Arabic media review

Assad and Morsi feel the heat

Western powers prepare to impose no-fly zone over Syria and orchestrate a military coup, a Saudi news website reports

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

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, is greeted by Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani at Wajbah Palace in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, June 23, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, is greeted by Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani at Wajbah Palace in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, June 23, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

A meeting on the future of Syria held in the Qatari capital Doha leads the headlines of Arab newspapers on Sunday, with reports on a decision to arm the opposition, thereby changing the balance of power on the ground in favor of the rebel forces fighting Bashar Assad.

According to London-based daily Al-Hayat, the 11 foreign ministers who took part in the meeting agreed that reinforcing the balance of power between Assad and his opponents will pave the way for a political outcome to be discussed at the Geneva 2 conference on Syria.

Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat quotes Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani as saying that arming the Syrian opposition is the only way to end the conflict in Syria.

“Moral support alone will not suffice,” he said.

The daily features a photo of US Secretary of State John Kerry chatting with Qatar’s crown prince Tamim bin Hamad on the sidelines of the conference.

Saudi news site Elaph, which recently reported that the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria is imminent, repeats that report on Sunday. According to the site, a number of secret decisions were taken by the participating countries, including a no-fly zone over Syria, the establishment of a buffer zone in the country’s south, and an attempt to orchestrate a military coup against Assad.

Saudi columnist Abdullah Al-Oteibi comments on the American and Western change of heart towards intervention in Syria.

“The debate in the corridors of the American administration has moved from arming [the opposition] to establishing no-fly zones and even to bombing the airports used by the Assad regime and hitting his air defense systems,” writes Oteibi in A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

“The change of Western policy towards the situation inside Syria and the limitless support by moderate Arab countries … should prompt the Syrian opposition to unite its ranks and stand together in living up to the historic responsibility placed upon its shoulders.”

Egyptian opposition calls on Morsi to quit  

Much coverage is given to calls by Egypt’s opposition on President Mohammed Morsi to resign, ahead of a mass rallies scheduled for June 30.

“Morsi takes refuge with his supporters and the opposition calls for him to leave,” reads the headline of Al-Hayat, featuring an image of opposition leaders Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabahi standing side by side. The article leads with Morsi’s rejection of the opposition demand, stating that “no group can impose its direction or opinion, whichever it is.”

A-Sharq Al-Awsat, for its part, leads with the opposition voice, focusing on ElBaradei’s call for Morsi’s resignation on his first anniversary as president, calling also for national reconciliation.

According to Egyptian independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, the organizers of the June 30 protests plan to begin their activities on Sunday, June 23, with a human chain along Shobra street where protesters will carry signs reading “the Brotherhood is a failure.” They will also hand out leaflets calling for a general strike in 16 metro stations across Cairo.

In an op-ed in Al-Hayat, columnist Abdullah Iskandar writes that the Muslim Brotherhood has been ruling with a mix of opportunism and incompetence.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has displayed mismanagement in issues both domestic and foreign. In many cases, its treatment surpasses a mere ‘Islamization’ of the Egyptian administration. This in itself is dangerous and worthy of condemnation, indicating an internal dictatorial path. It displays political opportunism at the expense of Egypt’s national interests or destructive improvisation and ignorance of Egypt’s role and its historic vision in the worst case,” writes Iskandar.

As the new governor of Luxor, Morsi appointed Adel Al-Khayat, a member of the Gamaa Islamiyah which perpetrated a terrorist attack against tourists in Luxor in 1997.

Did Morsi do this just to appease Gamaa Islamiyah’s political party “Building and Development?” he could have done that with less damage to Egypt, Iskandar replies.

“Appointing a governor is a prerogative of the president. But when this right stoops to such a level, it requires clarification … in any case, this decision was an example of political opportunism, if not improvisation and ignorance.”

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