Abd al Bari Atwan
Whoever follows the developments in Egypt these days would come up with the strong impression that the country is akin to a large body with no head, and if there is a head, it is without vision. For this reason the situation is deteriorating rapidly like a massive truck with no brakes.
Egypt's activities are now limited to two main roles:
The first is on how best to abuse the Palestinians of Gaza and to turn their lives into an unbearable hell through the tightening of the seige and preventing Haj pilgrims and the sick from travelling. The second role involves inciting the countries official newspapers into fiercely attacking this or that Arab country which has dared to even mildly criticise Egyptian policy, or been nominated, or competed, for any role which could threaten Egypt's position as a regional and international player.
In order that we are not accused of sinking into generalisations, and to steer clear of naming things with their names, we say that the preoccupation of some of the official Egyptian newspapers these past few days is to make vicious attacks against Syria, and it's foreign minister Walid al Moualem, for asking the government of Egypt, during an emergency meeting for the Arab foreign ministers on the developments in the Palestinian cause, to stand an equal distance between the two opposed Palestinian factions, that is, Fatah and Hamas. He said "any talk of carrying out elections in the midst of this Palestinian division would only deepen the quarrels and increase their bitterness", wishing that the other party (ie, Hamas) would be given the chance to present their view at the meeting. This is all very normal and is repeated by many Arab officials, and is published by many Egyptian newspapers on an almost daily basis. However Mr Moallem had committed a grave sin, in fact a mortal sin in the eyes of the Egyptian government and a spokesman for it disregarded all diplomatic protocols by accusing the Syrian foreign minister of "political bidding", describing his words as "empty talk" and reiterating Egypt's commitment to a resolution for the Palestinians and their just cause.
Prior to this "undiplomatic" spat Mr Boutros Ghali, the Egyptian treasury minister, launched a veiled attack against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, criticising its taking part in the G20 summit that had recently taken place in Washington to discuss the global financial crisis and for representing the Arab region. Skeptical of such representation, he criticised their abilities and suitability for such a role, hinting that Egypt was much more deserving as a greater country in this area. Mr Ghali later had to apologise for his remarks, withdrawing his earlier statements which were made on CNN and that we all watched and heard. This was after the Saudi treasury minister responded to him in a "polite" and effective manner, claiming that such claims were surely misquoted or were dealt with selectively by the American broadcaster.
What the official spokespeople of the Egyptian regime are unaware of, as well as some of their official media outlets, is that the fault does not lie in the others, but in the regime itself, which has abandoned its role, and the status of its country to others voluntarily and in a frightening manner. For nobody would dare to encroach on Egypts role, for the simple reason that the role does not exist anyway. The Egyptian regime has withdrawn from the circle of Arab action both regionaly and internationaly for some time, and even within the circle of action internally, leaving the country as an open arena for the whales who are the country's businessmen and their mafia's to plunder the country, carrying out every form of thuggery imaginable, the latest that we had seen being the murder of the Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim. Were it not for the government of Dubai insisting on exposing all the dossiers on the case as well as all those involved in it, we would probably have never heard of the crime at all, and it would have remained under a cloak of silence, exactly like the murder of the Tunisian singer Thikra.
If only this Egyptian regime had contented itself with withdrawing from the region militarily, politically and culturally only, for it had also carried out a concerted demolition operation against its natural allies, leaving a vacuum which other regional, non-Arab, countries rushed to fill in immediately. For this regime has collaborated with America and with Gulf states on destroying Iraq, and allied itself with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in order to isolate Arab Syria, and met with Israel with regards to choking the Palestinian resistance, and subduing it, either by blowing up tunnels, closing border points, or by being siding completely with the Palestinian faction which has surrendered completely and utterly, surviving on the scraps of assistance from America and the West, and which considers the resistance a waste of time and terrorism.
For it is not a coincidence that the Egyptian regime does not intervene and open the Rafah crossing for a few hours, or days, everytime the seige intensifies in order to attract attention. Or in resorting to sabotaging the Egyptian, Arab or international media campaigns which aim to shed light on the suffering one and a half million Palestinians who are being subjected to death and starvation and the shortage of petrol, food and medicine, and by acting as the mediator to save Israel, and itself, due to the growing problem of inflation facing the Egyptian and Arab people, by opening the Israeli crossing points for a few hours only, in order to absorb this problem, as well as ruining any efforts by the Egyptian opposition to carry out demonstrations and caravans in aid of their besieged brethren.
Egyptian national security is not under threat, at least in the eyes of this regime and its cronies, unless from the starving of the Gaza strip only, for these deserve to have their legs broken, and their necks, if they cross the borders searching for morsels of bread or to buy a carton of milk for their children. As for the pirates of the Gulf who had cut traffic through the Suez canal by half, and prevented the Egyptian people of almost 3 billion dollars this year, these are angels and one should not interfere with them, or stop their dangerous activities. Heaven forbid unless it was a pathetic regional summit for the countries on the Red Sea and that no one would care about, and which would not take any kind of action, apart from protesting mildly.
Official Egypt is entirely absent, for it has no role in the Darfur crisis, and no prominent position in the African Union, and nobody remembers or mentions it when the security of the Gulf is discussed, or when the global financial crisis is mentioned, or even with regards to the security of shipping in the Red Sea. If its president visited a European country, or even an Arab one, nobody bothers reporting on this, and if it is reported, the story is published at the bottom of one of the inner pages. This is the reality that many are ignoring within the circles of officialdom in the Egyptian regime, and none of those who are benefitting from it dares mention it. For this reason the situation is deteriorating in Egypt, and with it the Arab situation, as well as Islamic, for Egypt "was" a great regional power, in fact the strongest country in the non-aligned bloc, and had advanced once on India, which is now rapidly becoming a world power which competes with the United States and China as a democratic power and economic one with nuclear military muscles.
Egypt, in short,is in need of an intifada, either from within the regime or without, which would restore its status and respect. An intifada which rises to the popular level with its potential, sacrifices and innovation, returning her to the sphere of action as a regional great power with an opinion on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the security of the Gulf, and the crisis of the African continent, its backyard, and the worsening situation in Iraq and the world economic crisis. Also as a power to compete with the Turkish and Iranian influences, and to face the Israeli arrogance which truly threatens Egyptian national security.
Only then will Egypt regain its seat at the G20 summits, representing not only the Arabs but the Muslims, and the great powers and the regional ones will take it seriously. For Egypt is greater than being limited to a role with regards to the Rafah crossing, and closing its borders in the face of the Haj pilgrims and the sick, and playing the role of postman for Israel's requests for a ceasefire, or as a mediator in the file on the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Abd al Bari Atwan