An important interview with Yusuf Bin Alawi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Sultanate of Oman, was published in our newspaper yesterday. The importance lies in the fact that the man, despite his stature, very rarely conducts press interviews.
In his interview, Bin Alawi addressed an angle that is often overlooked, namely the Iranian media. The minister said: “Iran has enormous media power. It is a revolutionary tool”. He added “the Iranian media, which is not necessarily subordinate to the Iranian government, uses means such as the channels “al-Aalim”, and “al-Manar”, and Iraqi channels belonging to some Shiite communities. It has also increased the pace of its campaign against the Kingdom of Bahrain, and this is unacceptable. The Iranian government has informed us that this media campaign is not an (official) stance from Iran”. The minster has the right to be diplomatic in his answers, but the reality is that those channels are entirely Iranian. A former Iranian minister, who is still very much active, previously told me that he was part of the team supervising the establishment of “al-Manar”!
Returning to the minister, commenting on whether [improved] relations with Iran would put an end to its media provocation, he said “the issue is not the relationship, there is one, but the issue is dealing with and regulating a sectarian, provocative media”. He added “some Shiite forces believe the media is a force to impose what you want”. This is true, but in order to counter this, one must communicate with the sincere media, disclose information first hand, refute positions, and gauge public opinion before any decision or position. In today’s world, politics cannot be managed according to the principle of “seeking to resolve one’s needs by staying silent”. Reality is different entirely, both at state and administrative level. If you are in a position where you deal with public opinion, then there must be commentary and interaction, and this must be done through the media, not decrees or edicts.
The simplest example is the decision of the GCC summit to accept the request of Jordan to join the Council, and the subsequent invitation for Morocco. In this situation, it would have been incomprehensible for the Council to come out with a brief statement, not answer questions from reporters, and not gauge public opinion. Talking to the media is an unwritten condition before making a decision, because this is an issue that affects millions in the Gulf, as well as the Jordanians, the Moroccans, and the entire region.
The problem for our states and the Gulf in particular, is that they take decisions and then proceed for a long time justifying them, instead of focusing on the implementation, or listening to complaints from the media. It makes more sense for the politician himself to go back to deal with the media. Through communication with news outlets, a politician can contribute to the creation of a sincere media, and help to develop it, instead of being restless and complaining. In the words of one former British politician [Enoch Powell], “politicians who complain about the media are like sailors who complain about the sea”.
You cannot deal with politics in today’s world by keeping quiet. It is suffice here to consider the leaks that have come out the day before President Obama’s expected speech. All these leaks are intended to put a limit on the ceiling of expectations, and to test the reactions of the parties concerned. The media here is part of diplomacy, both internally and externally, it is smart diplomacy.
The other thing is that we must not leave the space open for the Iranians to exploit, and the Gulf specifically must ask themselves: How many serious television channels do we have, not ideological ones, compared to the Iranian channels that are poisoning the airspace?