‘It seems like Barack Obama has no red lines’
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Arabic media review

‘It seems like Barack Obama has no red lines’

Arab columnist critiques the US for allowing the Russians into the region, as Hezbollah's leader appears as brazen as ever

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

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy (right), accompanies his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov after their meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on November 14, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy (right), accompanies his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov after their meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on November 14, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)

The strengthening of ties between Russia and Egypt and the self-confidence of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah lead the headlines of Arab media as this week comes to a close.

“Nasrallah: Hezbollah will remain in Syria to fight the Takfiris,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, referring to al-Qaeda affiliates fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad.

“Were it not for our intervention in Syria, the Assad regime would have fallen within two hours,” quotes Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya from Nasrallah’s speech Thursday, on the most widely read article on its website. “The Assad army operates under our command.” The channel calls Nasrallah’s brazen statements “unprecedented.”

Elias Kharfoush, writing for London-based daily Al-Hayat, claims that Nasrallah’s rare public appearance in Beirut’s southern suburb was intended to reassure his supporters that Hezbollah will prevail whether a political resolution is reached in Syria, or whether the civil war continues.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks to the crowd in a rare public appearance during Ashura, which marks the death of Shiite Islam's Imam Hussein, in the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday, November 14, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks to the crowd in a rare public appearance during Ashura, which marks the death of Shiite Islam’s Imam Hussein, in the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday, November 14, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Bilal Hussein)

“The public appearance is significant in itself,” writes Kharfoush in his op-ed. “It underscores a state of security and political self-confidence which the leader of Hezbollah has not known since the [Second Lebanon] War of July 2006. Since that war, he was always cautious to appear on screen before his public, excluding rare occasions.”

Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera covers Nasrallah’s statements from the point of view of his opponents in Lebanon’s March 14 coalition. “Hariri criticizes Nasrallah’s support for the Syrian regime,” reads the headline of its online article, featuring a photo of the young former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri on the backdrop of a portrait of his slain father, Rafik Hariri. “It is a shameful sign of our times that the memory of [the Shiite festival of] Ashura is turned into an occasion to stand by an oppressive regime against an oppressed people,” Hariri’s office said in a press statement.

Russia cuddles up to the Middle East

It feels like the Cold War all over again. A front-page article in Al-Hayat features a photo of the Russian and Egyptian foreign ministers meeting in Cairo this week, headlined “Egypt tightens its relations with Russia, but not at the expense of the United States.”

According to the article, the two ministers discussed Russia providing missiles and ships to Egypt, which stressed that the warming ties with Russia do not come at the expense of “other countries,” a reference to the US.

“Cairo and Moscow recreate the atmosphere of the sixties with 2+2 meetings,” reads the headline in Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, referring to the meeting of Russia’s foreign and defense ministers with their Egyptian counterparts. Russia has now inserted Egypt into the shortlist of five privileged countries with which it holds such tight meetings, including India, China, the US, Italy and France, reports the daily.

Egypt’s independent daily Al-Masry Al-youm reports in its top headline Friday that the arms deal with Russia is funded by Saudi Arabia. It quotes Egypt’s Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as saying that the deal “opens a new era of joint work.”

Meanwhile, A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Rajeh Al-Khouri fears that Russia’s influence will soon reach the Persian Gulf as well. “Obama lays out the red carpet for Putin in the Gulf,” reads the headline of his op-ed Friday. “No one in Washington is talking about red lines anymore, but Tehran continues to indicate the red. Following the meetings with the P5+1, [Iranian President] Hassan Rouhani said that Iran will not bow its head before any threat or sanctions, and that it clings to its right to nuclear energy, saying that ‘enrichment is a red line.'”

“It seems like Barack Obama has no red lines, but rather a red carpet, which he is laying on Putin’s path into the region,” concludes Al-Khouri.  

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