Middle East


Viewpoints: Egypt Struggles for Its Soul

Banner shows Khayrat el-Shater, Mohamed Badie, Muhammad Morsi and Mohamed el-Beltagy as terrorists in Tahrir Square on June 30 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo: Mohamed Elsayyed, Shutterstock)

Egypt's second wave of revolution in two years has caused deep divisions within the country, with ramifications that ripple across the region. Worldpress.org presents a sampling of recent news coverage.

Iran – Tehran Times, July 17: Egypt warned Turkey on Tuesday against interfering in its internal affairs following Ankara's condemnation of the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected leader, in a military coup. In an interview with Turkey’s English-language daily Today's Zaman on Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that ousted leader Morsi is the only legitimate president of Egypt. … On Tuesday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed "strong resentment at comments like these, which… represent a clear intervention in internal Egyptian affairs." … Meanwhile, Turkish President Abdullah Gul demanded the immediate release of Morsi, who is being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has also condemned bloody clashes in Cairo between Republican Guard soldiers and pro-Morsi demonstrators in which 57 people were killed and many more injured.

Iraq – Rudaw, July 7: The public demonstrations in Egypt and the ouster there of president Mohammed Morsi drew mixed reactions from Iraqi and Kurdish leaders, with some describing the mass protests as the legitimate demands of a frustrated people and others saying it was a military coup and a blow to democracy. Mohammed Tofiq Rahim, the head of the Change Movement’s (Gorran) foreign relations office told Rudaw that the removal of Morsi by the army was the right move. "I think it was a good thing," Rahim said. "It will strengthen democracy." He believes that the Egyptian army’s move did not amount to interference in government, and had only helped a people whose demands were being ignored by the ruling elite.

Israel – The Jerusalem Post, July 17: Egypt’s new military-backed leadership can count on Israel for support; relieved that the Muslim Brotherhood regime is gone, Israel is willing to be flexible when it comes to the limits imposed by the 1979 peace treaty. The approval of an Egyptian request to deal with the terrorist threat in Sinai by moving more forces into the peninsula shows that Israel is not hesitating to embrace the newly minted power players in Cairo.

Jordan – Al-Bawaba, July 17: One Egyptian army officer and five soldiers were wounded when gunmen attacked three army camps in the restive Sinai Peninsula. … Egypt’s military presence in Sinai is limited by a peace treaty with Israel. Abu Draa has okayed the deployment of more Egyptian forces and hardware in the region. Reuters reported that the assailants used mobile anti-aircraft rockets and machineguns to attack the army posts near the border with the Gaza Strip. … Hardline Islamist groups based in North Sinai, a lawless region bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip, have intensified attacks on police and soldiers over the past two years, exploiting a security vacuum following the 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. The violence has spiked again since the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi this month. Militants have attacked security checkpoints and other targets on an almost daily basis, killing at least 13 people.

Lebanon – The Daily Star, July 17: Thousands of supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi demonstrated outside the prime minister's office on Wednesday in a "day of steadfastness" to protest against the formation of a new interim cabinet on its first day on the job. Protesters held up Korans and portraits of Mursi in the blistering noon heat outside the main government buildings in the centre of Cairo, demanding Mursi be restored to power. They shouted, "God is Greatest!" "Down with military rule!" and "We are all Mursi!" "We have only two goals, legitimacy or martyrdom," said Ahmed Ouda, 27. Another man interrupted to add, "Peaceful martyrdom!"

Libya – The Tripoli Post, July 17: Two weeks since the military took control of the country, Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour swore in a new cabinet in Cairo consisting of 34 mainly liberal and technocratic ministers. The armed forces chief, 76-year-old Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who deposed the democratically elected President Mursi, was given the post of defence minister and first deputy to interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi. The cabinet, which is backed by the army, does not have a single minister representing either of the main Islamist groups, Mursi’s Brotherhood or Nour. Together they have won two parliamentary elections, a presidential vote and two constitutional referendums since the 2011 uprising that brought down long-serving, army-backed autocrat Hosni Mubarak. 

Palestine – Palestine News Network, July 9: The Palestinian Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned for the deterioration of humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, especially in light of the closure of Rafah International Crossing Point, which has been the sole outlet for the movement of the population of the Gaza Strip to the outside world. … In the latest development resulted from the internal Egyptian crisis and the deterioration of the security situation in North Sinai, the Egyptian authorities decided on July 5 to close Rafah International Crossing Point. Before this closure, restrictions had been imposed on imports through tunnels. Such measures have proved that all Israeli claims concerning easing the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip are false.

Saudi Arabia – Arab News, July 17: If there is one group, aside from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, that has suffered great losses from the recent overthrow of President Muhammad Mursi, it has to be Hamas, the Islamist movement ruling over the besieged Gaza Strip since 2007. In fact, the movement, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, is now being viewed as a hostile force by Egypt’s new rulers. … Close ties with Mursi’s Egypt coincided with Hamas’ breakup with Syria’s Bashar Assad. For years the Islamist movement’s Political Bureau was based in Damascus. But when the Syrian uprising broke out and Assad clamped down on his own people, head of the Political Bureau Khaled Meshaal decided it was time to move out of Syria. He denounced the use of force by Assad, and that distanced the movement from two key allies: Iran and Hezbollah.

Turkey – National Turk, July 16: Several dozen people have been injured after Egyptian police launched tear gas into a crowd of brawling protesters in central Cairo. Officers reportedly intervened in a fight between locals and pro-Morsi protesters, who tried to block traffic. Police fired tear gas at the protesters on and around Ramses Square in central Cairo. Demonstrators retaliated by throwing rocks back at police. Many protesters were injured and they received treatment at a makeshift ward set up to deal with casualties. Thousands of people also staged a sit-in near the Rabia el Adawiya mosque to protest about Mr Morsi’s ouster by the military. They were chanting slogans, waving Egyptian flags and holding placards.

United States – The Huffington Post, July 16: When Egypt's military chief General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi declared last week that President Mohammed Morsi had been deposed, standing next to him were leaders of the Saudi-backed Salafist Nour Party. This endorsement signaled Saudi support for the coup and gave the military the fig leaf it needed to assert that its intervention was against the Brotherhood rather than the rise of political Islam. The Salafists' key role in doing the bidding of the Saudis was reinforced by their successful rejection of liberal opposition politician Mohammed el-Baradei as prime minister and the military's pledge to retain all references to Islamic law in the constitution. The Egyptian military coup was Saudi Arabia's third successful counter-strike in recent weeks against the wave of change in the Middle East and North Africa and its most important defeat to date of Qatari support for popular revolts and the Brotherhood. The role of the Salafists was coupled with a Saudi effort to counter Qatar's financial backing by withdrawing its comparatively limited financial support for the Morsi government and pledging to shield the Egyptian military from any international financial fallout from its intervention, including a possible U.S. cut in military aid.