Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Middle East Media Monitor

Middle East Media Monitor is a series within FPRI’s notable E-Note publication, reviewing a current topic in the Middle East media from the perspective of the foreign language press coverage in countries such as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Turkey, etc. These articles focus on providing FPRI’s readership with an inside view on how some of the most relevant countries in the Middle East are covering issues of importance to the American foreign policy community.

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The prospect of yet another U.S. intervention in the Islamic world spurs a range of views not only in the U.S. but also in the Arab world. When it comes to the Syrian uprising, now clearly a bloodbath, opinions on U.S. involvement reflect a broad spectrum. The long-standing authoritarian regime in Syria, currently led by Bashar Al-Assad, consistently portrays the uprising as a Western, U.S.-led conspiracy against the Syrian government. Leaders of the political opposition meanwhile are consistently against direct U.S. or Western intervention in the conflict, though they differ somewhat on the kind of aid or support that they would accept from the U.S. and others. The revolutionaries on the ground in Syria, however, have given up on the hope of rescue by the international community.

The litmus test of the Jordan Spring—as King Abdullah II billed the national parliamentary elections on January 23rd—has now passed.[1] The elections were meant to mark the beginning of a new political phase in the kingdom, augmenting an intermittent, two-decade, palace-led reform program expedited since 2011 to mollify unrelenting public expression of frustration and grievance. How should the litmus test be read?

On July 11, 2012, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, publicly warned the Iranian press against publishing pieces about the negative effects of Western sanctions on the Iranian economy. This was the first time Hosseini openly admitted to the censorship of media, claiming that, “Our country is not in a position to allow the press to publish any analysis which is not agreeable with regime and national interests.”[1]  This was three months before Iran saw its worst economic crisis since the Iran-Iraq war. By October 3rd, 2012, the rial hit a record low against the dollar—dropping to nearly 38,000 rials to the dollar—with inflation estimated around 40 percent and merchants in Tehran’s bazaar closing their shops in protest.

The Syrian rebels and their support networks use social media for a variety of purposes including self-promotion, fundraising, directing attacks, and exchanging tactics. While the rebels would still be able to operate in the absence of social media, their financing and combat capabilities would be diminished, as would the influence of some high-profile rebel leaders.

 

What began as the Arab Spring, and is now being referred to as the long Arab Summer due to its inconclusive aftermath, has been commonly perceived by the media and academia as an indicator of al Qaeda’s downfall. The main reason for al Qaeda’s apparent demise was the assumption that the turmoil had depleted the movement’s relevance, relegating it to the sidelines.

The continuing rise of Turkey and Iran at the expense of the Arab states is troubling to the West. This is particularly the case because the parallel rise to power has been expressed in a warming of relations between these two states—a sharp contrast to the mutual suspicion that characterized the bilateral relationship in the past.

As the most populous and influential Arab state, Egypt had always taken the initiative in wars, many against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973. A historic diplomatic breakthrough occurred in 1979, however, when Egypt agreed to terminate its state of belligerency with Israel and recognize its right to exist. For its diplomatic efforts, Egypt reestablished control over the Sinai Peninsula. A new era of bilateral stability, security, and economic cooperation developed.

On May 11, 2011 hardliner cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, held a meeting with members of the conservative Islamic Coalition Party. Mesbah-Yazdi warned his audience against the strengthening of deviant religious thought in Iranian society. He claimed that it jeopardizes the concept of “the Guardianship of the Islamic jurist” (Velayat-e Faqih), upon which the Iranian regime has been based since the Islamic Revolution (1979).

Following the Tunisian and Egyptian examples, uprisings in Libya against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi began on February 17, 2001 as part of the “Arab Awakening.” The international community—contrary to its reactions in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain—has intervened militarily in Libya in response to Gaddafi’s violent suppression of the revolt.

The revolution in Egypt has raised the specter of an Islamist takeover and theocratic rule, a repetition of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran in which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rose to power. Such fears were worsened by the triumphant return to Egypt of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most prominent Sunni scholar in the Arab world with longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet, the Egyptian press, for the most part, has not drawn this parallel.

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