x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Mohammed Morsi makes his move

Egypt's president has bravely seizing an opportunity to depose the country's military chief, an Arabic-language writer says. Other topics today: the Mecca summit and "democratic hiccups".

Failure of the military to protect Egypt helped President Morsi get rid of old-regime figures

Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi has suddenly turned from a weak leader disrespected by pro-Hosni-Mubarak media outlets into a strongman who "cleansed" the military of all figures from the old regime, commented Abdel Bari Atwan in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

Mr Morsi is a civil president who came to power through democratic elections that reflected the will of the people, and so "his free options are more powerful than the military institution, the supreme constitutional court and the media which lives in the past and refuses to recognise the overwhelming change".

"Many, in Egypt and abroad, believed Mr Morsi would not dare defy the ruling military council, and would remain in the shadow of Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi for years, but they were completely wrong," the writer said.

They said that Egypt was a two-headed state: a powerful head in the military, and a small, weak head just feeling its way to gain approval. But to our great surprise, the small head rooted out the big head, by taking firm decisions to send the army back to its barracks, he noted.

"Who ever imagined that the 'Sphinx' of the Egyptian junta [Gen Tantawi, the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces] would, at the stroke of a pen, degenerate into an adviser under the umbrella of Egypt's president who, only three months ago, was all but unknown and the subject of ridicule?"

Gen Tantawi and the military council have made catastrophic mistakes, the writer noted. They stood against the will of the people and favoured a leading figure from the old regime, Ahmed Shafiq. They also dissolved the parliament and controlled the legislative authority.

"Mr Mosri took us by surprise with his courage, just as he surprised us with his qualities as a resolute statesman who is not afraid of the military."

He started on Wednesday by firing Gen Murad Mowafi, Egypt's intelligence chief, and on Saturday he fired Gen Tantawi and Gen Sami Annan, the chief of staff, and appointed a new defence minister and new army heads.

It is not known whether the president will reinstate the dissolved people's assembly, but his nullification of the constitutional declaration is a first step towards bringing things back to normality.

In a way the credit goes to the catastrophe on the Rafah border crossing that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead. The event will be remembered as a turning point in the history of Egypt, he said.

Mr Morsi turned the failure of the military council to protect the homeland into an advantage for Egypt when he ordered tanks and helicopters into Sinai following the attack.

Today we can say that the Egyptian revolution is on the right track to achieve its goals, the writer noted. But there is no doubt that it is going to be a strenuous and bumpy track.

Democratic hiccups in two Arab nations

The Tunisian foreign minister, Dr Rafik Abdessalem, was irritated as he answered a presenter's questions about current protests against the government he represents, wrote Hassan Modoun, a contributor to the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej, in a column yesterday.

Dr Abdessalem qualified the protests as sporadic and unorganised, conducted by "small left-wing groups" with the aim of putting spokes in the wheels of democratic practice in the country. It was a claim that the old regime had used before, as the presenter pointed out.

In Egypt, a protest campaign is continuing in media circles against the Muslim Brotherhood's perceived attempts to control and "indoctrinate" state-owned media. The upper house of parliament in Egypt has appointed new board chairmen and editors of newspapers, despite the Journalists' Syndicate's objections to the move, which they likened to strategies used by the Hosni Mubarak regime.

"Leading [media] figures are calling for the protection of public media outlets from domination … to prevent them from returning to what they once were: confetti throwers for the ruling party."

Back in Tunisia, the writer went on, journalists also protested the decision by then-newly appointed prime minister to name editors for state television.

The birth of democracy in both countries is not without labour pains, the writer concluded.

Let Tehran attend the Mecca summit

The invitation by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to attend the extraordinary Islamic Solidarity Conference, due to start today in Mecca, has caused an understandable media stir in the region, commented Abdullah Al Oteibi, a Saudi writer, in yesterday's edition of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

Many have expressed their opposition to the Iranian president's attendance, citing Tehran's usually "anti-Arab" stances, namely its occupation of three UAE islands, its meddling in Iraq's internal affairs and its support for the regime of President Bashar Al Assad in Syria.

Others, the writer added, were astonished at the timing of the invitation, which comes just when relations between Riyadh and Tehran are at a very low point.

A third camp, though, hailed the initiative and called for more, arguing that differences between neighbours can never be solved without dialogue.

The fact is that Saudi Arabia cannot simply ignore Iran, the writer noted. "As a leading Islamic nation, Saudi Arabia must embrace all Islamic voices, even when some of those voices are deliberately out of tune with the rest.

"Everyone is entitled to self-representation … So I say, welcome Tehran to Mecca."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk