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Old Friends Prove Not So Close in the New Arab World: World View
June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Much of the commentary in the Arabic media in recent days has focused on the realignments taking place across the Middle East as a result of the various Arab uprisings.
Ammar Nehmeh, an occasional columnist at the Beirut-based leftist daily As-Safir, wrote that forces that traditionally resist U.S. policy in the region, and that initially supported the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, now find themselves on a collision course with the Muslim Brotherhood, the vast Islamic movement , which is trying to steer events according to its own beliefs and interests. In practical terms, Nehmeh wrote, this means that the Lebanese political party and military group Hezbollah, for example, is now discovering that its long honeymoon with the Brothers everywhere is ending.
In spite of their different circumstances, the party and the Brothers have belonged, for around three decades, to a common project that confronted the projects of Western hegemony in the region. Hezbollah had been involved in a direct confrontation with Israel and the West and their tools in Lebanon, while the primary objective of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in several Arab countries was to confront the ruling regimes in order to take over power.
But with the fall of some key pro-Western dictators, the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood’s antagonism towards non-Arab, Shiite Iran and its primary patron, Shiite Hezbollah, has grown more pronounced. So has the Brotherhood's criticism of the Syrian regime, which is dominated by the Alawite religious minority. The unrest in Syria has taken on an increasingly sectarian tone.
Ibrahim Amine, editor of the Beirut-based Al-Akhbar, wrote that the Muslim Brothers are entering a trap that threatens the foundations of the wider struggle against Israel. The Brothers are “about to witness unprecedented divisions because of the opportunistic direction they are following all over the Arab world, and that they want to propagate in Palestine,” he wrote. He was referring to the decision by Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Brothers, to enter into a coalition with its longstanding rival for favor among the Palestinians, the secular, more moderate movement Fatah. Disapprovingly, he wrote that there is simply no “passageway but the Resistance."
On a larger scale, Nehmeh wrote, two major Sunni states, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have begun a political rapprochement that could serve as the anchor for a new axis in the post-revolutionary period. Ali Ibrahim, deputy editor of the Saudi-owned, monarchy-friendly Asharq al-Awsat, which is based in London, wrote approvingly of this development. Saudi Arabia and Turkey, he said, "are currently playing important roles by advising and offering initiatives to avoid total chaos so the regional ship does not crash."
Ibrahim noted that Saudi Arabia received the president of Yemen after he was wounded in an attack on his compound. He said that the country is working benignly to end the crisis in Yemen, as it is in other countries.
Turkey, meanwhile, is increasingly involved in Syrian affairs, Ibrahim wrote.
"The Turkish stance evolved with the development of events in Syria," he said, from advising the Syrian regime to accelerate reforms, to admonishing it for continuing to kill demonstrators. "Now Turkey is hosting the first conference of the Syrian opposition," he noted approvingly.
Like Saudi Arabia in the case of Yemen, Ankara can do no more than provide advice, ideas and initiatives during the period of protest. But were a transition period to become a reality, then they would both have a more active role in political and economic assistance, and could facilitate a safe transition to stability.
Abedl-Beri Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the London-based, Palestinian-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi, wrote that Israel was sowing trouble in Egypt because the Egyptian revolution had "redrafted relations with the Israeli occupier." The provisional government in Egypt is taking a harder line on relations with Israel than the previous government of President Hosni Mubarak. Atwan pointed to the case of an alleged Israeli spy recently arrested in Egypt for planning attacks on churches to trigger sectarian conflicts between Egyptian Christians and Muslims.
When it came to an issue unambiguously involving Israel -- the killing of Palestinian and Syrian protestors along the border of the occupied Golan Heights by Israeli forces -- several commentators in the Arabic media focused their attention on the Syrian regime’s culpability. They were angry over the apparent inability of the Syrian army to protect the protestors even as they allowed them to approach Israeli military lines.
Randa Haydar wrote in the Beirut-based An-Nahar, which is regularly critical of the Syrian regime, that the Palestinians and Syrians who participated in the demonstration were victims of three parties:
The Syrian regime, which is trying to play the game of rocking the borders with Israel through them; the Palestinian factions that want to give themselves credit for confronting the enemy and offering free services to the Syrian regime; and of course Israel, which is trying to disfigure the image of their peaceful movement in order to justify its excessive use of power in the face of unarmed civilians.
Referring to a particularly painful internecine clash in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus shortly after the border incident, Haydar said the violence was evidence that the refugees rejected mandatory protests.
“The events at Yarmouk,” where mourners fought with members of a Palestinian group that helped organize the border protests, "constitute a popular and spontaneous uprising against the Palestinian factions taking advantage of the refugees as well as the Syrian regime trading in the Palestinians’ blood.” At the same time, she added, there is "definitely a real nucleus of eager youths who believe in the importance of their peaceful movement."
“I do not conceal the fact that there are sides wishing to cause our people to despair, to become confused and to lose any victory," added Rashad Abu Shawer in Al-Quds al-Arabi. “But I trust our people in the camp of Yarmouk, the camp of the revolution and the martyrs, and expect them to overcome this stage and pinpoint the reasons behind what has taken place, so that it is never repeated again.”
Unfortunately, as the stakes are raised in this next stage of the Arab uprisings, and as the violence likely deepens, at least in Syria, events may not only repeat themselves, they may move farther and faster than any of the concerned actors can reasonably handle.
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