Protests in Lebanon
A number of Saudi op-eds over the past two weeks have focused on the ongoing protests in Lebanon – mainly focused on the complete lack of credibility of Lebanon’s political class with protesters, but with much commentary also highlighting (to various degrees) the implications for Hizbullah and its relationship with Iran.
On the possibility of change:
Does this mean that change is impossible in Lebanon? Of course not – but it will be a difficult and painful task that requires a lot of patience, strength and sacrifice. The Lebanese, who made changes in many of the countries to which they migrated, are surely able to change the reality of their country!Khaled al-Suleiman, Okaz, 10.22.2019
On Lebanese fatigue with the Taif political settlement:
The political game that has existed for a long time in Lebanon, and that brought it to this critical stage, is no longer acceptable to the Lebanese people. All components, sects and affiliations have realized that all the political players are united in manipulating their people’s fate and even if differences emerge between them.Hamood Abo Taleb, Okaz, 10.24.2019
On the potential collapse of the “Shia Crescent”
Thankfully, these sweeping demonstrations come at a time when the mullahs’ government is suffocating under economic sanctions. It is completely unable to support its mercenaries and keep them from falling under the feet of the Arab rebels; soon will be unable to protect itself when the Iranian people wake up and throw them into the dustbin of history.Hani Dhaheri, Okaz, 10.27.2019
A series of ARR op-eds, escalating from suggestion that Hizbullah might lose out in the struggle…
Will Hizbullah allow the change demanded by the street in Lebanon? The party. has sacrificed thousands of Lebanese youth in defense of regimes in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and even within Iranian provinces that have seen uprisings against power. Is it lying in wait for those advocating change in Lebanon, or willing to let them go ahead?Abdelrahman al-Rashed, Aawsat, 10.22.2019
Whatever the case, the world knows today that there is a consensus in Lebanon against the system of quotas, corruption and weapons.
To focusing directly on the choices facing Hizbullah:
It is true that Hizbullah is not the only local player, and that it has partners who are partly to blame. The current intifada has raised a slogan that rejects all of the current leadership, calling for reform of the failed political system…Abdelrahman al-Rashed, Aawsat, 10.25.2019
It may not seem understandable to the ordinary Lebanese that they are paying the price for Hezbollah’s incursions in the region, which threaten the interests of the West. Still, this is partly of the reason for the deterioration of the economy and has placed the Lebanese government between the hammer of the West and the anvil of Hizbullah. Unless Hizbullah curtails its services to Iran, it will suffer, and will make Lebanon and the Lebanese suffer more than before.
To the implications for Iran, both in Lebanon and Iraq:
It is not difficult to find out how unpopular the Iranian regime has become in Iraq and Lebanon. It has nothing to do with Al-Arabiya or the hashtags of electronic army, as officials in the Iranian government of Hassan Rouhani claimed. In fact, in Iraq, there is no internet or social media. The government cut it off to satisfy Iranians who believed that waves of incitement come from cyberspace. Yet though the net is cut off and the “social” platforms are dead, but the uprising is alive.Abdelrahman al-Rashed, Aawsat, 10.31.2019
Death of Al-Baghdadi
Commentary here either focused on the need to continue the fight beyond Baghdadi in order to curtail terrorism, or focused on conspiracy theories swirling around about the potential role of the US in “creating” Baghdadi. From director of research at the King Faisal Center:
To counter the threat of extremism and the emergence of terrorist organizations in the long run, the international community must focus on restoring stability, providing services to liberated areas and contributing to rebuilding them. It must also restore confidence in state institutions by helping build capacity, counter the pervasive corruption in many of these countries, and unify attitudes. It will need to put an end to the negative interventions and support armed militias by some countries of the region – especially Iran – in many countries in the region, and confront the rhetoric and sectarian militias – both Sunni and Shiite.Dr. Abdullah bin Khaled, Independent Arabia, 10.27.2019
It is also important that states – especially in the West – assume their responsibilities to return, prosecute and rehabilitate their citizens, whether children or adults, who have joined these terrorist groups, rather than disavow them because of the “political cost.” These tasks or duties require a much patience and considerable effort and the effects are not immediate, but are very important important if the world wants to talk seriously about any “victory” against terrorism.
More general thoughts on the future of fighting terrorism:
The killing of al-Baghdadi brings to mind the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. In both incidents, neither the target nor his wives survived, but terrorism is still alive and well while its root causes have not been addressed…Khaled al-Suleiman, Okaz, 10.28.2019
Terrorism cannot be separated from the oppression that provides extremists with rhetoric and motivation, from the oppression of the Palestinian cause to the genocide in Syria, to the occupation of Iraq and its sectarian rupture.
And on the need to think twice before believing in conspiracies (I’ve screened out the “Well, America could have killed its agent any time it wanted” op-eds):
To understand why the conspiracy theory spread, ask yourself: Which is easier and more convenient – to accuse America and Israel of creating al-Baghdadi and then sleep soundly? Or to review the kind of thinking that Baghdadi used to justify his actions, and be honest with your enemy? Or trouble yourself to seek information and facts about the complexities of contemporary international politics? The issue is how we think.Abdullah bin Bakhit, Al-Riyadh, 10.30.2019
On Twitter, effect of American laws on Saudi discourse:
We are outside of America, but we have to abide by what Congress is doing. Americans are restricted only by American laws while non-Americans are restricted by American and local laws. There is strong prejudice in this. At least Americans have the right to choose their legislators while we must abide by their legislation despite having no right to choose them…Abdullah bin Bakhit, Al-Riyadh, 10.31.2019
Those who rejoice that Twitter has defeated local newspapers and their restrictions on their freedom do not realize that Saudi newspapers and the Saudi media are based on laws and regulations formulated in line with local religious, social and political contexts, most of which conform to their [the individuals’] principles. If they are dissatisfied with these laws, their dissatisfaction will not change anything about the matter – they are fixed in place by the publishing and cybercrimes laws.
On Key Performance Indicators, and their limits in promoting institutional improvement:
When developing strategic plans, the beginning is beautiful, given that there is a scientific, intellectual and planning basis, whether in terms of building a vision, mission, strategic objective, etc., Still, these plans focus heavily on quantitative and numerical indicators to measure their success… Although some of this may be logical and necessary, especially in the financial aspects, this may not have any meaningful or sustainable impact, either in the short or long term, as performance indicators lead us to focus on quantity, not quality, and effort, not impact.Muhammad bin Saqr, Al-Watan, 10.31.2019
On “Davos in the Desert”:
Major global investments are unaffected by media propaganda and their politicized campaigns, because it knows where to go and how to make its choices. It is looking for a stable political system capable of protecting and supporting investments. It is also looking for powerful countries that are not affected by sudden surprises.Hamood Abo Taleb, Okaz, 10.30.2019
And an apparent gentle piece of criticism from Khaled al-Suleiman about the PIF’s dealings with what sounds like eminant domain in Tabuk (perhaps related to the expected relocation of 20,000 local inhabitants):
I hope that the Public Investment Fund will resolve the issue of stopping in clearing, selling and buying regarding some plans in Tabuk plans without delay, as this has ensnared plans of some citizens to build their homes or dispose of their assets!… those affected [should be able to] either act normally with their property or be swiftly compensated if the public interest requires these lands to be included in Neom.Khaled al-Suleiman, Okaz, 10.31.2019