Turkey roils following twin bombings
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Arabic media review

Turkey roils following twin bombings

Last minute Iranian presidential candidates make headlines

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

The site of one of several explosions that killed at least 50 people and injured dozens near Turkey's border with Syria, Saturday, May 11, 2013. Protesters on Wednesday accused the Turkish government of putting the country at risk by openly supporting Syria's armed insurgency.  (photo credit: AP/IHA)
The site of one of several explosions that killed at least 50 people and injured dozens near Turkey's border with Syria, Saturday, May 11, 2013. Protesters on Wednesday accused the Turkish government of putting the country at risk by openly supporting Syria's armed insurgency. (photo credit: AP/IHA)

A series of terrorist attacks in the Turkish city of Reihanli near the Syrian border lead the news in Arabic dailies Sunday, with most fingers pointing at the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad.

“The ‘powder keg’ explodes on the Syrian-Turkish border,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, which reports that tensions between Syrian refugees and local residents was already high when the explosions occurred on Saturday.

“Dozens of fatalities in Turkish twin explosions, and Syria is ‘the natural suspect’,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

“Turkey experienced its ‘worse nightmare’ yesterday as two large explosions rocked a border town, killing more than 40 people and wounding 100, including 29 in critical condition,” reads the article, quoting Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc claiming that “the Syrian government is a natural suspect in these explosions.”

Irshad Hurmuzlu, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tells A-Sharq Al-Awsat that one of the drivers of the booby-trapped cars, a Syrian citizen, was likely a suicide attacker, but would not explicitly blame the Assad regime before investigations were complete.

“[Turkey] is a strong country able to defend its citizens and it will chase down the criminals wherever they are,” he told the daily.

Meanwhile, Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera quoted another deputy Turkish prime minister, Beşir Atalay, as saying that preliminary investigations show that the perpetrators were connected to Syrian intelligence.

How will Turkey respond to the attack?

Based on a recent visit to Turkey and conversations with its leaders, Al-Hayat columnist Jihad El-Khazen believes it won’t, at least not on its own.

“Turkey will not intervene alone in the Syrian situation. It cannot, and intervention will not win support from the Turkish public, unless it is willing to intervene as part of an international effort. When the regime [in Syria] changes, Turkey will be at the forefront of countries extending aid to the new regime.

Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiyah reports statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu tying Syrian intelligence to the attacks.

“Ankara did not wait long before announcing the involvement of elements tied to Syrian intelligence in the double attack,” claims the TV report, displaying images of widespread destruction in the Turkish town as firefighters attempt to extinguish fires set by the blasts.

Rafsanjani steps into the race

The last-minute candidacy of former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani is making headlines in Arab language media, as the election day in mid-June looms closer.

“Rafsanjani was not the only one to decide about his nomination at the last minute. Saeed Jalili, the chief negotiator on the Iranian nuclear issue did so as well, as did Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, an ally of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad,” reads an article in A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

Al-Hayat reports that Rafsanjani’s candidacy has strengthened the local currency, the rial, “which indicates that his victory will put the economic situation in order, in a country suffering from numerous problems due to American and European sanctions.”

For a conservative candidate to win, supporters of Supreme leader Ali Khaminei will need to unite, writes Ali Badram of A-Sharq Al-Awsat in an analysis of the upcoming elections.

“It is clear that supporters of Khaminei will spread their votes over a large number of candidates. Therefore, they must insist on supporting one single candidate only, in order to forcefully compete with Rafsanjani and Mashaei. In addition, Rafsanjani and Mashaei can both benefit from their promises to change the current Iranian reality, which is considered the worst — politically and economically — in modern Iranian history.”

In an op-ed titled “resistance and sectarianism in Iranian policy,” Al-Hayat columnist Khaled Dakhil analyzes Iran’s foreign policy.

“Is the ‘Islamic Republic’ a sectarian regime? If so, how does that agree with its patronage over the [Sunni] resistance, and its consistent support for it?… Over the past decades the region has witnessed a transformation in sectarianism, from a cultural and religious heritage to an active and destructive force on the ground. What is taking place in Iraq, Bahrain and especially in Syria captures this truth in its ugliest forms. Sectarianism in this ugly form did not exist before,” writes Dakhil.

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