Middle East countries respond to Brussels attacks with anger and finger-pointing

The deadly attacks on Brussels brought swift condemnation across the Middle East, but some countries seized the moment to criticize the West for adhering to policies that they said had planted the seeds for such acts of terrorism.

Syria’s embattled government, locked in a five-year fight against rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad, said the attacks confirmed “anew that terrorism has no borders."

The attacks, a source with the Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying, represented “the inevitable result of wrong policies and sympathy with terrorism to achieve certain agendas and legitimizing it by describing some terrorist groups as moderate," the spokesperson said.

In Syria, Western countries have helped prop up rebel factions, especially those operating under the opposition’s Free Syrian Army, while describing them as “moderate” groups that seek to overthrow Assad’s government while rejecting Islamic extremism.

The Syrian government considers the rebels to be terrorists who do the business of Assad’s international and regional enemies, especially Saudi Arabia, which has provided money and weapons to the opposition.

“Syria renews the call to [rein] in the behavior of the countries that sponsor [terrorism] and force them to stop giving any form of support to the terrorist groups to preserve regional and international peace and stability,” the source said in a veiled dig at Saudi Arabia.

The sentiment was echoed by Assad’s regional allies, Iran and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, both which have dispatched thousands of fighters to bolster the Syrian government’s flagging troops.

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Hezbollah issued a biting statement, saying “the exacerbation of the danger of the takfiri terrorist groups, which no place in the world is safe from its evil and crimes, crimes that are derived from its black venom toward humanity.”

It blamed “the takfiri bombers and the regional and international forces that stand behind them” for the terrorism erupting around the world.

Hossian Jaber Ansari, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said the repetition of the blasts, shootings and suicide attacks underscored that terrorism is a common threat throughout the world and that “it is necessary that comprehensive and integrated confrontations against the ominous phenomena of terrorism and its economic, financial and ideological foundations be carried out.”

Saudi Arabia recently came under fire for what are seen as its links to extremist groups, including Al Qaeda and Islamic State. Critics point to government adherence to a strict, austere interpretation of Sharia or Islamic law known as Wahhabism. The doctrine, which includes harsh punishments that include crucifixions, amputations and beheadings, has also been applied by the Islamic State in areas under its control.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubair said in a tweet Tuesday that “the terrorist acts in Brussels and other countries around the world will only increase our unity to counter terrorism and eradicate it.”

It followed a tweet in February when Jubair responded to growing criticism of Saudi Arabia’s policies, saying that “Saudi Arabia has long been a target of terrorism; accusing the Kingdom of being lax against terrorism is irresponsible and utterly wrong."

The Egyptian government condemned the attack, calling it an “appalling incident.”

On social media, the bombings were condemned and celebrated.

“Never will the West be able to stop the explosives of Muslims from burning them by Allah's will,” said a statement on Asfourah Mutatarifah, a pro-Islamic State channel on the secure messaging application Telegram, according to the jihadi watchdog SITE Intelligence Group.

“And we remind them again today is not like yesterday. Today, for every oppressed Muslim is a vengeful wolf. And for every blood drop spilt from Muslims at the hands of crusaders, rivers of blood will be shed from these very crusaders in turn.”

Bulos and Hassan are special correspondents

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