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Raghida Dergham

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The Yearning of the Arabs for a Normal Life

Posted: 07/13/2012 12:58 pm

Beirut - The rectification by new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi of the mistake he had committed by deciding to reinstate Parliament, in the form of an announcement by the Presidency of the Republic that it would respect the ruling of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) only reflects the victory of the wisdom of logic over the penchant for demagogic politics. The above was crucial, as the presidency asserted in a statement "its utmost respect for the constitution and the law, its appreciation of the judiciary and of Egypt's honorable judges, and its compliance with the rulings issued by the judiciary", while expressing "its utmost care for managing the relationship between the branches of government and for preventing any clashes".

On the other hand, the response of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) regarding the importance of the law and the constitution "in maintaining the standing of the Egyptian state and in respecting its great people", has been non-confrontational with the President who challenged the state, yet with the SCC stressing that "the dissolution of the Parliament is final and binding for everyone". Such reasonableness indicates that wisdom and maturity have this time overcome the tendencies to take control of the centers of power and monopolize them which seized the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists after the Revolution. This also reflects the wisdom of the Egyptian people, who showed in the recent presidential elections that they were tired of the culture of monopoly and despotism.

Similarly, the Libyan people have been showing in their elections so far that they are not the herd of sheep which the Gaddafi regime had sought to portray and applied itself to subjugating for forty years. Indeed, the elections currently taking place in Libya are truly exciting because they represent the rise of a people from under the rubble of dictatorship and demagogy. What the results of these elections - so far - indicate is that Islamist political parties do not automatically rise to power in Arab countries that have experienced revolutions, and that the tendency of Arab peoples leans towards leading a normal life, despite the long years during which Islamist political parties have been investing in turning those countries into religious popular bases. Then there is the Syrian people, who have surprised and continue to surprise us with their insistence and their determination to obtain their right to liberate themselves from dictates and from absolute despotism. This people has been, partially, falling victim to international outbidding, bargains and diplomacy, and the upset and dissatisfaction with UN-AL Envoy Kofi Annan has begun to find its way in a radical manner to public opinion. Whether such dissatisfaction is justified or not, it requires Kofi Annan to rectify at least some of the aspects of the way he is carrying out his mission. He should do this also because it is time to.

Back to Egypt, the announcement of the presidency's "respect" for the SCC ruling revoking President Morsi's decision to restore the parliament coincided with Dr. Morsi making his first visit as the President of Egypt to Saudi Arabia, meeting with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, in Jeddah. There are numerous benefits to such a visit for the two countries, which represent the two main pillars for the Arabs, historically and in the future - and the decision by President Morsi for this to be his first visit reflects his awareness of the importance of strengthening their bilateral relationship, both strategically and economically. The decision by the Egyptian President to respect the ruling of the SCC took place after he committed a mistake that came at a high cost for him as an individual and revealed a flaw in the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists that aroused the world's fear, including the West with its enthusiasm for embracing Islamists and criticizing the military.

Indeed, the trend of defaming SCAF has become widespread within the ranks of intellectual institutions, experts and academics - especially in the United States - who have decided that the "enemy" was the military, that Egypt had become the property of Islamist groups and political parties, and that the forces of moderation, secularism or modernity have become marginalized and powerless. Such Western interpretations and tendencies have of course affected Islamist groups and contributed to feeding their arrogance, condescension and tendency towards seizing power and monopolizing it. Yet the fact that the presidency has tried to turn against the state has aroused fears, and poured some cold water on those who enthusiastically supported the Islamists, including those who had wagered on convincing the Europeans, Americans and other interested parties that everything would be alright in Egypt under the rule of the Islamist movement.

Morsi's decision thus backfired. His avoidance and quick rectification of his mistake has helped him a great deal, but the impact of a mistake such as this continues to sound alarm bells. What has helped the Egyptian President divert attention and interest towards investment, economic and strategic aspects has come during his visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is supposed to represent a main pillar supporting the Egyptian economy, not just in terms of loans or aid, but also through a sustainable and long-term institutional relationship, alongside Egyptian labor which is important in Saudi Arabia and represents an important cornerstone of Egypt's economy.

In Libya, on the other hand, the economy is not in need of foreign aid, but rather of institutions and of formal bodies in charge of monitoring, accountability and transparency that would combat corruption and greed. There is a struggle for power taking place in Libya, but also a struggle for natural resources in this country rich in oil and natural gas. Libya would nearly be engulfed in instinctive demagogy had it not been for the presence of civic capabilities among women and men who are putting a spoke in the wheel of those who seek to monopolize power or resources. Libya's grandmothers as well as its young women are challenging the ignorant men, young and old, who believed that the Revolution would grant them a free pass into monopolizing power, dictating the law at random and holding people to account outside of the law.

The National Forces Alliance (NFA), led by former Prime Minister under the National Transitional Council (NTC) Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, achieved a crushing victory in additional electoral districts, the results of which have not been officially announced, so far. Some are of the opinion that this alliance seems headed towards crushing the bases of all other political parties that have competed against it in the elections for the General National Congress (GNC). However, holding the elections under both the political party and individual list system may prevent the NFA from being in control at the National Constitutive Assembly, which will be in charge of appointing the next government.

What has attracted attention has been the news of the NFA, known as Jibril's alliance, achieving broad victory over the Islamists in Eastern Libya as well, including the city of Derna, which is otherwise described as a "Jihadist stronghold". In fact, the mere enthusiasm of the majority in Libya for selecting a man of the qualification, modernity and moderation of Mahmoud Jibril sends an important message. The message is not just aimed at the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Justice and Construction Party, but also to the parties that had immediately wagered on the victory of the Islamists, on the basis that the Libyan people was in its nature a "herd" - or on division, because they from the start did not view Libya as a unified country. Such parties in the West and the East include the United States and Russia.

Russia is still angry from the experience of Libya, which represented a strategic defeat for it, and one that it considered to be an insult to Russia's national pride. Its anger comes close to revenge and vindictiveness, and has a clear impact on its policy towards both Libya and Syria. Such excess in taking revenge is no longer fitting for a major power that seeks to rank itself as a superpower, not just because it was one during the Cold War and the era of the American and Soviet poles, but also because it finds in the Syrian issue an opportunity to take revenge for what happened to it in the Libyan issue. Moscow today adopts the policy of "dripping" step by step, at times portending the triumph of rationality, reasonableness and constructive strategic thinking in its policy, while at others exacerbating the descent of the situation in Syria towards rock bottom. Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to compromise, procrastinate and escalate at the Security Council, reinterpreting what has already been agreed upon in such a way as to undermine trust in Russia's stance and to make it seem as if it had adopted the stance of the regime in Damascus against the opposition. Such a stance could harm Russia on the long term, if it were to persist. For one thing, the method of dripping concessions step by step comes at a high cost when accompanied by the death of over 17 thousand Syrians so far.

Protecting Russia's interests is without question one of Moscow's rights. However, for negotiations over Russia's interests to take place at the expense of lives being lost in Syria is indeed a matter of question and debate. This week an important change became prominent in Russia's stance, embodied by what was conveyed by the Interfax news agency about the head of the Military Technical Cooperation service, Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, saying that "Moscow will not deliver fighter planes or other new weapons to Syria while the situation there remains unresolved", while Putin stressed Russia's opposition to any armed intervention in Syria without prior approval from the Security Council. Such a stance comes after Moscow had arrogantly clung to its "obligation" to fulfill its contracts, and tried to ensure that weapons would be prevented from reaching the opposition first, stressing the link between the two in its constant approach of equating between the regime and the opposition and denying that this is a revolution.

Kofi Annan too must pay heed to the danger of his stances being considered equivalent to those of Russia or Syria. To be sure, an overwhelming wave of criticism has risen against him, after his visits this week to Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, as well as after talk became prominent of his approval of the step-by-step approach - starting with the ceasefire on the fronts in which the regime in Damascus is meeting with difficulties, allowing it to gradually eradicate these centers of resistance and to break the back of the armed opposition. A great deal of criticism has become predominant on the part of members of the Security Council for Annan's approach, as well as for the new approach he is said to have adopted with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad without consulting with Security Council members. What Annan has come out with from his visit to Assad appears clearly in the latter's agreement to nominate a mediator for the dialogue, and not to delegate the powers of the presidency of course.

In any case, and despite justifiable reservations over Kofi Annan, there is no need to consider him to be an "enemy" or "adversary". He is a mediator, one who could be wrong or could be right. Yes, Annan has overblown his mission from the start so as to mediate among the five permanent members of the Security Council, and to turn into the sponsor of relations between major powers via the Syrian issue. Yes, he perhaps today considers himself to also be the architect of regional relations, and this is why he visited Tehran and Baghdad after visiting Damascus. And yes, Kofi Annan may have the ambition to play a set of major roles in drafting the features of the new regional order, and in fact the new world order. Yet all of this does not justify categorizing him as an enemy or an adversary. Rather, he must continue to be dealt with as an envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, so that he may rectify his mistakes when he is wrong, and be backed with rationality and reasonableness when he is right.

This is a phase that requires wisdom and maturity on the part of all players in the entire Arab region, not just in Syria, Libya or Egypt, where the challenge is clearer than it is in other parts of the Arab region.

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