Arabic media review

Tunisia summit starts clock ticking on Syria

Iraq erupts in new spell of violence and Lebanese army chief warns of looming confrontation with Israel

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

Al-Hayat front page displays Homs burning (photo credit: Al-Hayat)
Al-Hayat front page displays Homs burning (photo credit: Al-Hayat)

A conference held in Tunisia on Friday by “the friends of Syria” to halt Assad’s violent crackdown will place pressure on the regime, all major Arab news outlets report Friday. But rather than relieve the violence, the Tunisia conference seems to be causing Bashar Assad to panic.

“In a race against time ahead of the “friends of Syria conference” … the Assad regime continued to violently bomb several Syrian cities,” writes A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned daily based in London, in an article titled “Assad tanks race the Tunisia conference.”

The article features two photos grabbed from video images: one of a fire in the city of Aleppo and the other of a demonstration in Homs.

The daily’s editor, Tareq Humeid, editorializes about the telephone conversation that took place Wednesday between Saudi King Abdullah and Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.

He claims the telephone conversation was not only unusual, it was historic. “It created a clear line between those who wish to defend the killer of Syrians and those who wish to defend the Syrians themselves,” writes Humeid.

Liberal daily Al-Hayat, also based in London, reports that a draft decision was already prepared, giving Assad 72 hours to stop the fire and allow humanitarian aid to enter Homs. Otherwise, harsher sanctions will be placed on Syria. Al-Hayat gives much attention to American statements, especially those of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The photo accompanying the article features a fire rising from a bombarded house in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs.

Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera focuses its coverage on demonstrations taking place in Syria, reporting that a large demonstration will take place in Homs today, following Friday prayers. The channel reports that more than 100 people were killed across Syria on Thursday.

Iraq experiences new violent spell

A new wave of violence in Iraq is making headlines in the Arab press. 22 attacks across the country Thursday have killed at least 60 people and wounded hundreds.

Hard line daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, printed in London, quotes Iraqi parliament speaker Osama Njeifi as saying the attacks were aimed at preventing Iraq from hosting the Arab League summit at the end of March. The daily reports that the Iraqiya political bloc led by Iyad Allawi, called for the resignation of Nuri Al-Maliki’s government over what it termed the government’s inability to provide security.

Al-Hayat reports that despite the deadly attacks, the parliament continued its session to approve the government budget.

Egyptian presidential candidate attacked

Egytpian presidential candidate Abd Al-Munim Abu-Fattouh was attacked by unknown assailants Thursday night, on his way back from a political rally, Arab media report.

Abu-Fattouh suffered a brain concussion after his attackers hit him and his driver with the butts of their rifles after blocking his car on the highway.

Abu-Fattouh, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is running for president as an independent candidate.

The car was stolen by the assailants, raising suspicion that the attack was not politically motivated but criminal.

Al-Jazeera notes, however, that Muhammad Baltagi, a Muslim Brotherhood member of parliament, was also recently attacked, “indicating a dangerous escalation in violence levels only days before candidacy opens for the Egyptian presidential elections.”

Saudi daily: Iran will not let Syria fall

A-Sharq Al-Awsat quotes a statement by Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, whereby Assad’s regime “shall not fall.”

“With the help of the Arabs, the United States has targeted the most sensitive point in the axis of resistance, but they forgot that Iran, Hizbullah and Iraq will defend Syria with resolve,” the daily quotes Velayati in Iran’s Fars News Agency.

Meanwhile, Al-Hayat quotes Iranian Defence Minister General Ahmad Vahidi as saying that Iran is not preparing for war, but will defend its interests if attacked. Iran has just begun its political campaign for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Lebanese Army Chief: Prepare to confront Israel

Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that Lebanese Army chief Jean Qahwaji instructed his army generals to be on high alert for a military confrontation with Israel in southern Lebanon.

In a statement issued by the Lebanese Army, Qahwaji stressed “the need to remain in top alert for confronting the historic enemy of our nation, the Israeli enemy, which continues to violate Lebanese sovereignty and has not given up its expansionist intentions in our waters and land for one single day.”

Qahwaji also noted the wider developments in the Middle East in what seems to be a standard military debriefing.

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