REACTIONS IN GULF TO ISRAEL-LEBANON FLARE-UP DIVERGE

Bob Tippee
Editor

When violence escalates in and around Israel, reactions from the Persian Gulf are of course very important to oil markets.

With the Israeli military striking targets in Lebanon in response to kidnappings and rocket attacks, oil supplies from Iran and Syria are at risk. The governments of those countries support the militant groups Hezbollah, which has pestered Israel from southern Lebanon, and Hamas, striking lately out of Gaza.

But reactions from other gulf states are important, even if—or perhaps because—none sounds like a menace to oil trade. Most of those reported in English-language newspapers followed convention.

"Civilians suffer after Zionist raid," said a Bahrain Tribune headline. The Tribune and Bahrain's Gulf Daily News emphasized Israeli aggression and Lebanese casualties.

An editorial in Gulf News, Dubai, described the flare-up as "the bullying reaction of Israel in Lebanon in retaliation to a brazen operation by the Hezbollah fighters."

Khaleej Times, Dubai, said, "Israel has expanded its offensive against the Palestinians up to Lebanon." It did have words for Hezbollah and the Palestinians, "especially the Hamas government," calling on them to avoid provoking Israel or providing "more excuses to target defenseless Palestinian and Lebanese civilians."

Before the Israeli attacks, an article in Kuwait Times attributed the kidnappings of Israeli soldiers directly to Hezbollah and Hamas and "their backers in Damascus and Tehran."

The most interesting response was also the easiest to miss. Saudi Arabia circulated a statement, by "an official Saudi source," beginning with an assertion of "the right of people under occupation to resist this occupation in all its forms."

Then it called for a distinction "between legitimate resistance and uncalculated adventures carried out by elements inside the state and those behind them without consultation with the legitimate authority in their state and without consultation or coordination with Arab countries, thus creating a gravely dangerous situation exposing all Arab countries and their achievements to destruction with those countries having no say."

The Al Jazeera network called this mouthful—which also declared, "These elements alone bear the full responsibility of these irresponsible acts"—a "sideswipe at Hezbollah."

It didn't come a moment too soon.

The next Editor's Perspective will appear July 28.

(Online July 14, 2006; author's e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)


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