x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Egypt's military rulers under scrutiny

Arab editorials also comment on Israel's concern over events in Syria and the situation in Iraq.

Egypt's ruling generals committed a series of inexcusable faux pas that exacerbated situation

Six months from now, Egypt will have a new elected president. The army will return to its barracks and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), that has been ruling the country since the toppled president Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February 2011, will leave centre stage.

It is then that SCAF's term in authority will come under scrutiny, said Mohammed Salah, a contributor in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat. History will judge 19 of the top army officials, but meanwhile, the remaining period until elections will not be free of dilemmas, highs, lows and errors.

It could be said that SCAF committed its biggest mistake when it sought to manage the transitory period without vexing any of the players in the political game only to end up vexing them all.

"Had SCAF focused on practicing good governance in post-revolution Egypt since its accession to power, notwithstanding the approval or the refusal of this or that political entity, it would have avoided many of the problems that occurred and will occur."

The military council should have anticipated that the forces that came together to overthrow the Mubarak regime would have different ideas, principles and interests when it comes to the re-building of the state.

In response to the revolution, SCAF removed Mubarak from the presidency, which angered the remnants of the regime. It kept the toppled president in Sharm El Sheikh, which irritated the protesters. In an attempt to appease them, it referred Mubarak and some of his regime's symbols to prosecution, which angered regime supporters even more. But, then, the council transferred Mubarak into a medical centre rather than jail, which provoked the protesters again.

It sought to bridle the Brotherhood by choosing one of them to the committee on constitutional principles, thus infuriating the secular forces which the government tried to calm with the Al Salmi document, but that solution backfired as the Brotherhood turned against it.

The military council had problems with all political and revolutionary political powers as well as human rights organisations due to the emergency law. Nonetheless, it continued to implement it after the revolution, although the number of people breaking the law was bigger than anything the military could handle.

It all happened again when the council approved a law banning protests that could interrupt government duties or cause harm to citizens or private property. It was a move that earned SCAF a torrent of criticism as Egyptian citizens hold sacred their newly acquired rights to protest and strike.

These measures and many more led to the renewal of angry protests that SCAF decided to end forcibly causing a surge in violence and anger that remain unabated till this day.

Syria, a source of great concern for Israel

It is no secret that Israel has been closely monitoring the developments of the Arab Spring occurring around it, but particularly in Syria since the situation there is its biggest concern at the moment, said Mazen Hammad, a columnist with Qatari newspaper Al Watan. Israel even created a special unit to monitor and assess the events in Syria.

In fact, as much as Israel feared the accession of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists to power in Egypt, it can at least interpret the developments there now that the parliamentary elections results are out. But that is not the case in Syria.

Civil and military officials in Tel Aviv are gearing up for the possible fall of the Assad regime. They are taking measures to anticipate all likely scenarios in Damascus.

Although there have been no indications of a military deployment on Syrian-Israeli borders, Israel is weary of the influx of Syrian refugees into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which could soon spread to include the occupied Golan Heights.

Israel believes that the situation in Syria will further degenerate despite the efforts of the Arab League observers. Some in Israel believe that the deterioration will be quick and even surprising in the absence of international interference.

A commander in the IAF was quoted as saying that the biggest fear at the moment comes from the growing number of desertion cases in the Syrian army.

Iraq's stability is key to peace in the region

On the first day of the new year, Iraq became a sovereign state as US occupation forces withdrew and handed most of their bases over to the Iraqi army, opined the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan in its editorial.

However, the country's continued investment in sectarianism that sees one category of the population manipulating others would certainly lead to yet another phase of internal fighting in which everyone would lose.

Iraqi and Arab analysts agree that there cannot be an inkling of hope for improvement in the Iraqi situation unless the leaders of the various political blocs were to come together in a real national partnership.

"What is happening in Iraq nowadays isn't a strictly internal affair anymore. It is a situation with regional and international repercussions," said the paper. "Iraq is no longer the focal point of crises, but rather the key to peace in the region. Its collapse would bring about sectarian wars in the entire region."

The US has committed many mistakes during its nine-year occupation of Iraq that hindered the building of the state. And the biggest political challenge at the moment is the drafting of foreign policies that tune Iraq's relationships with its surroundings.


* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem