x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

All Mubaraks jailed - this is transparency

Editorialists and columnists in the Arab press deal with the jailing of Suzanne Mubarak, the future of al Qa'eda, the growth of the GCC, and why the Arab Spring phenomenon is hardly an issue in the Gulf.

"It is so hard to believe what is going on in Egypt these days; is this a dream?" asked the pan-Arab Al Quds al Arabi newspaper in its weekend editorial. "Who could have ever imagined President Hosni Mubarak and his wife Suzanne put behind bars on charges of profiteering, abuse of office and illegal accumulation of disproportionate wealth?"

Last week, the Egyptian justice minister's assistant for graft cases issued a decision to arrest Mrs Mubarak for 15 days for investigation. The order came shortly after a similar decision against Mr Mubarak.

"The whole Mubarak family, counting their two sons Alaa and Gamal, are in jail, which is a first in Egypt … and the whole Arab world", the paper said.

The interim Egyptian regime, which came into being thanks to the sacrifice and perseverance of the Tahrir Square protesters, is setting an example in transparency and integrity for the whole Arab region. "In fact, it is making Western governments that brag about their democracy and independent legal systems green with jealousy," the newspaper noted.

Many observers had conjectured that the interim regime in Egypt, superintended by a military council, would hesitate in bringing Mr Mubarak to justice, given the decades-long camaraderie between the ousted president and Field Marshall Hussein Tahtawi, who chairs the council.

Well, they were wrong.


Morocco and Jordan as GCC members?

"Was it a surprise? It totally was. No one saw the Gulf Cooperation Council's move to embrace Jordan and Morocco coming.

"Astonishment was clear even on the faces of senior Gulf officials after the announcement [last week]," wrote Salman Al Dawsari, a columnist with the London-based Asharq al Awsat newspaper.

It is still early to determine the prospective status of the two monarchies within the GCC; this will become clearer as talks between the Gulf foreign ministers and their Jordanian and Moroccan counterparts proceed.

At any rate, it is not likely that the move will result in the two countries' full membership in the immediate future, the columnist said. There is a long way to go before that can happen.

Yet despite potential roadblocks, there is genius in this decision to expand the GCC.

Gulf countries need "demographic depth" since all six GCC states combined number 38 million people, while Morocco alone counts close to 35 million, and Jordan six million.

May 25 marks the GCC's 30th anniversary.

Despite some lingering internal issues, the Gulf bloc has matured enough to know that the changes happening in the region all around it are calling for a response of dynamic decision-making.



Why the Arab Spring won't come to the Gulf

"The ruling regimes in the Arabian Gulf states are immune to the Arab Spring of revolutions that is ripping through" the region, argued Saad al Ajami, a columnist with the Emirati Al Ittihad newspaper.

"The people want to overthrow the regime" - the all-too-familiar Arab uprising slogan - has been typically chanted in protests against republican regimes (Tunisia, Egypt or Yemen), but not against ruling systems based on hereditary succession (like Bahrain, Jordan or Oman).

Egyptians, Yemenis and Libyans lived under monarchies until 1952, 1962, and 1969, respectively. But "in the Gulf peoples' political memory, there is no system of government other than the one already in place. All that existed before was a rampant anarchy in various tribal areas torn by clannish bloodshed and without any notion of personal safety," the columnist said.

The Gulf peoples have been watching the uprisings in various republics of the Arab world, knowing that those republics have toppled monarchies before in the name of justice and equality, only to turn into hereditary and tribal regimes themselves, but under the guise of unity, liberty and socialism.

"So Gulf people may well voice their opposition, but it will always be limited to demands for reforms. Gulf governments are not "angelic" or "infallible" but by the region's standards, they are "a paradise of democracy".

Al Qa'eda weakened but just symbolically

A lot of questions have been asked about whether the death of Osama bin Laden will spell the end of the al Qa'eda network.

According to Khaled al Sargani, a columnist with the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan, a good answer may be somewhere between yes and no: al Qa'eda will not really wither away in an instant, but it will no longer be able to pose the same level of threat.

The departure of bin Laden is surely a heavy, if symbolic, blow to al Qa'eda as a whole.

But the network's organisational structure is cluster-based and decentralised, which means that its various components were relatively independent anyway. Basically it is al Qa'eda's morale that has been affected.

But al Qa'eda is not the only organisation that the US is fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan; there are affiliates of al Qa'eda, many of them sleeper cells in Europe. There is also the very active and dangerous group in the Maghreb region of Africa, the so-called al Qa'eda in the Islamic Maghreb.

These affiliate groups have "localised" their interests and targets, so the death of bin Laden may not affect them as much as it will the mother organisation.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi