x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Iran got the new face it needed

Iran's domestic decision-making needed a new face, and got one, says an Arab journalist. But the real power remains where it was. Other topics: the G8 summit, Egyptian protest.

Rowhani's first-round victory will directly serve the ambitions of Iran's real decision-makers

In his first post-election press conference, on Monday, Iran's president-elect Hassan Rowhani seemed to have been focusing on defining the parameters of his position rather than his agenda, wrote Abdullah Iskandar, managing editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

"The man is an expert in the Iranian ruling and decision-making systems. He recognises that the agenda is concocted not at the presidency level but at some other level," the writer noted.

Hence, Mr Rowhani made sure to reiterate Iran's known positions regarding all of its thorny issues in a bid to dissipate any misconceptions that may have accompanied his election, about plans to introduce changes to the country's politics.

On the other hand, he spoke at length about domestic issues of public interest, which suggests that this will be the overarching aim of his term.

The new president isn't one of the main figures of the conservative movement. His public role during the term of the reformist president Mohammed Khatami prompted some analysts to describe him as a moderate.

The conclusion to be drawn from his election on the first round is that the Iranian public is yearning to get rid of an administration that shows no interest in their everyday life struggles and that obstinately stands in the way of their ambitions to be free.

From the public's perspective, Mr Rowhani's victory came to be seen as a realisation of popular ambitions. In parallel, the real decision makers in Tehran, the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guard, expressed satisfaction that the presidential race was resolved on the first round.

"Although it is unlikely that the results were manipulated in any way, the success of Mr Rowhani, the moderate reformist, provides the decision making hub with much-needed breathing room in tackling the internal protest movement and external issues, namely the Syrian conflict, the relationship with Gulf nations and Iran's nuclear ambitions," the writer added.

In fact, as soon as election results were announced - more quickly than ever - the Iranian powers that be got exactly what they were bidding for in terms of immediate public reaction.

Automatically, all of Iran's problems were blamed on hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration. There was an immediate shared belief that a moderate leader would be beneficial.

"Iran's decision-making needed a face that could replace other faces that were already worn out in internal and external public opinion.

"The election of any of the conservative candidates would have given rise to widespread protests domestically and they would have had no credibility at the foreign level in speaking about change," Iskandar concluded.

Putin-Assad alliance wins at G8 summit

President Vladimir Putin of Russia emerged a victor from the G8 summit in Northern Ireland that concluded on Tuesday, said Abdel Bari Atwan, editor in chief of the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi.

Three main points in the summit's final communiqué corroborate this suggestion:

First, at the behest of the Russian leader, the statement didn't include any mention of Syria's President Bashar Al Assad stepping down as a precondition to any political solution in Syria.

Second, the powerful leaders underscored their insistence on holding a second Geneva conference, where Syria is to be represented by the regime's foreign minister, Walid Al Moallem. This signifies that the G8 leaders acknowledge the legitimacy of the regime.

Finally, they agreed on the need to combat and crush extremist groups fighting in Syria.

"Thus, more than two years into the revolution and more than 100,000 casualties later, the G8 endorsed Mr Al Assad's claim that he is fighting armed terrorist groups. This must have come as a terrible shock to the Syrian opposition and its supporters, especially in the Arabian Gulf," the writer noted.

Mr Al Assad has every reason to relax, the writer added. His Russian ally made sure that his war "to purge Syria of Islamist extremists" will go on unhindered and that he will receive all the material support he needs.

June 30 will determine Brotherhood's fate

The Muslim Brotherhood regime that has been monopolising power in Egypt for more than two and a half years will stop at nothing to preserve its authority, the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan observed in its editorial on Wednesday.

Their argument is that they took power through legitimate elections. But the facts indicate that the majority of the Egyptian people insist on deposing the Islamic regime, which, according to them, has been harming Egypt and conducting its affairs in a way that guarantees their indefinite stay in power.

Massive nationwide protests to challenge the Brotherhood's rule are scheduled for June 30.

"Is Egypt on the verge of a new revolution, which will realise the hopes of millions that have declared mutiny against the authorities and are calling for early presidential elections?" the paper asked. "Or is it heading towards a whirlwind of violence and bloodshed?"

On the one hand, Egyptians are outraged against the Brotherhood. On the other, there are thousands of people that are prepared to defend the Brotherhood and President Mohammed Morsi.

June 30 will be a decisive day. It will signal either the beginning or the end for the Brotherhood's term in power, not only in Egypt, but in other Arab Spring nations.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem