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August 19, 2006
Arab Media Take Aim At Assad

After Bashar Assad called Arab leaders "half men" for failing to rally to Hezbollah's support, state-sponsored media in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia have castigated Assad in terms usually reserved for infidels. His critics have called him a coward and a dead rosebud, among other epithets:

Syria's president sparked a wave of anger after he knocked Mideast leaders as "half men" in a televised speech, underlining the divisions as Arab nations try to form a unified front in the wake of the Lebanon crisis.

The bitterness over Bashar Assad's speech last week will likely stir up a gathering of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Sunday. The meeting is supposed to pave the way for a summit of heads of state later in the month that will draw up plans to help rebuild Lebanon - and try to launch a new Arab peace initiative with Israel.

So far governments have not commented on Assad's jibes - instead, the task has been left to newspapers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan - some of which are state-guided - which have been sizzling with personal and direct attacks on Assad the like of which the region has not seen directed against an Arab leader in years.

One paper described the Syrian president as a rose that has failed to bloom. Another berated him for remaining silent throughout Israel's offensive on Lebanon. And a third mocked all his talk about resistance when not a single bullet has been fired from Syria toward the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Assad had been silent throughout the 34 days of fighting in Lebanon between Israel and Hizbullah, a Syrian ally. But the day after a cease-fire set in, he gave his speech.

One might expect the man who went into hiding after the Israeli Air Force buzzed his house after the Gilad Shalit kidnapping -- and didn't emerge for over a month -- would take care in tossing out accusations of insufficient masculinity. The accidental dictator apparently didn't think before berating other Arabs for a lack of testicular fortitude.

He's making a big mistake. As the Jerusalem Post notes, Assad has made his alignment with Teheran even more explicit with this speech, which will cut him off from the mainly Sunni Arab governments in the region. Even apart from the sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites (Assad himself is a Shi'ite), the Arabs do not want Persian rule. They have a deeper mistrust of Teheran than they do of the Israelis and the Americans, whom they know to act rationally. None of them want to take their cues from a panel of mullahs from Qom, nor from their latest nutcase mouthpiece.

It's not the first mistake that the myopic opthalmologist has made, even this month. Earlier, Assad stated that he will apparently mothball the Syrian armed forces in exchange for setting up Hezbollah-like guerilla groups in an attempt to wrest the Golan Heights from Israel. What Assad apparently doesn't understand is that Hezbollah enjoyed an advantage in Lebanon only because the world considered the terror group separate from the nation itself. Any guerilla warfare in the Golan region will result in the destruction of the Syrian air force, their armored units, and most of their infrastructure within the first few hours of the engagement -- because Syria will have responsibility for this militia just the same as it does for the actions of its traditional armed forces.

Assad does not appear very stable. One has to wonder whether the pressures of the job has affected his mind. Other Arab leaders must be asking themselves the same questions.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 19, 2006 11:37 AM

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» Arab Media Take Aim At Assad from Old War Dogs
After Bashar Assad called Arab leaders half men for failing to rally to Hezbollah's support, state-sponsored media in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia have castigated Assad in terms usually reserved for infidels. His critics have called him a coward and [Read More]

Tracked on August 19, 2006 12:43 PM

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