Military threatens Egypt's revolution

Egyptians do not want to replace one dictatorship with another, writes an Arabic-language columnist. Other opinion excerpts today touch on what Syria is telling Israel, the bleak outlook after the Arab Spring, and the division of Sudan

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Military threatens to hijack the revolution

"Just like any other soldiers who find themselves in power, members of the Egyptian Supreme Military Council find it difficult to admit the temporary and transitory nature of their role, and are firmly planning to perpetuate their stay in power," the columnist Hussam Itani wrote in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

Third-world military institutions have a natural tendency to cling to power, and to their illusions about their ability to rescue their peoples from miserable fates.

But for Egypt this is the first real opportunity since 1952 to separate the military from politics and transform it into an institution commanded by a democratically elected civilian.

Many signs reveal the narrowness of Egypt's military officials' view of power. For instance, they agreed under popular pressure to appoint Essam Sharaf as prime minister, but they weighted his cabinet down with a number of compliant figures who can easily be manipulated.

Here lies the gravity of the military council's actions. It seeks to become the puppeteer: senior officers would run the show, incurring no liability while enjoying the perks of power.

"It is time for this farce to end in Egypt and all Arab countries," said the writer. "It is time for Arab military officials to realise that the revolutions across the Arab world were not aiming at replacing one dictator with another."

Syria sends a message to Israeli government

This week Syria became the 118th country to recognise the Palestinian state. But, why did the regime wait until now to do so? asked Tareq Homayed, editor-in-chief of the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

The move can be interpreted as a Syrian-Israeli flirtation. Now, as Damascus recognises the Palestinian state, it thereby recognises the 1967 boundaries, and therefore admits Israel's entitlement to the rest of the occupied territories. This means that Syria's long-time opposition to the Camp David agreement, which cost Arabs many a dispute, has fallen. Under pressure from the ongoing unprecedented popular uprising, "it appears that the regime in Damascus is sending a serious message to Israel".

Another opinion says that the Syrian recognition of Palestine means that Bashar Al Assad's regime has forsaken the idea of custody over Lebanon and Palestine.

In fact, with the recognition, Syria decided to side with the project of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and not with the vision of Khaled Mishaal, the leader of Hamas, which it had been supporting so far.

With this belated announcement of support for the Palestinian state, the Syrian regime was proving to Israel its readiness for peace, with the objective of remaining in power, despite the relentless uprising.

Outlook seems bleak for Arab spring hopes

Nobody can predict the outcome of the Arab spring, wrote columnist Saleh Al Qallab of the Kuwaiti newspaper al Jareeda.

Perhaps what makes forecasting difficult is the fact that everyone, including western countries, were surprised by the swing of events in the region. The situation has increased the concern of all. In some places, such as Syria, it has taken a dangerous turn.

When Arab uprisings began in Tunisia and later in Egypt - leading in both cases to the ousting of the regimes - it was believed that other "dominoes" would fall one after another. Many thought other old military regimes would face similar fates within months.

But things have not worked out that way. No sooner did the Egyptian revolution succeed than new challenges emerged, obstructing the smooth process of democratic transition. Libya and Yemen are each caught in a limbo that jeopardises their national unity.

It was thought also that what is called "creative chaos" would end soon, but the situation has not stabilised yet. And perhaps the wounds resulted from the present unrest will need decades to heal. The changes triggered by the French Revolution, for instance, had a very wide effect for a long time.

"This is not an invitation to wait years for the Arab Spring … to yield the desired results," the writer said. "It is rather a call for understanding that some of the dreams we had at the outbreak may turn into nightmares."

Division of Sudan serves nobody well

Columnist Hassan Youness of the Qatari newspaper Al Watan noted that Sudan is planning to make agriculture the backbone of its economy in a bid to mitigate the result of the secession of the South.

Sudan has lost 75 per cent of the oil reserves which used to provide 90 per cent of Khartoum's hard currency. Although the country has large amounts of fertile land, agricultural yields are worse than they were 10 years ago.

"This is caused mainly by high production costs, while the authorities have done little to improve the quality of produce and its distribution," said the writer.

Coupled with the decline of oil revenues, the development of agriculture will face many obstacles, mostly the lack of foreign investment. This will greatly affect the huge "island project", set on two million acres of fertile land lying between the two Nile Rivers.

While northerners are disappointed at the split, the frustration of southerners may be greater. With the end of independence celebrations, many who had fought for a long time to achieve this goal will realise that building a nation needs more than wishes.

The South is underdeveloped, with high illiteracy. It has considerable mineral and agricultural wealth, but these are under-exploited because of logistic constraints and lack of investment.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk