International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

May 25, 2004

May 25, 2004





**  Writers denounce a "theatrical show" full of "slogans and political clichés."

**  Outlets term it "virtually impossible" to agree on one "reform package that would suit all."

**  Arab nations need a "deep-rooted and lasting common front" to face current challenges.

**  Some dailies assail Arab governments for seeking "servile approval" from the U.S.




'The Arab League has no political weight'--  Euro papers said the "miserable performance" in Tunis accomplished "nothing new or original."  Most Arab dailies also labeled the summit "another charade"; Beirut's moderate An-Nahar said the "only result" was "Arab rhetoric."  Algeria's leading El Khabar judged that the only "parties responsible for the degrading situation in the Arab world are the Arab leaders themselves."  Jordanian and Palestinian writers dissented, saying the summit was a "positive step that "pleased everyone without exception."  Saudi Arabia's conservative Al-Nadwa concluded that "Arab leaders proved that they are capable of overcoming their differences and standing united."   


'There is little enthusiasm' for reforms--  Moderate Muslim observers saw no "common reform agenda" to counter the "daily bombardment of imported reform plans."  Despite a "yearning for reform across the Arab landscape," Qatar's semi-independent Gulf Times said the "absence of a timetable for action indicates that there is little enthusiasm" for reform.  Other analysts doubted Arab leaders will suddenly start "calling for democracy against their tyrannical regimes" given their "long-standing backlog of pledges to initiate something resembling reform."   But some papers asserted that Arab citizens "aspire to build more transparent and fair systems"; the pro-government Bahrain Tribune stressed the "time for change has come."


The Ummah faces 'many strong storms'--  Many Arab dailies warned that the region's "crises are spiraling out of control."  The West Bank's independent Al-Quds warned the "Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and American-British occupation of Iraq can never be ended by simply wishing," so summit participants must show "willingness to implement" resolutions.  Saudi Arabia's conservative Al-Madina also urged "practical and actionable solutions" to the "Israeli-Palestinian struggle and the Iraqi turmoil."  Several outlets bemoaned "Arab disunity"; the government-owned Syria Times lamented the "terrible collapse from which the dismembered body of the [Arab] nation is suffering." 


Arab leaders must 'stand up against their foreign benefactors'--  "Some Arab leaders act like U.S. ambassadors," complained one Saudi daily that questioned Washington's regional influence.  Lebanon's Al-Mustaqbal affirmed U.S. dominance, labeling U.S. ties "one of the dearest secrets in the heart of every Arab official."  Pakistan's center-left Dawn judged that Arab leaders "lacking popular support...need Western, especially American, support for survival."  Dailies such as London's pan-Arab Al-Hayat saw an "urgent need to reassess the Arabs' relationship with the U.S. administration" to truly achieve Arab aims.


EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 50 reports from 16 countries over  20 - 25 May 2004.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




GERMANY:  "The League Is Superfluous"


Heiko Flottau judged in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/24):  "This was an easy exercise for the Arab League.  Neither courage nor political skill is necessary to condemn U.S. torture in Iraq and the Israeli attacks on Palestinians.  But the Arab potentates do not mention that torture and sexual abuse are common in their prisons.  This is why Arab governments that mistreat their prisoners have no right to pillory such practices.  Of course, the torrent of words cannot obscure their traditional incapability of reaching a consensus....  The Arab League remains incapable of acting....  Nobody should be surprised that the great Arab reform agenda fell by the wayside.  Only internally strong Arab nations will be able to withstand U.S. and Israeli pressure.  But the potentates who cling to power close their eyes to this insight.  The league that was founded in 1948 to defend the Arab world against western colonial powers has become superfluous."


"A Miserable Association"


Martina Doering said in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (5/24):  "It was a miserable performance that the 22 members of the Arab League offered in Tunis....  What is the value of a paper whose vague formulations did not get the support of the majority of actors?  Nothing.  The Arab League has no political weight and obviously does not want it.  This means that everything remains as it was before.  Somehow they must have failed to realize that the situation around its member states has dramatically changed.  Iraq explodes, the Palestinians are overrun, terrorist groups are on the rise and jeopardize not only the West but mainly their own regimes.  We would not waste an idea of the Arab League if some of its members were not so important:  As suppliers for crude oil."


RUSSIA:  "Nothing New"


Vladimir Bogdanov stated in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (5/24):  "The world heard nothing new or original from the Arab leaders."


"The Making Of An American League"


Yelena Suponina commented in reformist Vremya Novostey (5/24):  "As shown by the summit, the 280 million Arabs are not a single force, as the region where their countries are located is living through the hardest time in history....  The Made in U.S.A. trademark, more than anything else, annoys and attracts the Arabs at the same time.  It is like nicotine--a slow death guaranteed.  Qaddafi has made his choice: since last December he has made every possible concession to Washington, preferring a slow death to the Shakespearean fate of his Iraqi colleague, Saddam Hussein.   The Arabs, their world haunted by divisions and strife, feel even more confused, if not scared, seeing how the U.S. has been acting in their region.  The conflict in Iraq has been an addition to the unresolved Palestinian problem. The U.S. invasion led to violent regime change.  But Washington, for all its failures, won't stop.  Bush has put forward a Greater Middle East concept offering more aid in democratic reform.   The Arabs, dismayed, don't know what to expect from the United States' continued attempts to sow the 'seeds democracy.'   Yet no one will dare say a firm 'no' to the American friend.  Instead, some (Tunisia, for one) rushed to express their servile approval....  Arab governments don't mind reform and democracy, but they are afraid that they may end up with something else."


"Libya's New Image"


Yevgeniy Shestakov wrote in reformist Izvestiya (5/24):  "Libyan leader Muamar Qaddafi walked out of the Arab League summit. It looks as if he went to Tunis to do exactly that.  Qaddafi did his homework, coming up with accusations of 'flabbiness' and disunity against participants in the meeting, sure that his new European allies would put those down to his eccentric character.  The lonely Bedouin without as little as a birth certificate (this is what the Libyan leader likes to call himself) has lived up to his European partners' expectations.   He urges the U.S. and Europe to invest in Libya's oil and gas industry, has offered IAEA inspectors access to WMD production facilities, and has settled political and financial differences with London and Paris.  In a gesture of good will, he has sent to the United States more than 500 tons of equipment that was used for nuclear research in his country.   Qaddafi has made his choice.  His ostentatiously breaking up with the Arab League is just a finishing touch in creating a new image for Libya."


"An Accomplishment"


Ivan Groshkov remarked in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (5/24): "The Arab League summit did take place after all, which, admittedly, is its only accomplishment."




WEST BANK:  "Tunis Summit...A Summit To Ease The Blame"


Hani Masri opined in independent Al-Ayyam (5/25):  "We don't expect or demand the Summit to reject peace and raise the banner of war against Israel or America. We don't predict that Arab leaders will rest as great reformers calling for democracy against their tyrannical regimes....  We, however, expected a stronger denunciation, more realistic decisions and a bigger support to Palestinians in facing the Israeli military aggression....  The Arab Summit could have proposed to the international agenda the Arab peace initiative that was approved in Beirut as a means to turn down any other initiative that enfeebles Palestinian and Arab rights, particularly the old and new versions of Sharon's plan."


"A Leaders' Summit Or A Language Forum?"


Talal Okal wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (5/24):  "Theoretically, The Arab summit in which nine Arab leaders, in addition to Gaddafi and the under siege President Arafat who were absent, has succeeded in drafting a speech and a letter written in a an outstanding style with all the distinguished and sophisticated vocabulary of Arabic language....  The Arab summit has pleased everyone without exception, but did not satisfy anyone.  Any participant in this summit can interpret its decisions as he likes and can act the way he wishes claiming he still operates according to the resolutions made by Arab leaders."


"Words Alone Will Not Save The Arab World"


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (5/24):  "In any case, words alone, no matter how significant they were, can never rescue the Arab world from the crisis and challenges it is facing.  The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and American-British occupation of Iraq can never be ended by simply wishing or rejecting them verbally....  Thus, we believe the real test of Arab leaders is not in the decisions or resolutions they made, rather in their willingness to implement such resolutions and positions and the extent of their concern that this summit is a beginning of a genuine change."


"Beyond The Summit"


Samih Shubeib commented in independent Al-Ayyam (5/24):  "Even though the holding of the summit came during extremely hot events, American demands for reforms in the Arab world were passed and suicide bombings inside Israel were condemned....  It seems that results of the summit will be satisfying to Palestinians, particularly the part on adhering to the Roadmap and resolutions of the international legitimacy, which will get the Arab regimes close to the European position as a first step towards imposing pressure on the American position....  However, this state of satisfaction depends on what comes next.  If no proper mechanisms are developed to implement commitments, including the Roadmap, decisions will only be appeasing and we'll find ourselves facing new Israeli-American developments."


EGYPT:  "Measures Against Israel"


Leading, pro-government Al-Ahram contended (5/22):  "Arab nations expect their leaders to agree on measures to be taken against Israel's criminal and bloody attacks against Palestinian civilians."


"Openly Condemn"


Aggressive, pro-government Al-Akhbar declared (5/22):  "It is hoped the Tunis summit will openly announce its condemnation of the cases of violation of human rights in Iraq and the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in US detention camps."


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Arab Priorities"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (5/25):  "The decisions of the summit in Tunis might reflect the ineffectiveness of yesterday’s tools to fix today’s problems, but they also have a spirit of a new world order.  If people who drafted these resolutions would implement them, this would be a new experience.  Otherwise, if those who believe in the resolutions lose faith in their ability to execute them, then it is another Arab failure.  In any case, the summit resolutions reflect a new Arab trend and a new direction, even if they are imposed."


"The Pledge Document And The Arab Future"


Makkah’s conservative Al-Nadwa observed (5/25):  "Fears of failure preceded the Arab Summit in Tunis.  But Arab leaders proved that they are capable of overcoming their differences and standing united in the face of danger and today’s challenges.  Endorsing the Pledge document means that the Arab world has taken its first step towards a new phase.  This is a new period of development, progress, and cooperative Arab efforts at every level.  The pledge also represents a promise of peace and stability for the whole region."


"After The Arab Summit"


Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad editorialized (5/24):  "The issue is no longer to convene or not to convene an Arab summit.  But the nations of the region are looking forward to decisive movements as a result of Arab summits.  The Arab ship today is sailing against a high tide and against crushing waves.  International communities have failed to resolve Middle East conflicts, including the Israeli-Palestinian struggle and the Iraqi turmoil.  To take a positive and strong position on critical issues, the decision has to come from within.  Therefore, any Arab resolution must be first credible, and then it must be compliant with International conventions to enforce its implementation."


"The Summit And The Resolutions"


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan opined (5/24):  "In brief, the Arab summit was supposed to have been an introduction to a brighter Arab future. It was supposed to present the vision of Arab leaders for the future....  When we find our true democratic systems we will be able to identify yesterday’s mistakes and outline the steps for a better tomorrow.  We must learn from our past mistakes to build a stronger Arab coalition."


"Arabs’ Hope And The People Of The Summit"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina observed (5/23):  "Arab leaders are expected to agree on specific procedures to halt the vicious aggression against Palestinians.  This should be achieved in a framework of political, economic, social, and humane reform strategies that are tailored to suit the diverse societies.  The hope is for the summit to come out with practical and actionable solutions as opposed to slogans and political clichés."   


"Gloomy Future"


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan noted (5/23):  "Arab kings and presidents, or those who represent them at the summit, will soon return to their countries after they issue the closing statement for the summit.  Next year when they meet in Algeria they will discuss the same issues and come up with the same closing statement.  A gloomy future for Arabs, but it is the truth."


"No Hopes Out Of The Tunis’ Summit"


Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad remarked (5/23):  "If the summit in Tunis succeeded in achieving what it had previously failed to do, it would still face major turmoil because of the Palestinian and Iraqi conflicts.  That is in addition to the danger that threatens Syria, the ideological disputes among Arab leaders, and the current ailing state of Arab countries.  We do not expect a lot out of the summit except producing a record to register the diverse positions."


"The Summit And The Success Bet"


Jeddah’s moderate Okaz declared (5/23):  "The resolutions of the summit must rise to the level of challenges and be closer to Arab aspirations.  Arab citizens are shocked by the degrading violations of prisoner rights in Iraq, and the daily bombardment of imported reform plans.  Arab citizens are helpless without a regional institution that represents their needs.  The Arab League has no credibility.  There is no other choice for the summit but to succeed, because its failure will be worse than the crisis that followed the earlier decision to postpone it."


"The Summit’s Priorities"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (5/22):  "Despite the apologies of some Arab leaders for missing the Arab Summit in Tunis, the hope is that their absence would not have an impact on the seriousness to reach solutions for the issues at hand.  Although not too many people have high expectations for a valuable closing statement after the summit, at least there has to be a clear vision and plan with strategies for the future.  Let us not forget that the thousand-mile journey begins with the first step."


"Inseparable Twins, But…!"


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan held (5/22):  "Arabs expect very little from the Summit in Tunis.  Arabs have had enough condemnations and denouncing statements.  These decisions and remarks have not been able to heal the wounds of Palestinians, and they have certainly failed to do anything for the Iraqis.  Not much is expected on the terrorism issue either.  Arabs know deep inside that Arab summits and empty condemning and denouncing statements are inseparable twins, but they still hope that this summit might come up with a unified Arab position on critical issues." 


"A Disaster Is Coming"


Jeddah’s moderate Okaz noted (5/22):  "We think that time is not on our side and it does not serve the interests of our countries and nations.  The issues require more than just a summit.  Leaders of Arab countries, or at least the influential ones, are expected to hold side meetings to salvage what can be saved before it is too late, and before the earthquake hits us.  This terrifying truth, although painful, is a reality.  The animosity against our nations has entered a dangerous phase. It is almost impossible for us to face this danger in our current weak and paralyzed state."


"Puzzles Of The Tunis Arab Summit"


Riyadh conservative Al-Riyadh opined (5/22):  "The Arab League is in a crisis over reform issues and on relations of Arab governments with their own people, who aspire to build more transparent and fair systems.  Disputes with foreign powers, which translated their policies into fighting, occupation, and imposition of solutions, have made some Arab leaders act like U.S. ambassadors, and they are even more [dedicated] than U.S. diplomatic missions."


"Steering Of The Arab Ship In Tunis"


Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazira maintained (5/22):  "Arab leaders have no other choice except to be pragmatic in dealing with vital current issues such as terrorism and reform....  The Arab ship is facing many strong storms and requires wisdom and a vigilant leadership in order to save the Arab ship from sinking."




Pan-Arab London-based Arabic-language Al-Sharq Al-Awsat held (5/22):  "The truth is that no Arab government can do anything to end Israeli occupation or the occupation by US troops in Iraq, because the balance of power is against them. Whatever they did or will try to do, it will be impossible for them to win."




Ghassan Charbel stated in pan-Arab London-based Al-Hayat (5/20): "With the Arab world ailing now more than ever, Saturday's Arab summit in Tunis is under pressure to deliver on both the Palestinian and Iraqi questions....  This means there is an urgent need to reassess the Arabs' relationship with the US administration and size up US demands....  If the officials gathered at the summit do not reassess their policies toward the US, it will jeopardize the life of the summit's ill patient, the Arab world, which is lying in the emergency room waiting to be resuscitated....  The Arab leaders convening this weekend have to tend to their two present captives: Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and the Arab world....  An Arab world incapable of pushing for the freeing of an elected Palestinian leader like Arafat from Israeli captivity is definitely going to fail to regain its lost territories and secure a just peace with an adversary so keen on trespassing international resolutions....  The Arab delegates to the summit know very well that the situation in Iraq is not merely a U.S. crisis per say, but an Iraqi and Arab one par excellence....  Would it be possible for Arab leaders to come up with a unified Arab policy regarding post-war Iraq?  How can Arabs influence events in their own region? Is it through knocking on the doors of the UN or resigning themselves again to the White House?  Arab delegates know that June 30, the day of the power transfer to the Iraqis, is a fork in the road of this intensifying crisis, and that any hesitation by the Arabs to seriously tackle the issue will prove costly for Iraqis, Arabs and Americans."


ALGERIA:  "The Americans' New Arab Ally"


French-language La Nouvelle Republique maintained (5/23):  "Promoted to the position of an ‘exceptional partner’ after that the relations between the two countries had been limited to trade exchanges for a long time, Algeria is now attracting Washington’s interest.  Burns’ visit comes in the context of the preparations for the Arab summit, where important reforms are envisioned.”


“The Weak Arab Leaders”


Leading Arabic-language El Khabar contended (5/22):  "The only parties responsible for the degrading situation in the Arab world are the Arab leaders themselves.  The White House is not the cause, as many Arab leaders have tried to say in the past.”


"The Arab Summit"


Top-circulation influential French-language Le Quotidien d’Oran asserted (5/22):  "One of the rare and valuable advantages of the Arab Summit is to offer to Arabs the beginnings of answers to questions regarding problems in their world.  They have to establish a road map that is credible enough to be presented in the next G-8 Summit in the United States.  It is a chance that should not be missed now that Washington is showing some wavering signs in Iraq.”


BAHRAIN:  "Time For Action"


The pro-government English-language Bahrain Tribune noted (5/25):  "They call it the 'reform agenda' in the Tunis Summit. But certainly the representatives of the Arab governments in the summit in Tunisia are clear in recognising that 'democracy' and 'popular participation' are no longer just foreign concepts that they can shun. Issues of democratisation are for real, and are pressing the governments more than ever.  Reforms are also no longer seen as catchwords being imported from outside sources, such as the US. Rather there is a felt urgency amongst the Arabs that there is a real need to shift to democracy and espouse pro-people governance.  The rapid pace of globalisation and the race towards modernisation can only be guided rightly when the proper political mechanisms are in place. For many Arab countries, the time beckons them to do some 'catching up' with the pace of the rest of the world. The clamour for change after all is not so much that the US or the West are calling for it, but more importantly the clamour is also coming from within. Arab peoples, whether in the Gulf States or across parts of the Middle East and North Africa, are no longer just fence-sitters or bystanders as they used to be. They clearly want their share, they clearly want their stakes in the way things are managed by their governments. Development and all the processes it takes is something that should espouse for the participation of everyone.  There are so many lessons to learn from the war and the current crisis in Iraq. But definitely, one of the lessons that can be learned from it is that Iraq has gone to where it is now because it had for years stayed under the grips of a totalitarian regime....  There is tension in other Arab countries because the different poles of democracy and extremism, of totalitarianism and popularism are now clashing. But the directions are pointing towards that end--these countries are all heading towards democratising their own systems.  The summit in Tunis has acknowledged and now beyond such pronouncements, so many Arab governments will surely find themselves needing to do some cleaning in their own yards. The time for change has come and for many it is now or never."


JORDAN:  "An Achievement In Itself"


The independent, English-language elite Jordan Times commented (5/23):  "Holding the Arab summit in Tunis can be seen as an achievement in itself....  That shows there is a minimum common denominator among the Arab countries.  Still, the main issue is not the presence or absence of some Arab leaders in Tunis. The central challenge has remained the same since the start of Arab summits: To what extent can the Arab world forge a deep-rooted and lasting common front on existing crises?  Today, the crises are spiralling out of control.  And they are doing so at a time when the Arab world is under pressure to reform....  The Palestinian and Iraqi conflicts top the agenda. On the Palestinian front, the Arab summit is expected to express the same old pious statements supporting the Palestinian people and condemning Israel. Pledging continuous faith in the Quartet-backed roadmap for peace is a foregone conclusion....  But can the Arab summit this time go beyond the usual rhetoric?....  On the Iraqi file, where differences of opinion are sure to emerge, despite agreement on the need to end the occupation, can the Arab countries still not devise a coherent and united policy on how to prepare Iraq for a better future?....  While everyone is talking about restoring stability in Iraq so that democracy can take hold, the rest of the Arab world is still divided over a similar subject, reform, which translates into democracy.  The summit is expected to formulate and adopt a rather loose and general formula for reforming the Arab countries. But beyond expressing a yearning for reform across the Arab landscape, it is virtually impossible for the Arab heads of state to articulate a reform package that would suit all....  While the Arab peoples have got used to dismissing such meetings as nothing but formalities, there is always room for surprise."


"Positive Step"


Semi-official Arabic-language influential Al-Rai contended (5/22):  "The convening of the summit is a positive step, which could help overcome the bitterness which followed the postponement of the March summit....  A lot of serious questions are being asked about the summit expected to begin today. Arab leaders must therefore answer these questions, because people are watching and waiting."


KUWAIT:  "Only To Save Face"


Independent Al-Seyassah observed (5/22):  "The Arab leaders are keen to save face, and to save face they meet today, if they meet at all, with whoever is there and at whatever level. They will issue to the world a declaration...that will not contain one single useful sentence."


LEBANON:  “The Summit Demands And Decisions On Others”


Rafiq Khoury maintained in centrist Al-Anwar (5/25):  “The documents varied, but the content is one: registering demands and setting goals without making any decision....  The Arab Summit in Tunis...was a summit of embarrassed absentees, while those who were present were in such a hurry to leave that some did not even wait for the closing session.”


“The Last Stop”


Sateh Noureddin contended in Arab nationalist As-Safir (5/25):  “The Tunis Summit has left the impression that it might be the last Arab summit, leaving one to deduce that the meeting Arab leaders are scheduled to hold in Algiers next year is nothing but an empty promise that will not be fulfilled without a series of miracles....  Arab leaders rejected an Egyptian proposal to collectively deal with initiatives advocating reform and change...but such an official Arab rejection of the external initiatives to introduce reforms was a very courageous and brave position....  We can say that Arab leaders defied America in such an exceptional manner, only because the American initiatives calling for reform, especially the Greater Middle East initiative, are not as serious as the press is saying.  It is just a hoax American president George Bush’s Administration adopted to give its occupation of Iraq some legality before the American public opinion and the world.”


“Reform Before And After The Summit”


Radwan As-Sayyed asserted in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (5/25):  “A feeling of relief rather than content prevailed after the Summit, because the fact that it convened has become enough to reduce the fears that gathered as a result of its postponement.  No one is asking about the results any more....  It is clear that no one will care about decisions made at the Summit and that the relationship with the U.S. will continue to be one of the dearest secrets to the heart of every Arab official.  A dear secret he would not share with anyone no matter how much it hurts or humiliates him.”


"The Summit Of Everything And Nothing”


Independent Al-Balad argued (5/24):  “The Arab Summit was not expected to issue more than it did....  Arab summits in general...start with every one trying to appease each other and end up in a similar manner.  The Tunis Summit was no exception....  The only new issue in the Summit is Arab ‘rejection of the targeting civilians’ within the Arab-Israeli conflict.”


"Another Arab League Spectacle Draws To A Close"


The English-language moderate Daily Star opined (5/24):  "Another charade has drawn to a close. As the curtain falls on the latest performance of the veteran Arab League spectacle, the people of the Arab world wonder at their leaders' capacity for shifting hot air and not much else....  Declarations were signed, and statements made and presented as evidence that Arab leaders had committed themselves and their governments to promoting democracy, civil society and human rights. The declarations and statements, however, were broad, and short on specifics. Unfortunately, this is not out of character. Additionally, eight leaders failed to attend the summit, one walked out, and four others departed before the final session. The spectacle analogy is irresistible. The only good news is that the word 'reform,' according to whatever interpretation, is now a matter of general concern across the Middle East....  But regional cooperation and coordination are simply nonexistent, and the Arab League--in any case always an indirect arm of Egyptian foreign policy--is not effective, nor even viable....  We will not hold our breath waiting for reforms to be implemented, and any expectations centering on the next summit, to be hosted by Algeria, must be circumspect....  Much will happen between now and then, and the Arab League, as in the past, is unlikely to keep abreast of new crises as they evolve, let alone deal with a long-standing backlog of pledges to initiate something resembling reform."


"Beyond Their Capabilities"


Samih Saab wrote in moderate, anti-Syria An-Nahar (5/23):  "The issues on the Tunis Arab summit agenda are beyond the capabilities of Arab leaders, and the only result we can expect from this meeting is Arab rhetoric....  There were three main issues on the discussion table in Tunisia: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, post-war Iraq and Arab reform.  Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon is determined to demolish as many Palestinian houses as he can, and displace many Palestinians in Rafah before he implements his disengagement plan in the Gaza Strip....  Arab leaders could neither ask U.S. President George W. Bush to curb Sharon's aggression against the Palestinians, nor could they ask Bush to be a fair mediator between Israel and the Arabs, because Washington is completely biased toward Tel Aviv.  Concerning post-war Iraq, Washington has a complete monopoly on this issue, and the U.S. administration is not ready to take any advice from the Arabs....  Regarding Arab reform, Arab officials are not enthusiastic about this issue. Whether reform is imposed by the US, through the Greater Middle East Initiative, or it comes from within is not the issue. Arab leaders have completely rejected reform under the pretext that the climate would be unsuitable as long as the Arab-Israeli conflict goes on....  Whether Bush or his rival, Democratic Senator John Kerry, were in the White House...Washington is not ready at this juncture to push either for Arab reform or a solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict."


"No Difference"


Moderate, anti-Syria An-Nahar mused (5/22):  "Whether the Arab summit is convened or not, there is no difference, because we know that political will on the part of Arab governments does not exist when it comes to Arab co-operation."


OMAN:  "Bush, AIPAC, And The Festival Of Hypocrisy"


Semi-independent, Arabic-language Al-Watan averred (5/19):  "Bush recently bragged about the joint values of the U.S. and Israel in front of AIPAC, the Jewish lobby.  These joint values seem to be destruction, hostility, and human rights violations.  What kind of logic is it where the leader of a superpower bases his country’s stability on the support of Israel, yet Israel is incapable of preventing one suicide operation?  Perhaps we should not be surprised at this logic, given that America’s leader arrived at the White House through a court decision and not through the votes of a majority of the American people.  Is there any hope left for the promotion of Palestinian rights--endorsed by both Rice and Powell--and the establishment of a Palestinian state?  It is a question that needs to be addressed at the Tunisian summit.  We are hoping for an answer."      


QATAR:  "Tunis Summit Will Not Meet Arab Aspirations"


The semi-independent English-language Gulf Times editorialized (5/24):  "The Arab summit in Tunis was shaky from the beginning. Representation was below par and probably at the lowest level since the Arab League was set up....  Once again, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi stole the show, staging a dramatic walk-out, denouncing the League as a failed body and its leaders for failing to defend Arab interests....  Gaddafi accused the League of holding its summit while two Arab presidents, Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat, were imprisoned. He also swore never to attend another League summit....  Gaddafi has always been idiosyncratic and unpredictable but his stance yesterday probably reflects the mood of ordinary Arabs. Nobody expects much from the summit and its sole achievement it likely to be that it took place, rather than being cancelled.  The final communique has been leaked and offers no initiatives and no significant shift in the position of the League....  Nobody expected the League to call for an end to the occupation of Iraq, but it did at least denounce crimes against prisoners.  Many Arabs would have hoped that the summit would have taken a tougher line on Israel, in view of the atrocities it is committing....  Many would also like to see the U.S. being punished for its wholehearted support of the Zionist state, perhaps through a reduction of oil output. But, like Gaddafi, ordinary people feel that League lacks the will to take any radical action.  The reaction to the Arab League summit in most Arab capitals is simple apathy.  Even the League's expected endorsement of democracy and human rights fails to ignite enthusiasm, as the absence of a timetable for action indicates that there is little enthusiasm for such reforms so the League's stand will have no effect on the behaviour of individual members."


SYRIA:  "Tunisia Summit And Challenges"


The government-owned English-language Syria Times thundered (5/24):  "The Arab peoples do not expect from their leaders a magic wand that changes all the bad conditions and the deteriorating situation. They only have a hope that they take one stand to stop the terrible collapse from which the dismembered body of the [Arab] nation is suffering....  Whether in Palestine or in Iraq, the nation is still bleeding seriously, but other brethren states stand inactive and onlookers as if the defenseless people in Palestine and Iraq do not belong to them in history and blood!  Although Arab peoples have negative and melancholic views on the summit meeting and their leaders' stands, they have a relative optimism that the Tunis Summit Conference might bring about a better stand....  In Rafah, Gaza Strip, the streets were drenched in blood, littered with scores of dead bodies and bleeding wounded people....  Meanwhile, the US warplanes dropped more than 100 bombs on a town close to Syrian border killing over 41 civilians, who were celebrating a wedding....  Arab leaders are urged to take a stronger stand to put an end to these Nazi-like practices and to confront the current challenges....  But, the Arab leaders have to prove it as a real turning point by closing their ranks and uniting their capabilities in confrontation of the hostile onslaught.  The Arab leaders have several basic issues other than the liberation of occupied lands. They have to deal with the deteriorating economic conditions their citizens suffer. Leaders have both national and socio-economic issues to deal with. Will they set things on the right path. Unity of their strategy and means to reach national goals are the first steps required to be taken by them."




Government-owned Tishreen argued (5/22):  "The scenario is all the more dark because all the Arab countries live under a permanent blockade, daily receiving threats and 'orders' and being subjected to strong pressure with the aim of redrawing a new Middle East, in conformity with the objectives of the new colonialism and Israel."


UAE:  "What's The Point Of Arab League?


The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News held (5/24):  "When you ask an Arab the reason behind the existence of the Arab League, the answer is usually a response that encompasses the question in a cynical, rhetorical, angry form followed by the word 'useless.'  Many are not surprised at the outcome of the Tunis 'summit' held over the past two days. In fact there were no expectations....  The summit was a theatrical show with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi storming out of the opening session and leaders of nearly half of the member countries not attending. The usual support for Palestinians was recorded and the condemnation of torture in Iraqi prisons was repeated. Some declarations on reforms were made, but it is yet to be seen whether any results will follow....  The average Arab citizen wants a League that addresses the needs of the region.  Political strife, economic hardship, and civil liberties are of great concern to everyone in the Middle East. The Arab League has failed to deliver on these issues....  As a result, the constant deterioration in the Middle East has continued....  The Arab League needs to seriously consider its purpose. The choice is either to continue being a tool for superpowers which they use for their interests, or to work on producing a better Middle East for its people and improving the standing of this rich region on the world stage."


"Curb Sharon"


Dubai-based business-oriented government-owned Arabic-language Al-Bayan maintained (5/22):  "There are several issues to be agreed upon at the Tunis summit, such as curbing Sharon the terrorist's attempts to change history and geography through massive genocide campaigns against Palestinian civilians."




INDONESIA:  “Arab League Summit Messy By Khadafy’s Boycott”


Leading independent Kompas stated (5/24):  “The efforts to strengthen solidarity and unity, the minimum target of the Arab League Summit in Tunis, looked messy [to the extent] that Moamar Khadafy left the venue soon after the conference was opened on 5/22.  Khadafy boycotted the summit because his idea for the formation of a single Israel-Palestine state failed to enter the agenda of the summit....  Khadafi’s boycott constituted a blow to efforts to demonstrate unity and solidarity among the league members in dealing with the Iraqi and Palestinian issues, and in formulating a common reform agenda....  The Arab League felt guilty for their inability to prevent the U.S. from invading and occupying Iraq.  The feeling of helplessness of the league in defending the Palestinian struggle and the fate of the Iraqi people has affected the Tunis Summit as a whole.  Concern, restlessness and nervousness are very apparent....  Moreover, the Arab countries that adopt absolute monarchic system are nervous about the reform agenda in the political, social and economic areas.”        

“Arab Summit And Bad Fate Of Iraq And Palestine”


Independent Media Indonesia concluded (5/24):  “Would the Summit be able to provide a solution to the two countries that almost everyday produce horror stories?  In Palestine death is getting closer because of the many Israel operations.  Whereas, in Iraq death has become common place because of the strikes by the U.S.-led coalition forces....  The world has always ended up in deadlock finding a solution to the Iraq and Palestine issues because of the U.S. In Iraq, it is clear that the war in the country has been waged because of President Bush’s personal ambitions.  While in Palestine, Israel strikes are supported by the U.S., but no loud voice has come from the Arab world against the U.S.  Bigger anti-war demonstrations have on the contrary been staged in non-Arab countries.  The Arab countries seem to have lost their power....  Therefore, expecting a surprise from the Arab Summit is next to impossible.  But the Summit will at least show the world that--they still exist, that they still have their own hope and future, a future based on their own cultural values, not a forced one just as that the U.S. does in Iraq.”  


PAKISTAN:  "An Arab Non-Event"


Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn remarked (5/25):  "As was only to be expected, the Arab League summit conference ended at Tunis on Sunday without producing any results. The meeting epitomized Arab disunity....  The fact is that the Arab leaders do not have their feet on the ground. Many of them run systems that are not accountable and deny even elementary political freedom to their own people. The media throughout the Arab world is shackled, and dissent is suppressed.  No wonder, lacking popular support, the Arab leaders need western, especially American, support for survival. They cannot be expected to stand up against their foreign benefactors."



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