To those who preached about changes in the Middle East

The problem is that some of us often confuse between information and analysis, between news and opinion

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Confusing between end results and facts produces myths, much like the news that circulated lately about promised changes in the region. It was said that the situation in Syria is starting to improve and that Russia changed its attitude toward Iran and is no longer clinging to Bashar al-Assad. We also heard that the Houthis retreat in Yemen is the outcome of a deal with Iran. We heard that Saudi Arabia abandoned the Syrian opposition and reconciled with Assad, while also hearing that the Lebanese can now elect a president following the Iranian nuclear deal. Some even claimed that new stances from the Iraqi Prime Minister were derived from an Iranian-Gulf reconciliation package and that Saudi Arabia has started to favor Hamas and has abandoned the Palestinian government.

Until now, there is no compelling evidence that these changes have indeed happened and I do not personally believe that any major political or military modifications will take place.

Those who hurried to analyze the increasing political activity over the past few weeks went on to preach that regional and international powers have finally decided to resolve all matters related to reconciliation in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf.

The problem is that some of us often confuse between information and analysis, between news and opinion

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The problem is that some of us often confuse between information and analysis, between news and opinion. For example, the meeting between the U.S. Secretary of State with Gulf ministers does not necessarily mean that there has been a change in attitudes towards the Syrian conflict.

As for Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s statements about Tehran desiring to cooperate and reconcile with Gulf states, they remain until this moment mere words with no real development. It can be nothing but an American desire that Iran shows a positive spirit towards its Gulf opponents so the latter stop criticizing the nuclear deal. Zarif did not propose anything specific. We are only witnessing diplomatic activity including Qatari and Omani efforts to reconcile with Iran. Iranians do not wish to relinquish Syria and Iraq, nor cooperate to resolve the dispute over positions in Lebanon which is considered an easy task. As for Yemen, improvements on the political scene were generated by military advancements in liberating Aden and defeating the rebels. It had nothing to do with Iranian political stances.

Putting an end to rumors

The most important evidence to put an end to all these rumors is Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir’s remarks in Moscow, in which he said that the kingdom does not accept any solution to the Syrian conflict that involves Assad remaining in power. He said those words explicitly while sitting next to the Russian foreign minister who in turn maintained his anti-Saudi position. As for the shocking news that a Syrian security official visited Jeddah; this is supposed to be considered as accepted communication between opponents, even if the government in Damascus offered to present a new solution that Saudi Arabia may eventually welcome, it does not necessarily have to accept it. The same goes for the visit of exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to Saudi Arabia. It does not mean a change in Riyadh’s position which is based on a legal foundation and clear political interests. Legitimacy goes to the Palestinian Authority, but the government residing in Gaza is appears to be “resigned.” Here it is in the Saudi interest to support the legitimate authority and cooperate with the countries in the region, particularly Egypt. Rumors that Iran is unhappy with communications between Riyadh and Gaza are merely a product of Hamas propaganda to make Saudis turn to them and, most probably, vice versa.

Iran is the country who does not want a relationship with Hamas as it is seeking to pass the nuclear deal and offset Israel’s opposition to it. Tehran, which used to be dubbed the “axis of evil,” now wishes that Riyadh takes its place and becomes a state cooperating with internationally hated organizations so that Saudi Arabia stands in the extremist camp while Iran joins the moderates!

Let’s go back to the surge in fake scenarios about major changes in the Middle Eastern region. The only new fact is the Iranian agreement with the West and we are yet to know how it will affect the region later, whether positively or negatively.

The contentious issues between the countries of the region are deep-rooted. In Syria, the system collapsed with terrorist pro-Iranian and anti-Iranian organizations residing there. The war has swept all over the country from Zabadani to Daraa. In Yemen, the war liberated Aden while the capital Sanaa is about to be besieged. The situation in Iraq is still raging with fighting going on every day in the West and the quarter of Iraq that is still under ISIS occupation.

These conflicts are real and need more than few diplomatic visits and journalists’ imaginations to be resolved. A change in attitudes should provoke actual repercussions.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 16, 2015.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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