x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Mubarak's smile is a tragedy for Egypt

The desposed dictator's grin from his prison cage on Saturday revealed eloquently how much has gone wrong, two Egyptian writers agree. Two other items today deal with Syria.

Hosni Mubarak's smile from his cage shows just how badly the Egyptian revolution has stumbled

On Saturday, during his retrial on charges of complicity in the murder of protesters during the 2011 uprising that led to his ejection from office, Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak smiled and waved to supporters from inside his defendant's cage. It almost seemed as though he were still president, wrote Emad Eddine Hussein in the Cairo-based paper Al Shorouk.

Supporters of the January 25 revolution, of all stripes, were taken by surprise and distressed by that smile, the writer said.

From January 25 until February 11, 2011, they had all stood united, he wrote, and thanks to that, whenever they took to the public squares, their demands were met.

Without their unity, Mubarak would not have been put in a defendant's cage, shivering and trembling, during his first trial in August 2011, saying "yes, sir" when called upon by the presiding judge, the writer observed.

It is the accord among supporters of the revolution that made Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal, and all his men, look so morose and frightened back then.

In those days most Egyptians expected the goals of the revolution to be fulfilled, and bringing martyr-killers and corrupt officials to justice was on the list.

But the partners in the revolution fell out, for myriad reasons, and then came the constitutional declaration of November 21 to dash any hopes of unity.

That catastrophic constitutional declaration gave Mubarak and his aides the kiss of life after they had nearly died politically, according to the writer.

Had Mubarak not felt that Egypt now is not the Egypt that toppled him on February 11, he would not have smiled and looked so relaxed. And for that the president, the Brotherhood and the opposition are all to blame.

The revolution stumbled, and Mubarak smiled. Both the president and the opposition should mull over the meaning of that, Emad Eddine concluded.

In the same vein, Jamal Fahmi remarked in the Cairo-based daily Al Tahrir that the sight of Mubarak's retrial last Saturday encapsulated the magnitude of woes and disappointment plaguing Egyptians since the outbreak of a magnificent revolution.

More than two years ago, Mubarak and his corrupt cronies looked broken and dishonoured, with eyes down in shame inside the cage; last Saturday saw a totally different scene, with the main culprit appearing relaxed, not only raising his eyes defiantly, but flashing a sardonic smile and waving like a triumphant king.

Using his familiarity with the ways of power and with cameras, Mubarak sought to send two messages in different directions. The first was to his numerous victims, some of whom are now supporters; and the second was a thank-you note to the Brotherhood, the more sinister organisation that "we have unwillingly inherited" from the old regime.

Syrian fighters' pledge stirs western capitals

The powerful Syrian fighting group Jabhat Al Nusra pledged allegiance last week to Ayman Al Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda. In the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed said this news must be shaking the foreign policy establishment, in Washington and other western capitals, to the core.

"Fears were further compounded by the announcement of a merger between Al Qaeda in Iraq and Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria, thus forming the world's largest kingdom of terror," the columnist wrote.

But where did the United States and other powers go wrong?

"Let's take a few steps back," Al Rashed said. "At the beginning, Americans were pretty happy about the revolution against the regime of Bashar Al Assad. It was a godsend at a difficult time when US troops were pulling out of Iraq … Plus, it was bad news for the Iranians."

But, mistakenly, the Americans thought it was going to be "a free gift", the writer said.

"The White House thought, 'Let the situation take its course; let the Syrians do what they've got to do … and we can hope that a pro-western democratic regime will come about'."

Washington's inertia now is proving to be a spectacular error of judgment. And this realisation, at the last hour in the life of President Bashar Al Assad's regime, won't help much.

Syria doesn't need the G8's crocodile tears

Foreign ministers of the G8 group of rich countries convened in London last week. If they were truly "appalled" at the number of fatalities in the protracted Syrian conflict, and at the over-three-million refugees and displaced persons, then their closing statement should have been written differently, avoiding political deception, columnist Rajeh Al Khouri wrote in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

The ministers' five-line statement on Syria was too flimsy to be an adequate obituary for 70,000 fatalities, he wrote.

It fell hideously short in dealing with a conflict that has become a thundering declaration of the demise of international legitimacy. In short, it failed to address an event that William Hague, the UK's foreign secretary, described as "the biggest humanitarian disaster of the century".

The statement supported the "peaceful transition" solution, based on the Geneva Declaration, although it doesn't specify a date for Bashar Al Assad's departure.

"This tacitly satisfied Russia and the US since it guaranteed the continuation of the crisis that eventually destroys Syria, cuts off an arm of the Iranian octopus and kills off more extremist elements that they brought into the conflict through their inaction towards the massacres," he suggested.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk