Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Winds of change or drums of war?

Front page photo from Libya in today's Asharq Alawsat

Guest post by veteran Middle East publisher F. Najia

Arab press heavyweights are in a “morning-after” mode and beginning to wonder if the ongoing sea change in the Arab world will end well.

“Where is this inferno leading?” asks editor in chief Tariq Alhomayed in the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat. “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton having said backing political change in the Arab world is a ‘strategic necessity,’ the United States and some European nations are now hinting at the use of force against the Gaddafi regime,” he notes, adding:

“That’s understandable, or let me say acceptable even.  But the question remains: what about change in Iran? What can Washington, or the West, do against the Iranian regime that is terrorizing Iranian opposition leaders (Mehdi) Karoubi and (Mir-Hossein) Mousavi with imprisonment or placement under house arrest?

“Will America support the Iranian opposition too, or intervene militarily (in Iran)? Or is that for Arabs only? If so, what will Washington do if, God forbid, conditions in Yemen worsened -- with the Yemeni president (Ali Abdullah Saleh) deciding to hold out, and the opposition insisting on his departure? Will Washington resort to military force (in Yemen), all the more so since some Washington pundits fear a takeover there by al-Qaeda? How can America describe change in the region as a strategic necessity when it dreads it in Yemen, for instance, or remains tightlipped on 13 deaths in (anti-government) protests in Iraq?”

Amine Kamourieh, writing in Beirut’s leading daily an-Nahar, fears the tsunami of change sweeping Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Oman “could lead one of the aggrieved sides or schemers to trigger a major regional war that will dampen the clamor for change altogether.”