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“Saudi-Syrian dispute in fierce media war with imminence of elections…”


On November 12, the Palestinian-owned al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following report by Anwar al-Qassem: “Nabih Birri’s saying that the Lebanese laundry can only be washed with an SS soap is true and by SS he meant Syria and Saudi Arabia. However, the implementation of this saying is awaiting the end of the bitter crisis of distrust and the cold relations between the two leaderships. As for their respective media campaigns, they are nowadays growing fiercer with the imminence of the election of the new Lebanese president.

“Throughout last week, media outlets in both countries witnessed a mud-slinging which reached its peak when the Syrian electronic Sham Press newspaper carried an article by Robert Fisk taken from The Independent in which he stated the sad truth: “We are supplying the Saudi rulers with planes, whiskey and prostitutes”. He also talked about the massive bribes given to the royal family, the oppression of women, minorities and armies of servants, and the cutting off of heads in public squares. This article was also well received by another electronic newspaper which is Akhbar Souria [Syria’s News]. This would have not been the case hadn’t there been a political will which wanted to deliver its message at this specific point in time.

“Moreover, the Saudi press also carried throughout last month articles criticizing Syria and its foreign policy. For example, a Saudi newspaper issued abroad carried an article headlined: “Is Damascus roaring or moaning”, while every Saudi paper or electronic newspaper featured on a daily basis articles about Syria written by Syrian opposition figures... What was noticeable was that previously, the media war between Syria and Saudi Arabia used to be carried out by proxy in the Lebanese media scene in particular. However, according to close sources, this was the first time that the Syrian electronic media entered the scene in this strong and influential way...

“The Syrian traditional media artillery in Lebanon had launched many missiles against Saudi Arabia two months ago through Syria’s allies, MP Wi’am Wahhab and journalist and former MP Naser Qandil, both of whom corroborated the Saudi indirect support of the Israeli war against Lebanon. A pro-Syrian newspaper in Beirut even said that Saudi Arabia knew about the Israeli attack in advance, a thing which was strongly and angrily denied by the Saudis. Observers considered that the Syrian-Saudi dispute which emerged following the assassination of al-Hariri reached its peak when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described some Arab rulers as being “half men” following the Israeli war on Lebanon...

“Ever since these statements were made, the cold and hidden war that was ongoing between the two governments became public and more heated, especially following the fiery statements issued by Syrian VP Farouq al-Sharaa in which he accused the Saudi position of being paralyzed and impotent in what caused it to lose the interest of its ally, the US. This position forced Saudi Arabia to respond publicly in an unprecedented move. It described al-Sharaa’s statements as being lies and fabrications and that they couldn’t have been issued by a sane and stable man... Riyadh is accusing Damascus of allying with Iran in what is weakening the Arab joint action in favor of Persian influence.

“Moreover, in Saudi Arabia’s opinion, the Islamic Republic is trying to act on behalf of the Arabs at the level of the Palestinian cause after Riyadh failed to uphold the Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah which was toppled by America. As for Syria, it is blaming Saudi Arabia for not accepting to hold a Syrian-Saudi-Egyptian summit which was called for by President al-Assad to settle the pending issues in the region.

“It is accusing Saudi Arabia of submitting to American orders by escalating the crisis on the Lebanese scene in order to push the ball away from the Iraqi court and into the Lebanese court, and also accusing it of escalating the situation with Syria following the recent visit of Saudi FM Saud al-Faisal to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in order to hasten the formation of the international tribunal... On the other hand, observers believed that even though both the Syrian and Saudi leaderships wanted calm, there was a Saudi movement led by Prince Bandar Bin Sultan which was trying to pressure Syria into distancing itself from Iran in favor of the American position.

“This movement is doing so by inciting Sa’d al-Hariri and Walid Junblatt to hinder any solution which might secure Syria’s influence at the level of naming the upcoming president of the republic. The visit made to Egypt by the Saudi King following his visit to Europe might corroborate this inclination. However the developments indicate that any kind of soap - whether in Lebanon, Palestine, through the upcoming fall conference or the securing of stability in Iraq - will not be able to wash the hearts between the two capitals...” - Al-Quds al-Arabi, United Kingdom


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