Arabic media review

With Lebanese PM’s resignation, a blow to Sunnis

Syrian Alawite leaders meet in Cairo to discuss post-Assad Syria

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

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati announces his resignation at the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, March 22, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Hussein Malla)
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati announces his resignation at the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, March 22, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Hussein Malla)

The resignation on Friday of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, leaving Lebanon in a state of political limbo, leads Arabic news on Sunday.

In comments to the London-based daily Al-Hayat, Mikati said he could not stand the daily attacks on him in local media. In addition, Mikati said he resigned because the government could not agree on a committee to supervise the upcoming elections and would not extend the tenure of general security director Ashraf Rifi.

“For the first time in a while, I wake up pleased,” Mikati said, emphasizing that he would continue to head the interim government. He said he did not tell anyone about his decision to resign ahead of time, so as to stave off pressure on him to stay on.

“Today a friend called me, saying, ‘Why did you resign? The country will enter a governmental void.’ I answered, ‘Is there no one else but me in this country? do I have to take responsibility for everything that goes on?'”

The Saudi news website Elaph reports that Mikati’s resignation has brought Lebanon to “its worst crisis since the start of the Syrian crisis.” The daily says Mikati’s decision came against the backdrop of “a Sunni sense of political alienation in a country controlled by Hezbollah.”

“Prime Minister Najib Mikati did well to resign the day before yesterday,” writes Imad A-Din Adib in an op-ed Sunday in the Saudi-owned newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

“The man has struggled to please forces that are impossible to please at the same time. He cannot be the first Sunni politician amid strong Sunni doubts regarding the political role of Shiite forces within the ruling coalition.”

Al-Hayat columnist Abdullah Iskandar places the blame for Mikati’s resignation squarely on Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah fires Mikati,” reads the headline of his Sunday op-ed.

“Those who know Prime Minister Najib Mikati will deny that the reason for his resignation was his inability to continue, or political embarrassment. More likely, he resigned after realizing that the ‘coup’ carried out by Hezbollah against the March 14 government, bringing him to power as prime minister, has exhausted its political purpose. The actual influential force in his government has decided to fire him,” writes Iskandar.

“His resignation has left Lebanon with no executive. Even if a new prime minister is named following the necessary parliamentary consultations, no Sunni politician will be named to form a new government in the foreseeable future.”

Meanwhile, the Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya reports that the Lebanese army has entered the city of Tripoli, where pro- and anti-Assad forces have been clashing. According to the channel, the “unprecedentedly” violent clashes in the neighborhoods of Bab Tabaneh and Jabel Muhsin led to the injury of four Lebanese citizens on Saturday.

Alawites discuss post-Assad future

A-Sharq Al-Awsat leads its front page on Sunday with reports of a unique conference in Cairo where Syrian Alawites — members of the religious sect of President Bashar Assad and supposedly his staunchest allies — have gathered to discuss “the day after.”

According to the paper, the meeting adopted three premises: the Syrian people should protect each other and the regime should not protect one denomination; the Assad regime is preparing a civil war between various segments of society; and, finally, Assad will not hesitate to divide Syria’s territory if need be.

Quoting The Wall Street Journal, the paper reports that the CIA is training Syrian oppositionists on the use of advanced weaponry (without actually providing the weapons), as well as conveying intelligence information on Syrian army deployment based on satellite images.

Meanwhile, while condemning a terror attack that killed senior Syrian cleric Muhammad Al-Buti on March 21, Saudi columnist Khaled Dakhil said the assassination was to be expected.

“The killing of Sheikh Muhammad Said Ramadan Al-Buti, along with the other victims of the explosion at the Iman mosque in Damascus, is no doubt a heinous crime. Unfortunately  the killing of the sheikh was no surprise. Why? because Sheikh Al-Buti clearly and explicitly chose to stand alongside the regime in the bloody conflict raging in Syria for two years. Here lies the tragedy.

“The alignment of such a politically and socially significant personality on the side of the regime means he has made enemies of the other side of an existential conflict.”    

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