x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Army has denied Egypt a chance at democracy

The military coup in Egypt is an enormous setback for the country, a Moroccan columnist argues. In other Arabic comment today: dividing lines on the map of Syria, and extremism in Tunisia.

By shedding the blood of Egyptians in a bid to pull off a coup against the first democratically elected president in the country's history, Egypt's army is facing the biggest plight a military institution in any country can face, Taoufik Bouachrine argued in the Moroccan daily Akhbar Al Youm.

Firing the first shot gives no control over who fires the last one. This is the lesson people involved in civil wars learn, but only after incalculable events, the writer noted.

General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Egypt's army chief, along with the leftist and liberal opposition and their partners at home and abroad, planned the coup badly. They thought the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammed Morsi's supporters would simply fold under threat of weapons, media, cash and instigation.

These were old calculations in a new environment. Egypt in the time of the Arab Spring is not the Egypt of former presidents Hosni Mubarak, Anwar El Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser. Large numbers of citizens have broken free from fear. The interior ministry, intelligence services, the army, the ruling party, the controlled media and the corrupt elites can no longer manipulate people.

Gunfire has so far left more than 200 people dead and thousands injured; yet people, Brotherhood and non-Brotherhood, still take to the streets and occupy public squares. It's an unfamiliar scene in the Arab world to see people challenging live ammunition, ready to die rather than live under a junta's thumb.

When blood is spilt, politics becomes powerless and vengeance rules supreme. Egypt now has turned from an arena of political push-and-pull to a large cemetery for burying the dead.

The country has lost a rare opportunity to move peacefully into democracy. Now the largest Arab country is at the threshold of a bloody turn of events.

Egypt has lost a great national army - the strongest in the Arab world. Israel must be jumping for joy seeing an army turning against its own people.

Egypt has also lost a liberal elite, the largest in the region, who would otherwise have played a crucial part in promoting values of democracy, pluralism and modernity.

The secular elite, had it stayed away from the army, would have played the role of countering religious forces that have not yet understood the essence of democracy beyond the ballot box. The rapid collapse of secular elites is a recipe for disaster that will lie heavy on the country for decades.

The assassination of Mohamed Brahmi in Tunisia, to halt the process of consensus on the new constitution and the peaceful passage to democracy, along with the coup against Mr Morsi in Egypt, are part of Arab, Israeli and western schemes to prevent democracy from spreading in the Arab world and to maintain their privileges, the writer said.

Lines of geographic division are drawn up

The conflict in Syria is slowly imitating the increasingly divisive situation in Iraq. Upon close observation, it is easy to notice the gradual disintegration of the state in both countries, columnist Rajeh Al Khouri noted in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

Ever since the Iraqi army was dissolved and Iran was given free rein in Iraq, it seemed as if the real purpose was to entrench sectarian divisions in a way that allows for geographical division on the ground in the future. The object is three independent states to replace Iraq: a Shiite state in the south, a Kurdish state in the north and a Sunni state in the centre.

In Syria, the lines of military confrontation seem to be drawing up similar divisions.

"The direction the fight is taking indicates that a resolution in favour of the regime is highly unlikely. Hence, Bashar Al Assad is fortifying his presence along the line extending from Homs to Damascus and to Tartous towards the north-west, thus drawing the borders of an Alawite state that would receive Iranian and Shiite backing and which the regime has been preparing for since the 1970s," the writer said.

At the onset of the battle of Homs, which separates the Sunni plains from the Alawite mountains, the regime attacked government departments where real-estate ownership records were destroyed. This will make it easier for the regime to append whatever land it chooses to serve its scheme, the writer said.

Extremism threatens stability in Tunisia

Violence and assassinations are back in Tunisia, and citizens live in constant dread, said the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan in its editorial on Wednesday.

In Tunisia, controversy surrounding the powers of the ruling Ennahda Movement has been widening with the extremist groups' breach of the security system.

The assassination last week of Mohammed Al Brahmi, a leading opposition figure, added to the Tunisian's public mistrust of the security forces' ability to confront terrorism.

The attack on a Tunisian army patrol near the Algerian border that left nine soldiers dead revealed just how frail the military and security forces are in the country and gave rise to fear of an escalation of terrorism.

However, what is most alarming in Tunisia is the sharp rise in religious extremism and the continuous aggression by fundamentalists against a range of public freedoms, all in the name of religion.

"Many factors prompt Tunisians to press for urgent solutions and for the return of the state's prestige and the police's law-enforcement power," the paper said.

Chaos in marketplaces and streets is overwhelming and aggressors go undeterred.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk