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TODAY’S DAILY BRIEFING
17-Feb-2017
Egypt
Opinion
“Al-Azhar stronger than Es-Sisi”  (Al-Mesryoon, Egypt)
Media - Religion
On February 16, the independent Al-Mesryoon newspaper carried the following opinion piece by Executive Chief Editor Mahmoud Sultan: “There is no difference between the presidency’s position towards Al-Azhar and that of the mouthpieces which are harassing His Eminence Sheikh Ahmed Tayyeb and Al-Azhar as an institution in the media. And the presidency cannot convince anyone of the opposite, considering that the period that followed July 3 confirmed that the official and private media outlets have become part of the authority, and among its oppression tools. Hence, they are used to sanction the officials or “fugitive” oppositionists, and have reached an unprecedented level of audacity, transgression and arrogance, which makes us believe they are exempted from any accountability, sanction or legal pursuit… (Read More)
Politics
“Cairo breaks the Gulf siege through a friendly message to Hezbollah”  (Ad-Diyyar, Lebanon)   
Arab Diplomacy
On February 17, the Ad-Diyyar daily newspaper carried the following report by Ibrahim Nasser el-Din: “…Ad-Diyyar learned from diplomatic sources in Beirut that the Egyptian authorities have broken the Gulf “ban” on Hezbollah by sending a number of “friendly messages” to Hezbollah. The last of these messages was sent via a political figure close to Hezbollah that recently visited Cairo… (Read More)
Iran
Opinion
"Middle East Policies of the New American Administration"  (Shargh, Iran)
Arab Diplomacy - Peace Process - USA EU
On February 11, a commentary by Seyyed Hoseyn Musavi in the reformist Shargh said: "According to many political analysts, the speech by the new American President Donald Trump on his inauguration day on Friday 1st Bahman was another campaign speech. It has been described as the shortest inauguration speech by a new president (16 minutes long). Just as he had done during his other campaign speeches, in his inauguration speech too Trump attacked US system and structures, and directly insulted those who were sitting next to him. He said that American politicians had enriched themselves at the expense of the American poor. Trump did not say very much about the US foreign policy, especially at a time when many centres of global crises have overshadowed global policies in an unprecedented way. All this may be in keeping with Trump's major and key slogan of putting America first. However, in another part of his speech he violated that slogan when he said: "The United States of America will not rest until it has destroyed radical Islam throughout the world." The necessary requirement of the implementation of that slogan is America's direct military intervention at least in the areas where ISIL has a serious presence, namely in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Egypt and to some extent Somalia. If the Trump Administration intervenes militarily in those countries it will soon be involved in direct military confrontation in many areas of the world, and this is contrary to Trump's slogan of giving priority to America. On the whole, according to the assessment of many international observers and psychologists, Donald Trump has a very complex personality, and a common feature of all those complex features is that he is unpredictable… (Read More)
"Trip's importance" - on Rouhani's Gulf visits  (Shargh, Iran)
Arab Diplomacy - USA EU
On February 15, a commentary by Hasan Hadi, Iranian attache in Muscat, in the reformist Shargh said: "Undoubtedly, with Donald Trump being in office in the United States, and his extremist and anti-Islam views, global equations -- particularly in the Muslim region of the Middle East -- will be affected by such an approach to some extent. Making new alliances within the framework of Trump's slogans instead of Obama's policies will take place in a manner that would not be in favour of stability in the Middle East, and particularly in the Persian Gulf region. The role of important countries of the Persian Gulf is very significant at this point of time by reliance on awareness of conditions and new activities, particularly regarding the formation of a possible wave of extremism and tensions among the regional countries that would cause insecurity in the Persian Gulf region. The old and threadbare policy of creating insecurity in the Persian Gulf has always had one outcome, which is the military and prominent presence of the West in this very important region, and access to passageways for trade of black gold. There is no doubt that the "divide and rule" ideology is an old method that according to history, countries of the Persian Gulf have been and will be caught in its trap over and over. It is the foresight, diplomacy, and peace seeking attitude of the Government of Hope and Prudence that can return the region's balance to a normal condition, and establish the policy of peace, reconciliation, and anti-tension contrary to divisive policies, by removing obstacles that exist between Iran and Arab governments of the Persian Gulf region. Mr. Hassan Rouhani's second visit to Oman will be a turning point in line with regional reconciliation, a wave that will soon extinguish the fire in Yemen, and powerfully send the message of peace to the Arab countries of the region, particularly Saudi Arabia… (Read More)
"Through Europe we can put Trump Crisis Behind Us"  (Shargh, Iran)   
USA EU
On February 10, a commentary by Abdolreza Farajirad, former ambassador to Norway, in the reformist Shargh daily said: "Trump's presence in the White House and the geopolitical developments in different parts of the world have combined together, and the pressures that are exerted on him from the political structure of the United States compels him to an extent to be moderate with his decisions. The housing crisis in the United States has made tenants out of millions of Americans, and that has made them spend up to 50 per cent of their monthly income on rent. Most of the people who suffered from disillusionment and psychological complexes because of this crisis, were drawn towards Trump. This issue, together with religious extremism, and the terrorist attacks on Europe by Daesh affected the elections in the United States and brought someone like Trump to the White House as a result of the people's intense dissatisfaction with the domestic conditions in the United States. International Zionism also played a fundamental role in Trump's election. During his term Obama had disrupted the systematic support of the Zionist regime to an extent. Therefore, considering that the media atmosphere is unfavourable towards itself, the Zionist regime rode the wave of housing crisis and public discontent in the United States, and kept on attacking Hillary Clinton's character by referring to her e-mails. Trump is a lout who merely advocates a nationalist strategy, without having a clear strategy. The United States national security adviser's lack of information about Trump's actions and stances proves this claim. His measures are so out of place that a federal judge blocks his executive order… (Read More)
"Beginning of the end" - on the US military "Bluff"  (Keyhan, Iran)
Military and Defense - USA EU
On February 11, an editorial by Seyyed Mohammad Emad Arabi in the conservative Keyhan said: "Yesterday tens of millions of people marched in the streets throughout the country in order to celebrate the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic revolution. Once again, as usual, they gave a decisive and crushing response to American threats, and with their slogans of "death to America" that had emerged from the depth of their hearts they mocked the recent threats of the American president, and strongly rejected the military option that the crazy Trump had said was on the table. This comment [editorial] has been written in continuation of the great and epic marches of the nation yesterday, and it stresses that America's threatened military option is nothing but a stupid bluff. Continue reading. In the first instance, what one can see as a confrontation between the American government and its allies and Iran may seem frightful. In his first television interview with the ABC News, speaking about confronting Iran, Trump said: "I prefer not to speak about the military option, but to act upon it." (Sources of all the quotes are available in the offices of Keyhan). Once again, he announced to the media that all options were on the table in dealing with Iran. America, England and France organised military manoeuvres in the waters of the Persian Gulf, and simulated a clash with Iran. The American Vice-President Mike Pence said that it was better for Iran not to try Trump's resolve. The head of the Zionist regime spoke about his efforts for creating a unity between Israel, England and America against Iran. Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in a statement announced that the time for overlooking Iran's hostile actions had come to an end… (Read More)
Iraq
Politics
“Al-Sadr, Al-Abadi agree against Al-Maliki”  (Al-Akhbar Lebanon, Lebanon)   
Democracy and Party Politics
On February 17, the Al-Akhbar daily newspaper carried the following report: “…Al-Akhbar learned from high-ranking Iraqi sources that “an agreement has been reached in the past few days between Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, and the head of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr.” The agreement aims at coming up with a political agenda, one that is “seemingly conflictive” but “secretly in harmony,” and one that will ultimately lead to an electoral alliance, the backbone of which consists of toppling the project of Nouri al-Maliki, the head of the State of Law bloc… (Read More)
Jordan
Politics
“An alternative to the homeland or “alternative homeland”...?”  (Al-Quds al-Arabi, United Kingdom)   
Arab Diplomacy - Peace Process - USA EU
On February 17, the Qatari-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following report by its Amman Office Chief Bassam Bdareen: “When it comes to the Jerusalem file or any Palestinian and Israeli affair, the closed circles in Jordan insist that the ally sharing Amman’s wish to distance the ghost of a “third intifada” is the “deep state” within the Zionist entity, seeing how the military, security and intelligence institutions there do not want to return to the confrontation option in the occupied territories… Lately, a European side gave the following piece of advice to Amman. [It said:] The Palestinian Authority is about to reach a detailed agreement with Israel, and Netanyahu is planning to control the entire region. Moreover, the size of the contacts initiated by Arab and Gulf sides in particular is being blown out of proportion, and will be used by the latter [i.e. Netanyahu]… (Read More)
Lebanon
Politics
“Warnings in Lebanon against Hezbollah’s transformation into Revolutionary Guard or Popular Mobilization”  (Website, Middle East)
Democracy and Party Politics
On February 17, the official Turkish Anadolu News Agency carried the following report from Beirut by its correspondent Wassim Seifeddine: “Head of the Lebanese Change Movement Attorney Elie Mahfoudh warned against Hezbollah’s transformation into a “Revolutionary Guard” or “Popular Mobilization,” stressing that the “problem of Hezbollah’s arms remains the object of dispute between the Lebanese.” Following Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s statements, in which he supported the presence of Hezbollah’s weapons in the face of Israel during the current stage, these weapons’ file strongly returned to the forefront of political life, in a country governed by the Ta’if Accord, which was signed by the Lebanese parties in 1989 to end a 15-year-old civil war... In statements to Anadolu, Mahfoudh expressed his fear of seeing the “legitimization of Hezbollah’s arms in Lebanon… (Read More)
Middle East
Opinion
“The question of the Muslim Brotherhood re-emerges”  (Al-Quds al-Arabi, United Kingdom)
Religion - USA EU
On February 16, the Qatari-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following opinion piece by Dr. Bashir Musa Nafeh: “The Muslim Brotherhood group was born in Egypt in 1928 as an Islamic preaching body. The MB was neither the first nor last body of the sort, while Egypt was not the only Muslim majority state to witness the birth of such a civic body, whose main objective is to preserve religious values, rituals and heritage… However, something made the MB more special, helped it spread inside and outside of Egypt, and allowed it to survive for a long time at the heart of the Islamic political community. Indeed, the MB’s vision of Islam and the needs of Islamic society was broader than that of the other associations and bodies. In addition, it was more dynamic and sensitive towards Egyptian affairs – such as the constitutional state – and the affairs of the Islamic world – such as the Palestinian cause and the identity of the Arab Maghreb’s Muslims… (Read More)
Morocco
Politics
"Benkirane, Akhannouch: back to talks, positive progress of consultations, new government at end of royal tour in Africa"  (As-Sabah, Tunisia)   
Democracy and Party Politics
On February 15, the As-Sabah daily reported: "Premier-designate Abdelilah Benkirane the day before yesterday Monday resumed consultations with Aziz Akhannouch, the head of the National Rally of the Independents party, to review the latest developments concerning the process of forming a new government. Informed RNI sources have confirmed that a meeting was in fact held the house of the head of government and talks focused on an assessment of the efforts made to form the next government. The same sources described the meeting as positive with progress being made to reach a consensus that will put an end to the more than a four month-long blockage. As-Sabah sources have noted a progress in consultations heralding a detente soon and a decisive move to form a government. Details of the consultations are being kept secret pending their completion in the coming days without setting a deadline, all the more because Aziz Akhannouch will be tied to the royal visit to a number of African countries namely Mali, Guinea Conakry and Gabon... This meeting between Akhannouch and the head of government came directly after the meeting of the National Council of the Justice and Development party in which Benkirane affirmed that the Rose party has no place in a government coalition emanating from the ongoing consultations. Benkirane pointed out that he is waiting for a response from Akhannouch and Laensar about this matter. Moreover, Benkirane underlined that his party is prepared to sacrifice the post of head of government but he personally will not be humiliated. This is a hint to the idea that he would not be forced to accept a USFP party participation in a new government. Benkirane is of the view that Aziz Akhannouch's only option in order to participate in a new government would be to abandon his condition that the Rose party should participate. Failing that, Benkirane said, "We will know what to do next.""… (Read More)
“Bouden to Ayam24: Egypt’s position towards Sahara will affect Cairo-Rabat relations”  (Website, Middle East)
Arab Diplomacy - Peace Process
On February 16, the Moroccan Al-Ayam24 news website carried the following report by its correspondent Mohammed Manafe: “On the sidelines of the African Affairs Committee meeting at the Egyptian Parliament to discuss Cairo’s role in the African Continent, Head of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights Mohamed Fayeq directly accused Morocco – without prior notice, and in a way that lacks diplomatic knowhow and jeopardizes Moroccan-Egyptian relations – of obstructing the referendum to solve the Sahara conflict. He added, that Algeria’s political and economic presence in the Dark Continent was stronger than Morocco’s, and that Algeria should therefore be wagered on through the adoption of its position towards the Sahara conflict… (Read More)
Syria
Opinion
“New U.S. scenario of escalation in Syria…”  (Website, Middle East)
Military and Defense - Peace Process - USA EU
On February 16, the electronic Rai al-Youm daily carried the following piece by Abdul Bari Atwan: “If we want to learn about the preliminary outcomes of the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tour to three Gulf States (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar), all we have to do is read the statements of Mr. Salem al-Mussallat, a spokesperson for the High Negotiations Committee, based in Al-Riyadh. The man’s statements reflect a “hawk-like” position regarding the fourth round of the Geneva Conference, which means the revival of the Saudi-Turkish-Qatari triangle and the gradual shying away from the Russian position… (Read More)
Turkey
Opinion
“Turkey repositions itself, new blow awaits it”  (Newspaper, Middle East)   
Military and Defense
On February 17, the Lebanese Al-Binaa newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, carried the following opinion piece by SSNP Media Chief Maan Hamiyeh: “Lately, particularly following the liberation of Aleppo City from the terrorist groups, many analysts and observers started talking about a Turkish turn at the level of the war on Syria. However, their conclusion was not based on solid grounds, seeing how the course adopted by Turkey following its terrorist tools’ defeat in Aleppo aimed to limit the repercussions of that defeat. The Aleppo liberation battle might not be decisive in the war on terror, but it definitely constitutes a fulcrum along that path. And the sponsors and supporters of terrorism, especially Turkey, cannot claim otherwise, considering that the ceasefire agreement was imposed by the facts of the Aleppo battle, whose outcome was definitely favorable to the Syrian Army and its allies… (Read More)
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