x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

How much power will Rowhani have?

Not much, says an Arab editor; everyone knows the Supreme Leader calls the shots on the big issues in Iran: Other topics: Egypt and western media covering Turkey.

Serious challenges await Rowhani, who is caught between global isolation and clerics

It was clever of Iranian president-elect Hassan Rowhani to use a key as his campaign symbol, because in Iran the doors have been locked for years, with no end to tension in sight, wrote Ghassan Charbel, editor of the London-based Al Hayat newspaper, in a column yesterday.

Caution must be exercised when writing about Iran, he said. The Iranian democracy is carefully contrived under the umbrella of the country's religious leaders. Give and take is allowed on the details, not on the essence. The Green Movement was radically suppressed in 2009.

Mr Rowhani is a "legitimate son" of the 1979 Iranian revolution. He joined Ayatollah Khomeini to overthrow the Shah's regime. Since then, Mr Rowhani has moved through Iran's corridors of power, with roles in parliament, the army, the media and home security.

He had strong relations with the former moderate presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, who chose him to lead negotiations with the West on the nuclear programme.

Long and costly was the tenure of the outgoing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Granted, footholds have been gained in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. But it has ended up badly: an economy hobbled by sanctions, growing unemployment, a declining currency and deepening isolation.

Mr Rowhani is part of the regime. He knows that the president is not a policymaker when it comes to the country's nuclear programme and foreign policy, the writer said, adding: "In major issues it is crystal clear - the Supreme Leader holds the key".

The figures of Iran's economy speak for themselves. Tension with the West is palpable; involvement in Syria is costly, with Tehran having to keep sending large amounts of cash for the Syrian regime to carry on the fight. Hizbollah has made the war even more costly for Iran.

As it stands, Iran seems to be like one who is rushing into a life and death battle. To say that the country is gambling with everything is not an overstatement. Even regionally, Iran could not be more isolated, and Sunni-Shiite strife looms large over it.

No doubt, the victory of a "reformist and moderate" will contribute to improving the regime's image, tarnished because of its meddling in Syria. Mr Rowhani knows that, but he also knows what the regime did to Mr Rafsanjani and Mr Khatami. The current situation, however, is the worst ever.

It is against this murky backdrop that Mr Rowhani waved the key as a symbol. He won the presidential vote by a landslide. And he has already spoken of moderation, hope and new opportunities. But he will soon be put to the test.

Is President Rowhani entitled to wave the key or he is but the most senior employee at the Supreme Leader's office? Only time will tell.

Brotherhood to blame for Egypt's sorry plight

Last Tuesday, a young man was standing on Al Batal Ahmed Abdel Aziz Street in Cairo, holding a poster showing Egypt's former president, Hosni Mubarak. It read: "We love you, president".

"This view among ordinary citizens is on the rise," commented Emad Eddine Hussein in the Cairo-based newspaper Al Shorouk.

Egyptians who feel nostalgia for the old regime are growing in numbers. They are not part of the opposition and it is hard to say they are "remnants". The Muslim Brotherhood is the only party that will not take notice of that.

There is a general mood that life has become harder. Taxi drivers usually offer a good thermometer to gauge a country's mood. They are against any authority that fails to maintain stability. After interacting with them, the writer came to the conclusion that most of them are opposed to the Brotherhood and many of them mourn the times of Mr Mubarak.

The citizen who held Mr Mubarak's picture and other mourners of the old regime have forgotten that Mr Mubarak was Israel's strategic asset; that he was responsible for their hunger; handed over the country's economy to a bunch of cronies and allowed the police to oppress citizens".

The growing number of people turning away from the revolution and lamenting the passage of the Mubarak regime indicates that President Mohammed Morsi has failed spectacularly in convincing the people that he is president for all Egyptians.

Western media failed in covering Turkey

"Mr Kalin, we've got to stop. The show is over" - that's how CNN anchorwoman Christiane Amanpour abruptly cut off Ibrahim Kalin, a chief adviser to the Turkish prime minister, during a live interview last Tuesday, Al Jazeera TV anchorman Ahmed Mansour wrote in the Egyptian paper Al Shorouk.

They had been talking about the level of violence police used against protesters in Turkey. Mr Kalin asked Amanpour if she could imagine people with Molotov cocktails and sticks being allowed to march to the White House and attack public property. That's when she ended the interview in a manner that violated the rules of decorum.

"I am known to be confrontational in my television interviews, but I can clearly differentiate between forcefulness and insolence," the writer said.

He also quoted a colleague living in Germany this way: "I have never hated the German media as I hate it these days for its hatred and racism towards Erdogan and his government … the coverage lacks the basic rules of professional ethics."

The western media has done poorly in covering the events in Turkey over the past two weeks, and hatred towards the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been blatant, the writer said.


* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni