x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Iran official's visit to Egypt stirs debate

Arabic newspapers say Iranian foreign minister's visit to Egypt is giving way to a range of interpretations. Others comment on the second anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, and the report by the International Relief Committee (IRC) on Syria.

Iranian foreign minister's visit to Egypt is giving way to a whole range of interpretations

"The Iranian foreign minister's recent visit to Cairo has engendered so many questions despite being his third visit to Egypt since the January 2011 revolution," wrote Dr Ahmed Youssef Ahmed, director of the Cairo-based Institute of Arab Research and Studies, in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

Iran hasn't been hiding its attempts to normalise relations with Egypt, so in one way these visits can be considered "normal", the author said. Tehran severed diplomatic relations with Cairo in 1979, when Egypt and Israel signed their peace treaty.

But the recent visit by Ali Akbar Salehi has left many observers wondering why it happened immediately after [the reported] visit by the commander of the Qods Force.

The latter visit has provoked a huge fuss in Egypt due to the government's denial of it, which had the country's anti-government activists come up with the theory that the Muslim Brotherhood might be looking to set up their own "Brotherhood Revolutionary Guard", the author noted.

Really, the Egyptian opposition is getting nervous about the Brotherhood's perceived attempts to start gaining influence within the army ranks.

In other circles, it was said that the Iranian foreign minister's intent was simply to relay Tehran's desire to upgrade diplomatic representation between both countries from caretaker bureaux to full-fledged embassies.

"It was also said that the Iranian minister tried to bring the two countries' closer to a consensus on the Syrian issue, especially that both sides reject foreign military intervention," the author said.

Notably, it was also reported that Mr Salehi offered generous economic assistance to the Egyptian side in a bid to "sabotage relations between Egypt and the UAE", by capitalising on the current crisis between the two nations over the arrest of an alleged Muslim Brotherhood cell operating in the UAE.

President Mohammed Morsi was quick to reassure the Arab Gulf nations that their security is a red line for Egypt, the writer added. But these verbal assurances were seen by some as insubstantial.

To add to the many ambiguities that surrounded Mr Salehi's visit, a group of Egyptian Salafists, coupled with some of Al Azhar imams and officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, called for organising a conference - as Mr Salehi was visiting - to support the rights of the Arabs of Ahvaz, who are a Sunni Muslim minority in Iran.

So are Egypt's new rulers trying to bring Iran closer while maintaining their relations to the Arab Gulf states - and other Western allies? Or is it just another instance in which the Muslim Brotherhood show their "awkward" manner of doing politics? the author concluded.

Tepid celebrations are sign of fear in Tunisia

The tepid celebrations on Monday marking the second anniversary of the Tunisian revolution came to reflect a growing concern over the country's political and economic future, wrote the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial yesterday.

The legacy of the ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been a burden so heavy by all standards that easy and quick solutions to it are hard to reach, particularly amid the high popular expectations.

"The biggest issue besetting Tunisia, from my perspective, is the large-scale political and social polarisation between seculars … and religious groups," the paper said. It is "an escalating division that threatens national unity."

The transition in Tunisia saw a coalition between the Islamist Ennahda party and two secular parties - one led by interim President Moncef Marzouki and the second by Mustapha Ben Jafar, president of the National Constituent Assembly.

"This has revealed a Tunisian tendency towards coexistence between Islamists and secularists - one unobservable to date in other countries that saw popular uprisings, notably Egypt."

Ennahdha leader Rached Ghannouchi was right when he warned on Friday of Tunisia sliding into chaos and a Somali-style scenario.

Meanwhile, the economic crisis is a key point in political debate but still less dangerous that expected.

Committee's report on Syria must spur action

The recent report by the International Relief Committee (IRC) on Syria must have come as a shock to the international community that has been observing the Syrian crisis festering, issuing a condemnation here and a call to stop the violence there.

Meanwhile, no tangible steps have been taken on the ground, said the Qatari daily Al Rayah in its editorial on Tuesday.

Among its findings, the IRC study of approximately 600,000 people who have fled Syria since the onset of the civil war stated "rape is being used as a widespread weapon of war. It is the main reason that drove many women and girls to seek refuge in neighbouring countries."

It goes on to describe a pattern of systematic rape, kidnap, torture and killing of Syrian women. It is a strong condemnation of the Syrian regime and its goons. It is also a condemnation of the international power capitals that chose their interests over their morals, opined the paper.

The report, in its gory details, must compel the Security Council to issue an immediate decision to refer the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court.

The crimes that have been committed in Syria must not go unpunished.




* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk