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How did the U.S. become Mursi`s main enabler?
The Daily Star Online
Monday, December 10, 2012

Supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood chant pro-Mursi slogans during a support rally in Rabaa El Adaweya Mosque square in Cairo, December 9, 2012. Egypt`s main opposition coalition rejected Mursi`s plan for a constitutional referendum this week, saying it risked dragging the country into “violent confrontation”.The words on the poster read: “I`m proud to choose Mursi”. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

How did Washington become the best friend of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, even as President Mohammad Mursi was asserting dictatorial powers and his followers were beating up secular liberals in the streets of Cairo? It`s a question many Arabs are asking these days and it deserves an answer.

Mursi and his Brotherhood followers are on a power trip after decades of isolation and persecution. You could see that newfound status when Mursi visited the United Nations in September, and even more in the diplomacy that led to last month`s cease-fire in Gaza, brokered by Mursi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Brotherhood leaders had gone from outcasts to superstars, and they were basking in the attention.

And let`s be honest: The Obama administration has been Mursi`s main enabler. American officials have worked closely with him on economic development and regional diplomacy. Visiting Washington last week, Mursi`s top aides were touting their boss`s close contacts with President Barack Obama, and describing phone calls between the two leaders that led to the Gaza cease-fire.

Mursi`s unlikely role as a peacemaker is the upside of the `cosmic wager` Obama has made on the Muslim Brotherhood. It illustrates why the administration was wise to keep its channels open over the past year of post-revolutionary jockeying in Egypt.

But power corrupts, and this is as true with the Muslim Brotherhood as with any other group that suddenly finds itself in the driver`s seat after decades of ostracism. Probably thinking he had America`s backing, Mursi overreached on Nov. 22 by declaring that his presidential decrees were not subject to judicial review. His followers claim he was trying to protect Egypt`s revolution from judges appointed by Hosni Mubarak. But that rationale has worn thin as members of Mursi`s government resigned in protest, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets and, ominously, Muslim Brotherhood supporters began counterattacking with rocks, clubs and metal pipes.

Through this upheaval, the Obama administration has been oddly restrained. After the power grab, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said: `We call for calm and encourage all parties to work together and call for all Egyptians to resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue.` Not exactly a thundering denunciation.

`You need you to explain to me why the U.S. reaction to Mursi`s behavior is so muted,` one Arab official wrote me. `So a Muslim Brotherhood leader becomes president of Egypt. He then swoops in with the most daring usurping of presidential powers since the Pharaohs, enough to make Mubarak look like a minor league autocrat in training by comparison, and the only response the (U.S. government) can put out is (Nuland`s statement).` This official wondered if the United States had lost its moral and political bearings in its enthusiasm to find new friends.

The administration`s rejoinder is that this isn`t about America. Egyptians and other Arabs are writing their history now, and they will have to live with the consequences. Moreover, the last thing secular protesters need is an American embrace. That`s surely true, but it`s crazy for America to appear to take sides against those who want a liberal, tolerant Egypt and for those who favor Shariah law. Somehow, that`s where the Obama administration has ended up.

For a lesson in the dangers of falling in love with your client, look at Iraq: American officials, starting with President George W. Bush and Gen. David Petraeus, kept lauding Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, despite warnings from many Iraqis that he was a conspiratorial politician who would end up siding with Iran. This misplaced affection continued into the Obama administration: Even after the Iraqi people in their wisdom voted in 2010 to dump Maliki, the U.S. helped him cobble together enough support to remain in power. Arab observers are still scratching their heads trying to understand that one.

When assessing the turbulent events in the Arab world, we should remind ourselves that we`re witnessing a revolution that may take decades to run its course. With the outcome so hard to predict, it`s a mistake to make big bets on any particular player. The U.S. role should be to support the broad movement for change and economic development, and to keep lines open to whatever democratic governments emerge.

America will help the Arab world through this turmoil if it states clearly that U.S. policy is guided by its interests and values, not by transient alliances and friendships. If Mursi wants to be treated as a democratic leader, he will have to act like one.

David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

(Description of Source: Beirut The Daily Star Online in English -- Website of the independent daily, The Daily Star; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

President or puppet?
The Daily Star Online
Sunday, December 9, 2012

The dangerous lack of foresight which Mohammad Mursi has shown over the last few weeks, during which he has literally played with people`s lives, serves as a worrying wake-up call to all those concerned with the future of Egypt.

While Mursi has withdrawn the controversial decree which would have granted him wide-ranging powers, immune from judicial review, he is sticking firm to the referendum, scheduled for Dec. 15, on the draft constitution which opposition figures slam as being one-sided and unrepresentative.

Mursi is neglecting to do justice to all the groups and sects of Egypt. Rather he appears to see himself as president of one faction – the Muslim Brotherhood – and not as president of 83 million people.

Mursi seems to believe that the 50 percent share of the vote which he received is enough to keep him and his decrees afloat. However, he appears to be forgetting that many voted for him not from a position of overwhelming support for the Brotherhood but instead their ballot in his favor was influenced by a desire to reject the alternative, which for many represented the status quo and the old guard, which they had doggedly fought for in toppling former President Hosni Mubarak.

Having fought for their freedom, many with their lives, Egyptians deserve representation which is honest and transparent, and which strives for the good of the country as a whole. This has yet to transpire.

The mass protests, and deaths, which followed Mursi`s announcement of the decree, should have been expected by the president and his advisers. Politics is not a game of waiting and reacting. It must involve careful analysis and insight, allowing for reasoned decision-making. Issuing rash statements, and then ultimately retracting them following an outcry which many would have expected, is not presidential behavior.

This lack of vision, wisdom and governance does not bode well for the future of Egypt. His backtracking and hasty decision-making also works against the country`s image at a time when it is in dire need of international support, both in terms of tourism and aid.

While campaigning for the presidency, Mursi claimed to be an independent candidate, with the best interests of the country and its citizens at heart, but since his election he has proven himself to be little more than a puppet for the Brotherhood, and one that is prepared to push the party`s objectives, despite how far removed that agenda may be from the true aspirations of the majority of Egyptians.

Before it is too late, and the dreams of the revolution are forgotten forever, Mursi must task an independent committee with drafting a new constitution, one removed from the short-term wishes of one party. Otherwise he has to brace himself for more ongoing discontent on the streets.

(Description of Source: Beirut The Daily Star Online in English -- Website of the independent daily, The Daily Star; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Report views “bias” in Saudi media coverage of Egyptian leader`s declaration
BBC Monitoring Middle East
December 10, 2012

“Exclusive” report: “Constitutional declaration in the Saudi press”

The Constitutional Declaration issued by Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi has generated a big controversy in Saudi media over the objectivity of the coverage in light of strongly worded criticism of the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] in Egypt. Meanwhile, the coverage reflected the local conflict with the MB trend in Saudi Arabia.

A number of political analysts who spoke to Al-Jazeera Net expressed different opinions. Some of them say that “the media trend cannot be separated from the political trend.” There was a different opinion, which did not agree that what is happening in the local media rhetoric is a reflection of the trend of the Saudi political leadership, which supported Egypt of the revolution with billions of dollars to support it in the next stage, and that there is no political liquidation by the Saudi government of the new Islamist leaders in Cairo.

Different views

In this context, political researcher Fahd al-Fuhaym told Al-Jazeera Net that “the local press coverage of the recent crisis in Egypt is the outcome of political accumulations produced by three main factors, including the fact that Riyadh does not encourage Arab revolutions, especially in Tunisia and Egypt, the strict approach of the leadership of the kingdom towards the MB, and the concern of politicians that these revolutions might reflect on the Gulf. The politicians say that what happened in Kuwait recently is an indication of this.

Political writer Jamal Khashuqji says: “What I am certain of is that the position of the Saudi government is not represented by the local media. I have evidence of this, including the great Saudi support for Egypt after the revolution with billions of dollars. Also, the first visit of President Mursi after winning the elections was to Saudi Arabia.”

He said that this specifically means that Riyadh supports Egyptian stability in the region, even if the new politicians in it are from the Islamist trend.

Dr Malik al-Ahmad, a media expert, described what is happening in the Saudi media as “release of the political position of the state, and for methodological reasons, rather than objective reasons, because the president belongs to the MB.” He added that “the position of Riyadh applies to the Gulf position in general with the exception of Qatar.”

Evidence of bias

A team of Saudi media researchers is currently preparing a study on “content analysis” of the trends of the local media towards the crisis of the Constitutional Declaration. Salim Abd-al-Jabbar, who supervises the research team, says that the initial results of the researched material confirm bias by 78 per cent of the coverage against the decision of President Mursi.

Abd-al-Jabbar said that the bias was obvious in the published photos, which focused on the injuries of the opposition supporters and which were on the front pages, while not showing pictures of the injured from the supporters of the decision. He cited a big picture published by the Saudi newspaper Ukaz on Friday with a caption saying “Egyptian security protects a demonstrator who was beaten by Mursi supporters in front of Al-Ittihadiyah Palace.”

With regard to press reports, Abd-al-Jabbar said that the information structure was essentially based on the statements of opposition leaders who oppose the decision on the Constitutional Declaration, while depicting the current political crisis as one between the MB and the Egyptian people although other political parties in society support the decision.

On the press articles, Abd-al-Jabbar said that they went beyond criticizing the decision and expressed political outrage at the MB and the fact that they are in control and described the situation as “political blackmail.”

In this context, Khashuqji said that the decision maker does not interfere in the media coverage by imposing measures that affect freedom of opinion and expression. He said that everybody has the right to express their views of how the matter should be addressed in a mature political manner. He added: “I personally think that President Mursi did not manage the conflict well.” However, he noted that a number of opinion writers stooped to the level of insults. He said that the attack on the Constitutional Declaration is not separate from the conflict with the local MB trend.

Source: website, Doha, in Arabic 7 Dec 12

© 2012 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Middle East challenges...
By Dr James J Zogby President, Arab American Institute
Daily News
December 10, 2012

AS President Obama gears up to begin a second term, his Middle East agenda will be more complex, more consuming and dangerous than the one he inherited from his predecessor four years ago.

Back then, the priorities were: winding down the US military presence in Iraq; pursuing an Israeli-Palestinian peace; rebuilding America`s damaged image and relationships in the region; confronting extremism; and reining in Iran`s nuclear ambitions.

Today, the US military is out of Iraq and a recent Zogby Research poll shows improvement in the approval ratings given to the US in the region.

While the US is limited in its ability to manage the fallout of the `Arab Spring`, it believes that it is in its interest to mitigate hardships or violence that has flowed from these developments. Here is a snap-shot of the problems the US will face:

Egypt: It is a key player in the Arab world. When Egypt had its `Arab Spring` moment, the impact on the region was profound. The revolutionary process reshaping it is far from over. It appears that the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to use its victory to monopolise power and silence opponents. This has caused a backlash that has destabilised the country.

The US has economic leverage and is attempting to maintain a balance between respecting the fledgling democracy while insisting that the Mursi government protect political freedom and work to compromise with opposition. Egypt and the success of its democracy will remain a concern.

Israeli-Palestinian peace: The rights of Palestinians will continue to be on the US agenda because Palestinians continue to insist that their rights are recognised, the rightward drift in Israeli politics continues to lead to policies which inflame tensions and US credibility is tied up with how it deals with the issue.

Syria: The Assad government continues its bloody assault on its people as it is confronted by a radicalised and militarised opposition. US and allied efforts to fuse together a broadly based opposition have been successful, but serious questions remain about its ability to control, or relate to, armed elements. Syrians remain divided, with growing fears that we may see sectarian blood-letting like that during Lebanon`s “long war” or the US occupation of Iraq.

There are calls for more arms for the opposition, or a “no fly zone”, or other forms of intervention. But none addresses the “day after” questions. The nightmare will drag on, or be resolved by the collapse of the regime, or a messy negotiated compromise will lead to a transitional government. The `Pandora`s Box` will not close anytime soon.

Syria`s fallout: There are sectarian and ethnic tensions in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. Kurds in Syria are demanding independence and being aided by compatriots in neighbouring countries. In other areas, Sunni-Shi`ite tensions have been exacerbated, and Christians in Syria and region are feeling threatened. The looming humanitarian crisis caused by refugees and the tragedy of Syria promises to be a major concern for the US for years.

Iran: Pressure continues from Israel`s friends for the US to deal with Iran`s nuclear programme. Should Obama make a renewed overture, it is hoped Tehran will respond wisely. It would also be smart for Washington to take a page from its approach to North Korea and include Arab allies in talks. Pressure will continue and tough choices will have to be made to resolve the issue.

And there are fires burning that will continue to require attention. Iraq`s political situation could flare up in renewed violence. Libya`s armed militias are operating beyond the control of the new government. Bahrain`s sectarian tensions are still simmering. And, despite Bin Laden`s death, extremist groups have metastasised into regional threats taking root in conflict zones.

Before policymakers glibly speak of US policy “pivoting East”, it is important to understand that challenges will continue to require attention. Thus begins the second term.

© Copyright 2012 Gulf Daily News. All Rights Reserved.

Turkish Commentary: Violence in Streets To Weakn Egypt, To Serve Enemies
Sunday`s Zaman Online
Sunday, December 9, 2012

Commentary by Cumali Onal: “Are You a Supporter or Opponent of Morsi?”

Egypt is going through an extraordinary process. The protests in response to President Mohammed Morsi`s decree on Nov. 22 vis-a-vis the attempts to block the making of a new constitution have turned into clashes.

The people are now asking each other on the streets whether they are supporters or opponents of Morsi. This reminds us of the street clashes in the 1970s in Turkey between leftist and rightist groups. The people were divided as right-wingers and left-wingers, and they were asking each other whether they were leftist or rightist; those who held opposite views were subjected to violence.

Things got out of control because of the involvement of external actors, leading to a military coup. But the winning party was neither the left-wingers nor the right-wingers. Hundreds of young people from both sides died; the military coup in the aftermath of these clashes negatively affected the country, causing economic collapse.

Some circles are trying to stage the same plot in Egypt as well. The opposition groups are staging their objections to Morsi`s decree in an attempt to speed up the constitutional process. But both Morsi and the opposition groups are acting in good faith. They have their own arguments. However, this does not resolve the problem.

The whole world is aware that a critical country like Egypt will not be left alone. This is impossible considering that there is a country like Israel that bases its existence upon the weakening of its neighbors.

At this point, it seems that both sides are determined to preserve their position. Because the target is the president himself, there is no other figure who can act like a wise man and bring the parties together.

Will the protests end even if Morsi retreats? It is very unlikely because in this case, it is possible that the opposition groups would adopt a harsher stance.

And it is also unlikely that the opposition groups will retreat because they are monolithic. Even if one group ends the protests, the others may continue.

The escalation of the events and the protests by the opponents into clashes offers a great opportunity that even the supporters of the former regime could not possibly dream of. It is extremely likely that these groups will manipulate these protests.

The only way to resolve the problem seems to be through dialogue. Morsi has to bring all the parties together. Whether he can or cannot do this is not obvious; however, he must.

The attempts of the Morsi supporters to present the opposition and their protests as something insignificant do not depict the whole picture properly and do not resolve the problem. The opposition groups may not be able to mobilize a huge number of protestors, but it should be noted that Morsi won the presidential election by a small margin. In addition, Morsi received the support of only 25 percent of the voters in the first round of the presidential elections.

These two situations clearly present the overall political stance of Egyptian society.

Therefore, if Morsi considers that a referendum will end the protests, this will lead to even further problems because even if the constitutional reforms are approved in the referendum, the protests will continue. And in the event the reform package is not approved, this will lead to political deadlock, making things even more complicated.

Potential bloody incidents in an environment where society is divided into two camps -- Islamists and seculars -- will move the country to the same chaotic stage that was experienced during the protests against Mubarak.

Back then, the people stayed in their homes, foreign citizens left the country and city committees seized control of the streets. The army sided with the people during these protests, preventing bloodier incidents.

What would the reaction of the army be now? Who would they side with? Would they remain impartial? And if so, would this be a solution? There are no visible answers to these questions, and this proves that Egypt is indeed going through a difficult time.

Reason should prevail in Egypt immediately. The decision of the various sides to take to the streets and hold violent protests serves the interests of the enemies of Egypt and of those who do not want prosperity in the country.

(Description of Source: Istanbul Sunday`s Zaman Online in English -- Website of Sunday edition of Today`s Zaman, English-language daily published by the Zaman media group, supportive of Fethullah Gulen community; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.




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