Arabic media review

Syrian opposition forces come under new command

Assad is calling up the reserves and Yemen receives billions in foreign aid

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

A Free Syrian Army fighter in Aleppo, September 1 (photo credit: AP)
A Free Syrian Army fighter in Aleppo, September 1 (photo credit: AP)

Syria continues to feature high in Arab news Wednesday.

Syria has been recruiting an increasing number of reserve soldiers to quell the spreading protest movement across the country, London-based daily Al-Hayat reports. The number of deserters has also been on the rise over the past two months, the daily claims.

Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that the entire Syrian opposition is about to unite under the general command of a new body called “the National Army.” Major General Mohammed Hussein Haj Ali will be the commander of the National Army. The daily reports that 400 defecting Syrian officers have convened in Turkey for three days to discuss the unification of the Free Syrian Army.

‘The assassination is the most serious clash yet between Syrian rebels and “jihadist” elements’

The new body, reports the daily, was formed with  “French-Turkish” agreement and American backing.

Meanwhile, London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi leads its Syria coverage with a report that members of the Free Syrian Army have assassinated a jihadist commander in Syria, Abu-Muhammad A-Shami Al-Absi, head of the Shura Council of Islamic States.

“The assassination is the most serious clash yet between Syrian rebels and ‘jihadist’ elements pouring into the country since the start of the revolution from Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Europe,” writes the daily.

Elaph, a Saudi-owned news website, reports on the mounting sectarian tensions between Syrian refugees. Noting that there’s far from a clearcut struggle to topple Assad, the daily quotes children in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan interviewed by The New York Times who vow to kill Alawite children upon their return to Syria.

“Iran is transferring the Syrian war into Turkey,” claims Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya. Quoting German newspaper Die Welt, the channel claims that Iran, Syria, “and even Israel” are backing the Kurdish PKK in its attacks against military Turkish targets, in an attempt to “drag the Syrian war into Turkey.”

An anonymous Iranian Kurd tells Al-Arabiya that PKK has become “a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has become convinced that the end of the Assad regime is near, argues Tareq Homayed, editor-in-chief of A-Sharq Al-Awsat, in an analysis of the recent TV appearance of the Shiite Lebanese leader.

When asked what Iran would do if the West invaded Syria, Nasrallah said “he didn’t know,” notes Homayed. But when asked how Iran would respond to an Israeli attack against it, he quickly answered that Iran would retaliate in kind, and proceeded to threaten Israel himself.

Nasrallah, concludes Homayed, has become much more realistic on Syria, surpassing even Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in his pessimistic estimate.

Assad’s embarrassing emails

Al-Hayat interviews Abdullah Hajem A-Shimri, the hacker who penetrated Bashar Assad’s inbox, who tells the daily that he holds another 7,500 email correspondences which could be very embarrassing to the Syrian president.

Shimri says he has emails containing intelligence information, unstated positions of certain countries, secret meetings with Arab and international figures, and correspondence between Assad and his spies. Shimri does not say whether he will publish the emails in the near future, noting only that he will “document them for history.”

The Yemeni bailout

Yemen managed to raise pledges for $6.4 billion in foreign aid Tuesday during a meeting of donor states in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Arab media reports.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that Saudi Arabia has already transferred $1 billion to the Yemeni central bank and has committed to transferring $2.25 billion more.

The Yemeni planning minister, Mohammed Sa’adi, told A-Sharq Al-Awsat that the American aid to Yemen is not limited to military aid, noting that the US has invested $345 million in aid projects.


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