Arabic media review

Syria turning into ‘one big ball of fire’

Resignation of opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib creates vacuum of instability; in Egypt, Brotherhood tries to shut down anti-Morsi media

Michael Bassin is a founding member of the Gulf-Israel Business Council, a co-founder at ScaleUpSales Ltd, and the author of "I Am Not a Spy: An American Jew Goes Deep In The Arab World & Israeli Army."

Syrian opposition coalition leader Mouaz al-Khatib speaks during a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry, February 28, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Riccardo De Luca)
Syrian opposition coalition leader Mouaz al-Khatib speaks during a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry, February 28, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Riccardo De Luca)

The Arab world’s approach to the Syrian civil war has been thrown into disarray on the eve of the Arab League summit in Doha in the wake of Syrian National Coalition President Mouaz al-Khatib’s decision to resign from his post, the Arab press reports.

“Hitto in Aleppo and ‘red lines’ behind Khatib’s resignation” leads the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The story alleges that Khatib always vowed to resign if certain ‘red lines’ were ever crossed that would limit his ability to display effective leadership.

“I had promised our people greatness, and I promised God I will resign if my red lines were reached,” Khatib wrote on his Facebook wall. “Everything that has happened to the Syrian people, the destruction of infrastructure, the arrest of tens of thousands of its sons, the displacement of hundreds of thousands, and other tragedies is not enough to get the international community to allow its people to defend ourselves.”

Those red lines reportedly included the harmful meddling by neighboring countries in the Syrian opposition’s affairs and the rise of forces within the Syrian opposition that entirely opposed any negotiations with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Khatib wants to leave the door open for some sort of reconciliation with forces within the Assad regime. Ghassan Hitto, the former Dallas resident and newly elected prime minister of the National Syrian Coalition, rejects such discussions of reconciliation.

Khatib’s move is a major embarrassment for the Syrian opposition, which has thus far failed to tip the balance against the Syrian Army and was supposed to accept the seat reserved for Syria at the Arab League summit to be held in Doha this week.

The Syrian opposition has issued statements categorically rejecting Khatib’s resignation and inviting him to return to his duties as president.

The London-based Al-Hayat explains that the Arab League has not yet come to a decision on whether or not to hand over the seat reserved for Syria to the opposition in light of the disorder.

According to an anonymous source within the Arab League, “the decision has been left for the emir of Qatar, in consultation with other Arab leaders… Algeria, Iraq, and Lebanon have chosen to distance themselves regarding any decision on the Syrian issue. The Syrian opposition’s participation has become majorly complicated due to the resignation of Maaz Khatib.”

In an interview with the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called the current situation in Syria “one big ball of fire” for everyone involved.

Zebari, who opposes granting the Syrian opposition Syria’s seat at the Arab League, says that handing over the seat to Bashar Assad’s opponents sets a dangerous precedent and is illegal. He notes that the Arab League represents governments, not Arab opposition groups.

Meanwhile, amid all the hubbub, the Dubai-based media channel Al-Arabiya reports on a firm public statement by Ghassan Hitto’s interim government that it will “respond to the Arab League’s call” and assume the seat reserved for Syria’s representative.

The statement added: “This decision represents an important asset for the Syrian revolution and a major step on the road to achieving its ultimate goals.”

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood besieges TV stations

Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have descended on the offices of television networks in Cairo which, they claim, are overly critical of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Al-Hayat has learned.

The article states — according to a story picked up by Reuters — that the protesters blocked the entrance to the Media Production City, where most of the major television stations are based, and prevented employees from entering or exiting the premises.

Last Friday, major clashes occurred between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian opposition, leaving over 200 people wounded. Some Brotherhood members called on its people, in Facebook messages, “to storm the Media Production City and smash equipment” of the channels that are in opposition to it.

Assem Abdel Majid, a member of the Shura Islamic group that supports the president, told the Doha-based media channel Al-Jazeera that “the demonstrators came to challenge the role of the dirty media in fueling strife in Egypt… though the National Salvation Front is the main offender.”

In response to the violence of this past week, President Morsi vowed “to take all necessary action against politicians involved in violence.”

Morsi did not specify which politicians he was referring to, though it is believed to be opposition leaders Mohammed ElBaradei of the Constitution Party and Hamdeen Sabahi, the head of Egyptian Popular Current. Both men are top leaders in the main opposition group to Muslim Brotherhood rule, the National Salvation Front.

The Cairo-based Al-Masry Al-Youm reports the National Salvation Front’s official statement in response to Morsi’s agitated public pronouncements and the Muslim Brotherhood protests.

“The real cause of the violence is the insistence of President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to monopolize power, control aspects of the state, and abandon the national partnership that was promised,” the statement began.

“The attacks perpetrated by elements in the Muslim Brotherhood… against peaceful demonstrators and journalists reflects a new black chapter in the record of violence of human rights violations by this radical religious group.”

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