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Arab Media Wars Heat Up

3:42 PM, Jun 17, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
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Bashar al-Assad's cousin Rami Makhlouf, or the man even the New York Times is calling Syria's "Mr. Five Percent," has decided to give back to the community, somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion dollars. The regime in Damascus may hope to impress Washington, which has sanctioned Makhlouf, but it's not to keep the opposition at bay. Among Makhlouf's other holdings, there's his so-called "independent" TV station, Al Dunya, which of late the regime has used to insult Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the media holdings of Arab rivals Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The Assad regime has had problems with Riyadh for some time, or ever since its alleged involvement in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, who was a friend of the Saudi royal family and one of the people who helped found and fund Al Arabiya. The Dubai-based satellite network was originally conceived of as "moderate" alternative to Al Jazeera, when in reality it was just how the Saudis pushed back against their rivals in Doha. But now the Arab Spring seems to have drawn them closer.

Up until a few months ago the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, was on good terms with the Syrian president, and so Al Jazeera all but ignored the uprising against his government. But when Al Jazeera's telepreacher Yusuf al-Qardawi spoke out in support of the Syrian revolution, the Syrians in turn badmouthed Al Jazeera as well as Qatar. At that point, the emir turned on the spigot.

Al Jazeera’s coverage of the uprising has been extremely critical of the regime, and while there is very little live reporting out of Syria, they’ve given plenty of airtime to opposition figures in the diaspora. And that’s why Rami Makhlouf’s Dunya TV has given plenty of room for Syrian “researcher” Ali Al-Shu'eibi to curse all the employees of both Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. Shu’eibi prays to God that their women’s honor is violated and that every form of cancer is inflicted upon them. Still, what this regime ally inadvertently makes clear is that there is no cancer as vicious as the one plaguing the people of Syria—the Assad family. 

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