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Unanswered Questions About Egypt’s Future – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has yet to select a vice president and deputies, but is making an effort to distance himself from the image of an incompetent and bound leader.

On the very first day, he called on the military to mind its main mission of securing the country’s frontiers and formally invited the [military] council to relinquish its political powers. Days later, he ordered the members of the dissolved parliament to convene in defiance of the court order.

Before the results of the first presidential elections were known, the army and the military council seized some powers, which some dubbed as the “silent coup” in Egypt. The court ruling for the dissolution of the parliament, which is mainly controlled by Islamic parties, was deemed as part of the military’s scheme to prevent major changes in the country. Even military personnel were given the power, as judiciary officers, to arrest anyone they regarded as suspicious. More measures added to this list prompted people and analysts to refer to the president as weak or lame.

Now Mohamed Morsi is taking consecutive steps and does not appear to fear a showdown with the military council. Immediately after Morsi’s decree to reinstate the parliament, the military council held an emergency session.

Egypt’s new president would not like his clash with the military council’s earlier decisions turn violent. He has tried since day one to do away with ceremonies and preferred living in his own house to residing in the Presidential Palace. He may back down on this choice, but such measures do not seem to be aimed at appeasing the public or for the sake of communication; they go back to his religious and personal beliefs.

On the possibility of his success in solving the economic, social and security problems in Egypt, there are naturally plenty of “ifs” and “ands” inside and outside the country. Another part of the questions relate to Morsi’s foreign policies. It is said that Saudi Arabia is the first country Morsi has visited as the head of state, but one cannot turn a blind eye to the strain in the ties between Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood. Late Saudi crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz believed that Muslim Brotherhood members have taken refuge in Saudi Arabia and then inflicted blows on the country, and thus are “foreign agents.” Saudi-funded Arabic-language media prefer to highlight the problems Morsi is faced with rather than his rising popularity.

Iran could be the second country the Egyptian president will visit, after Saudi Arabia, to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran and hand over the group’s rotating presidency to Iran.

Will Mohamed Morsi try to check the influence of the Egyptian revolution on Arab nations, or at least some of them? Will he help export the revolution? Will he allow the great reform in Egypt move in its natural course in the Arab-Islamic environment?

Will Egypt join one of the current axes in the Middle East during his presidency or will it claim supremacy over them or will it be impartial? Which course will it take in the ties with the West and the US?

It is at this point that the issue of Israel comes up. Ever since the fall of deposed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak on January 25, 2011, the fate of the Camp David Accords (CDA) has been subject to analyses and speculation. While not even Israel is certain what will become of its peace pact with Egypt, some of its officials say encouraging signals are being picked up from Cairo.

To calm public fears, some Israeli media say the new Egyptian president will have to feed a population of 80 million, which will deter the Egyptian Army and government from a costly war with Israel.

However, some analysts in Israel say while the US and UK are cutting back on their military budget, Tel Aviv intends to boost the military sector with 15 billion shekels. The reason: concerns about the future of ties with Egypt.

Israel has spent half of its existence under the CDA umbrella. Now, the Egyptian Army wants to dispatch more military forces to the Sinai Desert to combat smuggling.

Last month, while pursuing some Arab guerillas the Egyptian Army deployed its tanks to the border point in contravention of the CDA. Is there any guarantee that there will not be a repeat of this? Especially since over the past one and a half year several guerilla attacks have been carried out on Israel from the Sinai Desert.

Israel’s internal security agency believes that Palestinian groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, will exploit the exclusive status of the Sinai Desert and turn it into a launchpad against Israel with the aid of regional nomads.

Israel has been forced to build a wall along the Egyptian border and review its military thesis to consider the Western front “hot” like the northern one. Over the past 34 years, Israel’s peace of mind about the Egyptian front provided by the so-called peace treaty with Egypt allowed Tel Aviv to spend a greater portion of its budget on social services. Equations will now revert to the pre-CDA era.

A few US senators have threatened that Washington will cut off or cut down the annual two-billion dollar aid to Egypt if any hostility breaks out with Israel. Responding, some Muslim Brotherhood leaders say there are three sides to the Camp David Accords: Egypt, Israel, and the US. Should Washington fail to live up to its financial commitments, the survival of the peace agreement will be in danger.

There is also a second issue. CDA consists of two parts: Egypt-Israel relations and the fate of Palestine. Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat ignored the part of the agreement which stressed that the fate of the occupied Palestinian territories would be put to referendum after five years of autonomy in the lands (1967). Israel never fulfilled this part and even expedited its settlement activities with the aim of annexing the territories.

Now the question is will Morsi demand the full implementation of the Camp David Accords, particularly the part concerning Palestine?

A prominent Iranian political analyst, Mohyeddin Sajedi writes extensively on the Middle East issues. He also serves as a Middle East expert at the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran

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2 thoughts on “Unanswered Questions About Egypt’s Future – OpEd

  • July 14, 2012 at 6:49 pm
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    The Egyptian uprising was doomed from the start. It never turned into a revolution, since there was no real change in the regime. The removal of a head of state, who was basically a tattered figurehead of the armed forces — the real power behind the throne — and a contested election of an Islamic figurehead as head of state — changes nothing in the sociopolitical status of the country.

    Nothing of any real essence will be allowed to change in Egypt until the iron grip of the present US-Egyptian Army-ikhwan el Muslimin alliance (hiding behind the present contrived political charades) is broken by a truly secular/democratic movement arising with the backed by the majority of the people. A far fetched dream, indeed…

    Reply

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