x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Why US reactions to the Brotherhood changed

America changed its position on the Muslim Brotherhood when it was clear that they did not represent the will of the Egyptian people, an Arabic-language columnist writes. Other topics: Iraq and Hizbollah.

The bewilderment that marked the US administration's reaction to the events in Egypt in the past few weeks was unexpected, not the least from a great power with precise strategies, said the columnist Atef Al Ghamri in the Sharjah-based daily Al Khaleej.

Washington's stance oscillated between pressure to keep former president Mohammed Morsi in place and acceptance once it became clear that what had happened in Egypt was another uprising by the people to reclaim their hijacked will.

The initial US position was derived from intensive communications between Washington and the Muslim Brotherhood dating back to the 1980s. The relationship between the two sides has evolved in recent years as the US seemed to be convinced that the Brothers were its best bet to keep its interests in Egypt intact.

"An impression was formed in Washington that the Egyptian people are moving in a religious direction and that the Brotherhood is the best representer of this direction," the writer said. "They failed to take a closer look at the Egyptian people's nature, at present and throughout history. It still flows in the same moderate religious direction that contradicts with the Muslim Brotherhood's extremist tendencies."

Former members of the Brotherhood confirm that the group has always been consumed with its own concepts of state that don't find resonate sufficiently to materialise in Egyptian society in general. Therefore, the group sought the assistance of foreign powers knowing that it would be asked to give something in return. This explains the Brotherhood's pledges to serve the US by staying away from Israel, beginning with preserving the Camp David Agreement between Israel and Egypt.

The US position was based on a number of elements. Washington feared a nationalistic movement in the Arab world that would eventually lead to a strong and strategic Arab conglomerate that, in Washington's view, would be against its interests. But it knew that such credos aren't supported in the Brotherhood's schemes.

The US has an extensive network of interests across the Middle East. An alliance with the Brotherhood allowed it to use the Islamist organisation's international affiliates to its benefit, especially in Syria and Iraq.

"But the June 30 uprising came and reshuffled all the cards. Washington was in trouble and didn't know how to deal with the situation," the writer noted.

President Barack Obama must have been surprised to learn that his allies didn't hold the majority in Egypt. To make matters even worse, the violent and bloody behaviour of the Brotherhood following the ouster of Mr Morsi has portrayed them as an extremist terrorist group.

It wasn't an easy situation for Washington to wriggle its way out of, the writer concluded.

Iraq cannot prosper without tight security

Dozens of civilians are being killed every day in various parts of Iraq, with the death toll exceeding 550 people this month alone, the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan said in an editorial yesterday, citing security and medical sources.

"As the pace of the violence in Iraq keeps amplifying, the attacks are no longer strictly random or sectarian; they have become organised, specifically targeting certain office buildings, notably security and military headquarters," the paper said. "This means that the goal behind these attacks is to … maintain the chaos and the general state of panic and terror that has spread through the Iraqi population."

The staggering number of casualties recorded just this month shows that "terrorism is let loose … without any kind of pressure being exerted against it", Al Bayan said, noting that the failure of Iraq's security apparatus must be addressed urgently.

"The way the security portfolio is handled must be reviewed to identify its weaknesses, especially in terms of method and intelligence work," the paper said. "Violence and terrorism still comprise the biggest challenge for the Iraqi government because of the incapability of the security forces to counter these attacks.

"And if Iraq is ever to take the path of development and prosperity, the Iraqi government must focus on the security portfolio first, for there is no real development without security."

Blacklisting Hizbollah a prelude to Syria action

The European Union's decision this week to put the armed wing of Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant party, on its list of terrorist organisations has come "in extremis" for Lebanon, but also for Syria, the Cairo-based paper Al Ahram said in an editorial yesterday.

European diplomats meeting in Brussels on Monday argued that the blacklisting of Hizbollah's armed wing came as fears in Europe have risen regarding the possibility of Hizbollah conducting "terrorist" attacks in EU nations, the newspaper said.

They also said Hizbollah needs to get out of Syria and stop fomenting political instability in Lebanon.

The EU decision means that any assets that might belong to Hizbollah in any of the EU's 28 member states will be frozen.

More strategically, though, the blacklisting of the armed militia - which comes a couple of months after it declared its involvement in the Syrian conflict on the side of President Bashar Al Assad's forces - is a prelude to arming the Syrian opposition.

"In reality, the European decision aims to steer Hizbollah away from the war in Syria … and pave the way for arm shipments from the United States and the EU to the Syrian opposition, a move that has the potential to tip the balance of power in the conflict in the opposition's favour."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae