Brussels Attack

Middle East State-Run Media Blame Brussels Attack on Their Regimes' Enemies

The Middle East's hew hidden hands


Who was ultimately behind the Brussels attacks? In the Middle East, that depends on which country's press you're reading. One pattern that's emerged, according to a report prepared by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), is that those responsible for making such attacks possible through their support for the perpetrators are also the enemies of whatever regime is behind the paper you're reading.

Egypt's official media, for example, blame the Muslim Brotherhood—the main opponent of the regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi—along with the MB's European sympathizers. Meanwhile, Saudi media close to that country's government blame the Iranians and their Syrian allies, the Shi'ite Iranians being the perceived enemies of the Sunni Arab world. In Syria, the regime-controlled media say that the terrorists in Europe are interchangeable with the terrorists who are at war with the Assad regime, and blame the Saudis, the Qataris, and the Turks for supporting them. The Palestinian press cites anger at Israel, and blames Israel's supporters in the West.

You'll note that there is one party that is usually blamed for almost everything that goes wrong in the Middle East, but that in this round-up of suspects is playing a secondary, passive role. We'll get to that later. First, some examples from our chorus of finger-pointers (translations by MEMRI).

"The blasts in Brussels are a ringing shout that calls to Europe to awaken from her slumber," wrote Ali Nasrallah in Al Thawra, an official Syrian paper. "They are a direct continuation of the terrorism that has targeted the Syrians, shed the hearts' blood of the Iraqis, and harmed many peoples in the region and the world. This terrorism would not have spread had its organizations and its supporting entities not received an American green light, and not received Western incentives that spurred and encouraged the Israelis to place their knowhow at the service of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, in order to intensify the strength of Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and ISIS…"

Nasrallah also noted the recent visit to France of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Naif, who was given the Legion of Honor medal by French President Francois Hollande as an award for fighting terrorism. Nasrallah accused France of selling its honor to the Saudis, and called on the French to "immediately prosecute him [Hollande] for shaming the French decorations of honor by pinning them to the robe of Saudi extremism…" While he was at it, Nasrallah urged "all the parliaments in Europe [to] prosecute their own governments for [their] policy of tolerance towards [Turkish President] Erdogan's Muslim Brotherhood regime…"

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's official daily Al-Riyadh fingered Iran. "…The war on terrorism requires not only hunting down the terrorists in Iraq and Syria, where they are located, but also looking for those who afford them safe haven on their soil…and aid the terrorist militias. [These militias] ceaselessly fan the flames of hatred among sectors [of the population], and push both the Syrians and the Iraqis to behave in extremist ways, after their countries were destroyed. This happened and is still happening, in both Iraq and Syria, which are in fact controlled by Iran's agenda."

Over in Cairo, Egypt's Al-Ahram, that country's "semi-official" daily (as it's long been dubbed), saw in Brussels the shadow of the Muslim Brotherhood. "For a long time, [Egypt] warned that terrorism would spread to the heart of Europe, and that the West's [flagrant] disregard of the war that Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries had for years waged against terrorism does not mean that the fire of terrorism would spare it…

"However, time has shown that the religious organizations embraced by the West, chiefly the [Muslim] Brotherhood organization, are the ideological hotbed for all extremist takfiri organizations [takfiris are Sunnis who accuse other Muslims of being apostates] … and that the presence of such elements on European soil has enabled them to attract young people to their radical ideology and to recruit them to carry out acts of terrorism."

Finally, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds charged that as long as the West supports Israel, it was encouraging global terrorism. It cited "… the U.S.'s blind pro-Israel bias; the world's failure to take practical steps to force Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories; the failure to implement the international resolutions regarding the Palestinian issue; and the continued support of many countries for Israel's destructive policy. All these encourage global terrorism."

That brings us back to the dog that isn't barking, the party habitually accused of being at the center of the region's ills: Israel. This time around, none of the accusations (in MEMRI's report, at least) focus on Zionist conspiracies. The Syrian columnist, Ali Nasrallah, does charge Israel with aiding the Saudis, Qararis, and Turks with its "know-how," though that seems like a way to belittle the Sunni nations, suggesting that they would be ineffective without Israel's help. Not even the Palestinian Al-Quds makes the Brussels attacks a Zionist false flag operation, which would be a common accusation. Rather, Al-Quds says that the perpetrators are angry at Israel's Western supporters.

Even Hezbollah's reaction to Brussels blamed "regional and international forces," though in this case that meant not Israel, but, following the line of its Iranian sponsors, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with their Western supporters.

While somebody in the region is inevitably arguing that Brussels is the work of Zionist malefactors—after all, ISIS claimed responsibility for Brussels, and it has been a popular notion in the region that ISIS is actually a satanically clever Zionist enterprise—it seems noteworthy that Zionism is not high on this list of suspects. That, clearly, is a reflection of the intensifying Sunni-Shia confrontation, especially between the Saudis and the Iranians.

Even older conspiracy theories are being revised in light of this antagonism. On March 17, for example, Asharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned paper based in London and long supportive of the Saudi ruling family, published a story claiming that court documents link Iran and Hezbollah to the 9/11 attacks. Two days later, Al-Arabiya, the Saudi-owned satellite news channel, ran its version of the same story.  In the wake of the bombings in Brussels, Al-Riyadh repeated the alleged Iranian connection while blaming Iran's agenda for the bloodbath in Belgium. What happened to the 4000 Jews who didn't come to work on 9/11 (a story that reportedly originated in Syria's Al-Thawra, and was spread by Hezbollah's media), and all the rest of the 'evidence' that supposedly incriminated Israel? Never mind.

There are always "hidden hands" in the Middle East's vision of itself, secret and ill-intentioned controllers of the region's destiny. As broad swaths of the region have descended into a Hobbesian free-for-all, those hidden hands have started multiplying.