Arabic media review

‘Israel will wage the next gulf war’

Assad’s latest TV appearance, threatening Jordan and the West, irks Arab commentators

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

Syrian President Bashar Assad in an image from video broadcast on Syrian state television Wednesday, April 17, 2013 (photo credit: AP)
Syrian President Bashar Assad in an image from video broadcast on Syrian state television Wednesday, April 17, 2013 (photo credit: AP)

A threat by Syrian President Bashar Assad directed at Jordan features high in Arabic news publications Thursday, alongside continuous coverage of the aftermath of the Boston attack and its ramifications for the Arab world.

“Assad warns: The blaze will reach Jordan, and the West will pay the price,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi. In an interview with Syria’s Ikhbariyah news channel, Assad says that the West will pay the price for its funding of “al-Qaeda” in Syria, noting that he has no choice but “victory” in the civil war raging in the country for two years, for defeat would mean “the end of Syria.”

Assad says it is unreasonable for Jordan to claim it cannot stop thousands of armed rebels from entering Syria through the common border, while apprehending an individual fighter who wishes to cross over and fight in Palestine.

In an op-ed titled “Assad threatens to detonate the region,” Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, mocks the carefully orchestrated interview with Assad, which aired on a Syrian government TV channel blocked by the Arab League for its connection to the regime.

“President Assad seemed worried in this interview, as opposed to previous interviews and speeches,” writes Atwan. “His larger fear is of al-Qaeda and the other jihadist organizations allied with it. He is worried about the influence of this presence on the future of the regime, and Syria in general. This explains his vehement attack against the two countries serving as conduits for these groups, Jordan and Turkey, and his warning to them that the blaze will not stop at Syria’s borders.”

Meanwhile, A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Tareq Homayed claims in an op-ed titled “Assad and the final days of the Saddam regime” that a Guardian interview with Assad’s deputy foreign minister, Faysal Miqdad, immediately reminded him of the Saddam Hussein’s twilight days as president of Iraq.

“While the Assad regime speaks of a [prisoner] pardon, which is certainly another of the regime’s games, Assad’s deputy foreign minister speaks of an international conspiracy involving Europe, the international community and Arab states, and with the participation of al-Qaeda and the Israeli Mossad,” writes Homayed.

“The clear truth before us… is that merely allowing the continuation of the Assad regime, which has in fact already collapsed, poses a real threat to the Syrian state as a whole, to its social fabric, and to the region. The best guarantee for maintaining the Syrian state… is to put the Assad regime out of its misery.”

‘Israel will wage the next gulf war!’

That is the title of an op-ed by A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Abdul Rahman Rashed, following statements by Israel’s Chief of Staff Benny Gantz asserting that Israel is capable of striking at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“Question: Should we be worried about an Iranian-Israeli conflict? Yes, because an attack on fortified nuclear installations may be answered by Iran firing at everything in front of it: American forces in the Gulf and certainly Gulf states. We, however, will only find out about the attack from the television,” Rashed writes.

“The Israelis will cause a longer war than the Israeli Defense Ministry plans for, and larger than the wars experienced in the region. This is of course one possibility. The other is that the Israeli attack will be dramatic, rendering Iran incapable of responding. In that case, they will settle for threats and warnings and their nuclear program will be history.

“Although the Israelis realize that their huge nuclear arsenal is capable of obliterating Iran in response to any Iranian nuclear attack, and would presumably deter a man like President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad or the supreme leader from thinking of attacking Israel, this form of mutual deterrence would work for countries led by rational leaders.

“But we certainly cannot predict Tehran’s behavior other than through its bad track record in funding terrorist acts and conflicts. Even presidential candidate [Esfandiar Rahim] Mashaei, preferred by the West and Gulf leaders over the other candidates, is an extremist believer in the return of the Mahdi, with the willingness for sacrifice which his return entails. Given this, how can one trust a nuclear Iran?” 

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