Summary: not top news in the Middle East. A few hostile or eccentric reactions.
The news of Brexit has had less impact in the Middle East than in other world regions, and such comment as we have seen is understandably confused. A headline in the Abu Dhabi-based The National is “It’s the end of the world as we know it – again”. Extensive coverage of Brexit on the Al Jazeera English website does not refer to the Middle East at all.
Gulf stock markets were closed when the referendum result was announced (it was a Friday). According to a summary on the Al Monitor website they dropped sharply at the start of trading yesterday Sunday 26 June, but had recovered some of the losses by the close. “The six GCC states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — have hundreds of billions of investments in Britain and other members of the European Union. They have large interests in the British real estate market and thousands of Gulf citizens own homes in Britain. Britain also has sizable real estate interests in Dubai and more than a million British tourists visit the UAE annually.” An article in the Saudi Arab News reports negative market reaction to Brexit but adds that it “could provide a golden opportunity for the Gulf investors to seek positive returns from the British market, especially in light of the sharp decline in the value of the British pound.” The Dubai-based Gulf News headlines “Gold rush underway in the UAE”
Writing on the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya website their Washington bureau chief the Lebanese journalist Hisham Melhem describes Brexit as a “hinge moment… by far the most damaging blow to Europe’s fantastic rise from the rubbles of WWII and its long march towards a united Europe… a victory in part for xenophobia, Islamophobia, tribal and parochial nationalism, and the rejection of immigrants and refugees. These attitudes have hardened the hearts of peoples who lived for decades in liberal, pluralistic and humane societies; hence the shocking indifference in western countries to the plight of Syrian refugees for example… ” He goes on to link Brexit with Trump; “Trump knows that those who voted for Brexit have their own counterparts in America, people who are anti-bureaucracy, anti-immigrants who chafe that their national identity is being threatened by the forces of globalization, and who still yearn for a bygone white Christian America that speaks only English.”
There have been a few hostile or eccentric reactions. IS is reported to have called for a new wave of terror attacks on mainland Europe that will paralyse the continent amid the political and financial turmoil of Brexit.
The powerful Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is reported to have accused the US and Israel of destroying the EU. In what seems to have been an off-the-cuff answer he said that Britain’s vote to leave was the first step towards undermining and weakening the EU. Other countries such as France and Germany might follow suit. He called on the EU not to weaken under American pressures.
Hamid Abutalebi of the Iranian presidential office said “A great earthquake has shaken Europe and the UK has quit the European Union. The stars of Europe’s union are falling down. Economic changes in south European countries, terrorism and the refugee crisis is showed that the union is about to fall. But the domino was ticked off with Brexit.” The Iranian deputy chief of staff Brigadier General Massoud Jazzayeri said “The European Union is a tool in the hands of the US, and the only way for the EU survival is by declaring its independence.”