Arab Media Slams Pro-Israel Lobby over Freeman Controversy

The defeat of ex-diplomat Chas Freeman is seen as a sign of Obama administration weakness.

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By Larry Derfner, Mideast Watch

Arab media appalled over Freeman debacle

Even relatively liberal Arab newspapers are appalled at the inside-the-beltway fight that caused Charles Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, to withdraw as newly named chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Like Freeman himself, Arab media blame the pro-Israel lobby and worry that this is a sign that the Obama administration, like its predecessor, will be afraid to challenge Israeli policies. Lebanon's Daily Star editorializes:

The unjustifiable character assassination succeeded in prompting Freeman to resign from his post—and in depriving Obama of the advice of a man who has shown a realistic understanding of the Arab world. But it did not make Israel or America any safer.

The Jordan Times joins the criticism with its own editorial:

Israel has led the U.S. by its tail as far as foreign policy is concerned for decades now. Mostly, this has been to the detriment of U.S. interests. Yet the power and influence of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington is such that even if American national interests are sacrificed at the altar of Israeli interests, it hardly has an impact.

Arab liberals warn about Obama's opening to militant Islam

At the same time that liberal Arabs oppose America's pro-Israel tilt, they are worried about the Obama administration's intention to engage diplomatically with radical Islamic forces such as Iran and the Taliban. Commentator Elias Harfoush writes in Lebanon's Dar al-Hayat of what he says is a harsh lesson learned recently in Pakistan of what comes from dealing with the Taliban:

There is no more obvious proof of the failure of any attempt to lure moderates from Taliban to a political settlement than what the Zardari government in Pakistan did recently. The Pakistani regime released the hands of the Pakistani branch of Taliban, as it believed that they can be dealt with, in an attempt to regain control of the Swat province. But what was the result? More murders and torture of those opposed to the movement and more suffering for the people who returned after the truce on the assumptions that stability was restored. More decapitated bodies of singers and artists and people whom the Taliban accuse of doing "indecent" activities, more attacks on female school teachers, including throwing acid at their faces on their way to work or threatening them with murder if they persist in their professions. As a result, many schools had to close down, while the whole Pakistani province relived the worst days of Taliban rule in Afghanistan before September 11 and the American invasion.

Morocco breaks ties with Iran over religion

Morocco, a moderate Sunni Arab kingdom, has broken off diplomatic relations with Iran, charging the Islamic republic's diplomatic mission in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, with attempting to spread its Shiite brand of Islam among the population. Al Jazeera reports:

A statement from Morocco's foreign ministry on Friday accused the Iranian embassy of "intolerable interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom" and of engaging in activities which threatened the religious unity of the country.

Monouchehr Mottaki, Iran's foreign minister, said Morocco's decision was unexpected. "The action by the Morocco government is surprising and questionable," Mottaki told reporters.

Moroccan local media has repeatedly accused Iran of proselytizing in recent years, claims rejected by the Iranian ambassador. Sunni scholars in Morocco have denounced what they say is an effort to convert people to Shia Islam, arguing that such a practice could ultimately lead to sectarian strife similar to that witnessed in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.

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