foreign policy as marking the beginning of the presidential race.
Al Quds runs another article that discusses members of bin Laden’s family and their detainment in Pakistan for almost a year. Bin Laden’s three wives and two daughters are being deported to Saudi Arabia after serving out a sentence for illegal residency. Al Quds also notes that the legacy of the attack on bin Laden remains tainted, as requests to release footage and detailed information about the incursion into Pakistan had recently been denied by the court on the grounds of “legitimate security considerations.”
Salafists losing steam in Tahrir
Al Ahram reports that rallies in Egypt’s Tahrir Square for barred candidate Hazem Abu Ismail have lost steam and had a small turnout yesterday. The protest planned by supporters of Abu Ismail, and also endorsed by Ikhwan Online, the official news site of the Muslim Brotherhood, was largely overshadowed by protests elsewhere. Dar Al Hayat similarly emphasizes that the showing in Tahrir was noticeably smaller than the preceding weeks which included tens of thousands of supporters.
Al Masry al Youm described the Friday protest as being significantly more robust, highlighting the “thousands of supporters” who marched to the Ministry of Defense and who are staging an ongoing protest there. Leading with photos of the demonstration in front of cadres of military personnel, Al Masry Al Youm states that the Salafist movement denies organizing this protest and has call for sit-ins elsewhere.
Local Egyptian paper Youm7 also overshadows Friday’s protest with the ongoing demonstration at the Ministry of Defense, and describes the gathering as a more diverse group, with April 6 Movement followers and Ultras taking part as well.