x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Don't blame Egypt, just the Brotherhood

The Egyptian state doesn't meddle in neighbours; affairs, an Egyptian scholar writes, but the Muslim Brotherhood does. Other topics today: Morsi's plans and Assad's speech.

UAE arrests: making a distinction between 'Muslim Brotherhood' and 'Egyptian state'

"It's after a lot of hesitation that I'm writing on this subject, for fear of taking sides," wrote Ahmed Youssef Ahmed, director of the Cairo-based Institute of Arab Research and Studies, in yesterday's edition of the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad.

"I belong to one of the two parties to the crisis, and the publisher of these words belongs to the other. But I overcame my hesitation and resolved that, as I endeavour to be objective, I might contribute some useful ideas."

Mr Ahmed, who is Egyptian, was referring to the recent arrests of 11 of his countrymen who live and work in the UAE and who were accused by local authorities of holding secret meetings as Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, raising and funnelling funds to the parent organisation in Egypt and working to recruit new members, including Emiratis, to expand their network.

UAE authorities said that they have "compelling evidence" on the basis of which they have levelled those accusations, the writer noted.

Also, the arrests did not come out of nowhere. Before they happened, the chief of Dubai Police, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, had warned on several occasions that the Muslim Brotherhood was active in the UAE, the writer added.

"So is this a crisis between Egypt and the UAE or, rather, between the Muslim Brotherhood and the UAE?" he asked.

Implicating the name of "Egypt" - which includes the nation and the people - in this crisis is inaccurate. "The state of Egypt … will never get involved in a crisis like this," the author said.

"It may be pertinent to note here that the state of Egypt, even at the zenith of its leadership role in the Arab world in the 1950s and 60s, has never slipped into the pitfall of meddling in the internal affairs of other Arab nations in the manner that is causing the current crisis."

The problem, though, is that the Muslim Brotherhood now hold the reins of power in Egypt, the writer observed. This has led to a confusing overlap that framed the crisis as between Abu Dhabi and Cairo.

But can the Muslim Brotherhood, in principle, do what they are accused of doing? "The clear answer is: 'Yes'," the writer said.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a transnational movement more than 80 years old, he said. Their role in fomenting the 1948 revolution in Yemen to topple the tyrannical Imamate rule there, however well-intentioned it might have been, is just one proof of the organisation's cross-border agenda.

"There is no doubt in my mind that … [the Brothers] are considering the possibility of creating a geographically seamless 'Islamist' bloc including, besides Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Hamas in Gaza, and Sudan, as they see the time is ripe for this kind of project," the writer said.



Assad's speech signals an 'inward departure'

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's speech on Sunday brought myriad reactions. Washington dismissed it as "detached from reality". But in an article for the London-based Asharq Al Awsat, Egyptian journalist Emadeddin Adeeb said: "I completely disagree with the US reaction."

US logic dictates that the speech should have reflected the deteriorating battlefield situation of Al Assad's forces, which must translate into negotiation flexibility. But this isn't the logic of the Baath party. Rather than demonstrate willingness to negotiate or concede, the Baath rationale prescribes indefinite intransigence; drawing power from continuous rejection not acquiescence.

In view of this reasoning, Al Assad's speech could be interpreted as a confirmation of his determination to remain in power, while he is finalising the project of an Alawite state that would be located in the Syrian coastal region.

Al Assad is still standing, but he is getting ready to "depart inwardly".

"With a bill of 60,000 fatalities, half a million casualties and 3 million displaced Syrians, Bashar can't possibly leave the Syrian territories to go anywhere," observed the writer.

The war in Syria is an ethnic-cleansing operation that aims to change the country's map.

The question here is whether the powers that be are willing to negotiate for a part of Syria or if they intend to preserve the country at its historic borders.

A bearded version of Mubarak's regime

What is unfolding in Egypt is not a conflict between guardians of Islam and promoters of atheism, scriptwriter and journalist Bilal Fadl wrote in the Cairo-based independent paper Al Shorouk.

"It is a face-off between those who seek to produce a bearded version of [former leader Hosni] Mubarak's regime and those insisting upon bringing down all forms of dictatorship," he noted.

"It is a conflict between a logic of 'let's calm down guys' and that of 'the revolution is on' - a conflict wherein the elected, bearded government is using the same dirty weapons once used by the shaved oppressive regime: accusations of treason, intimidation, defamation, added to the deadliest and favourite: takfir [accusations of apostasy]," he continued.

Once in power, the Muslim Brotherhood flip-flopped their position of being anti-US hegemony, and opted for superficial modifications of Mubarak's policies to avoid any risks or confrontations.

Day after day, the Brotherhood's tone becomes more conciliatory with Mubarak-linked businessmen; at the same time, they are keen to retain their coalition with the most extreme hardliners.

The Brotherhood is using religion to retain Mubarak's special-interest network, reaping its fruits while giving the people scraps to ease their anger.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk