Syria weeps as Muslim world celebrates
Arabic media review

Syria weeps as Muslim world celebrates

While Iran sits down for talks with the West in Geneva, Arabs remain skeptical of the Islamic Republic’s role in Syria

Iraqi Shiite women attend Eid al-Adha prayers in Baghdad last year (photo credit: AP/Hadi Mizban)
Iraqi Shiite women attend Eid al-Adha prayers in Baghdad last year (photo credit: AP/Hadi Mizban)

Arabic-language dailies on Wednesday feature the celebrations of the second day of Eid Al-Adha around the Arab world, the continued violence in Syria and an Iranian announcement concerning international inspection of its nuclear capacities.

The front pages of London-based daily Al-Hayat and Saudi-owned A-Sharq Al-Awsat featured a speech by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to his security forces. His deputy, giving the speech under the king’s name, specifically celebrated the security forces, promising them that “the nation and the people shall not forget your historical role” in fighting terror and terrorists.

While Al-Hayat’s front page features a pious-looking Muslim praying on this second day of the holy celebrations, A-Sharq Al-Awsat features crown prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, delivering the speech on the king’s behalf.

The website of Qatari-based news channel Al-Jazeera, as well as Al-Hayat, juxtapose the festive celebrations in Saudi Arabia with a much gloomier Eid in Syria, Al-Jazeera featuring a picture of a young child with the caption reading: “Shelling in Damascus and its countryside and a new council for the brigades in the south.” The Al-Jazeera report claims that in a Syrian army shelling on the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk a number of people were killed while praying at the Abu-Dhar Al-Ghafari mosque in the camp.

Al-Hayat’s front page reads: “Syria ‘celebrates’ during shelling and raids,” telling readers that “Syria did not witness a ceasefire yesterday, the first day of Eid Al-Adha … on the contrary, a clear escalation was registered.” According to the newspaper, the violence was instigated by government forces.

Saudi-based news channel Al-Arabiya, meanwhile, focuses on an interview by Bashar Assad’s wife, Asma Assad, to a Syrian news channel. The headline reads “Asma Assad appears on television: ‘I am here with my husband and children.'” The channel comments that Assad seemed “tired and stressed” when denying rumors of her flight from Syria. Featuring a video in which the president’s wife is planting olive trees with students from a Damascus high school, the article highlights the “swift” interview she gave and her frail appearance.

Iran discusses nuclear programs with the West

Many Arab dailies discuss the progress of Iranian-Western negotiations concerning Iran’s nuclear capacities on Wednesday. Al-Hayat reports that “the European Union sees negotiations with Iran as beneficial,” referring to the discussions between Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi and representatives of the P5+1 countries in Geneva.

Pan-Arab, London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi quotes a press conference given by Araqchi to Iranian journalists.

“Iran: In the future we will accept unannounced visits at our nuclear sites” reads the headline, with the article featuring a photo of Araqchi.

Looking at the issue from a different angle, Al-Hayat brings an exclusive interview with Saudi ambassador to the UN Abdullah Al-Maalmi saying that “Iran is not eligible for a role in peace-making and in the new Syria.” Al Maalmi criticizes Iran and calls on it to “cease supporting the armed groups [in Syria] which supportive it [Iran].” He also criticizes Iran’s interference with internal politics in Lebanon.

Saudi news channel Elaph features a long article concerning the Iranian negotiations with the P5+1, elaborating on the history of negotiations with Iran as well as a warning of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding a military strike on Iran. The article ends by saying: The threats: new sanctions will commence,” arguing that future American sanctions — scheduled for approval in the winter — might be the cause of progress in the negotiations.

In an Al-Jazeera op-ed titled “New considerations and old trajectories: The Middle East after the coup,” writer Wadheh Khanfar analyzes the different existing allegiances in the region which, he argues, have been completely transformed in the past few months.

“The region witnessed three big events recently: the military coup in Egypt that ousted Morsi’s government, the American-Russian deal to disarm Syria from its chemical weapons, and the telephone call between Obama and Rohani.”

Khanfar argues that the “moderate axis” of the region changed dramatically in the past three years, leaving only Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and the Emirates in the group following the 2011 revolution which toppled Mubarak and brought Morsi to power.

These “moderate” countries welcomed Morsi’s ouster in July and promised financial support to the new regime of Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi.

“From the other side, Qatar demanded Morsi’s release, while [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip] Erdogan firmly condemned the coup. Popular demonstrations erupted in Turkey supporting the Muslim Brothers.” The writer argues that Iran was not upset by Morsi’s ouster — considering his support for the Syrian revolution — but was worried that Egypt would join the “axis of moderation,” which opposes Iran.

The moderate axis, Khanfar argues, suffered an additional blow following the Russian-American deal. He concludes by saying that “hateful and conflicting axes will not create stability in the region, but only mutual efforts that will ensure the interests of all parties.”

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