Egypt’s El Sisi is not the ‘new Nasser’
Since Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser died in 1970, competition has been fierce to claim pan-Arab leadership. But no contender has been successful in replacing Nasser, wrote columnist Hazem Saghiya in the London-based daily Al Hayat.
After Nasser’s death, several Arab presidents from Saddam Hussein of Iraq to Hafez Al Assad of Syria to Muammar Qaddafi of Libya have had their sights set on Arab leadership.
The chief of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, had ambitions, too. And even lesser known leaders like Algeria’s Houari Boumediene and Sudan’s Gaafar An Nimeiry aspired for a greater role.
“Nasserism nationwide died in 1970. Each of the wannabes would use its legacy in the belief that it would strengthen his power at home,” the writer said. And organisations that called themselves Nasserist were as good at dead.
In Egypt, Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, soon became out of line in foreign policy and economic orientation. Egypt’s Nasserists started to shrink in number and within a few years, they were among the weakest parties.
Against this backdrop, almost everything changed. The Camp David Accords of 1978 put an end to the Egyptian-Israeli conflict. Later, the Soviet Union collapsed, marking the end of the Cold War. The idea of pan-Arab union became a joke with Libya’s Qaddafi, and Damascus-Baghdad enmity turned it into a scandal.
Recently there has been talk about Nasserism being revived after a long period of deep hibernation. Some have said that Egypt’s army chief, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, has brought back memories of Abdel Nasser.
Yet Nasserism cannot be revived by songs, slogans and bragging. Nor can it be done by deeming Gen El Sisi “an immortal leader” in current-day Egypt. For that to happen, a minimum of actions that neither Gen El Sisi nor any one else can dare take at this point. On top of this is standing up to the Israeli occupation and negotiating as equals with the West.
That Gen El Sisi dared evokingthe memory of Nasser songs suggests two things. The first is that Gen El Sisi has sought to derive legitimacy from a historical experience marked by a military coup, which is tantamount to an apology for the January 25 revolution. The second is that Nasserism is used only as a means to an end, much like the Palestinian cause for the Syrian regime and Hizbollah.
The biggest irony is that Gen El Sisi is actually reviving the Muslim Brotherhood that have been returned the victimhood on which they thrived before, the writer said. And the fear is that they will become the real seekers of democracy and political meaning in the country.
Will Iran sabotage the Geneva 2 conference?
Abdel Rahman Al Rashed, editor in-chief of pan-Arab daily Asharq El Awsat has been considering the chaos around Geneva 2. He wrote that the goal was to prevent it from taking place, thus impeding any agreement towards an alternative to Bashar Al Assad and keeping the opposition trapped in Istanbul, on the other side of the border.
Russians, Iranians and Mr Al Assad had plotted disruptions to the conference in various ways. The Russians exercised considerable pressure to allow Iran to participate in the conference, which would have tipped the scales in favour of the Syrian delegation, the writer said.
The Russians had sought to pre-establish conditions including overturning the decisions of the previous conference, which advocated a regime comprising the Opposition and a part of the Assad regime, but removing Mr Al Assad. It also explicitly called for the withdrawal of foreign troops on Syrian territory.
“It is in Iran’s and Mr Al Assad’s best interest to see the Geneva conference cancelled,” Al Rashed wrote.
“Geneva 2 may be doomed before it even starts, should the resolutions of Geneva 1 not be ratified. It would be an option to completely bury these resolutions. Another option would be to hold the conference without the Opposition delegation and without any obligation on the part of the Syrian-Iranian-Russian triangle,” he concluded.
Egypt’s uprisings don’t contradict each other
Al Shorooq columnist Imad Eddin Hussein, has looked into the sizeable problem arising between the supporters of the January 25 Revolution and those of the June 30 Revolution.
The first Egyptian revolution gathered all Egyptians – with the exception of Hosni Mubarak’s men – and brought Mubarak’s regime to an end. The second revolution included all Egyptians – with the exception of Muslim Brotherhood members – with the same demands of social justice.
“Looking closely into these two revolutions, the Egyptian people seem to have isolated any influential group and voiced their will to live in a pluralistic, democratic civil state,” he remarked.
Interestingly, the army was the common factor that led to both victories. Sadly, part of those who were vanquished by the second revolution thought it was payback time and decided to eat all the cake instead.
Egypt has witnessed a disastrous trend where current leaders repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. One of the current movements tried to convince people that the two revolutions contradict each another.
What Egypt needs goes beyond referendums, elections and a constitution. It needs work and productivity. Egypt must reappropriate its youth and gather it under the umbrella of consensus.
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk
Updated: January 21, 2014 04:00 AM