Egypt slips into a security void
Arabic media review

Egypt slips into a security void

John Kerry, visiting Qatar, discusses arming Syrian rebels

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

An Egyptian protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask runs during clashes with security at the entrance of Tahrir Square, the focal point of the Egyptian revolution, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, March 5, 20 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)
An Egyptian protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask runs during clashes with security at the entrance of Tahrir Square, the focal point of the Egyptian revolution, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, March 5, 20 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)

The apparent collapse of Egypt’s security forces in the face of mounting protests in Cairo and Port Said features prominently in Arab news outlets Wednesday.

“Egypt: Security dissatisfaction in the confrontation areas,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, which features a photo of helmeted policemen trying to control a riot in Port Said on Tuesday. The daily reports that members of the National Security agency (formerly the infamous State Security) in the Nile Delta province of Daqahliya went on strike, as protesters in the nearby city of Port Said torched the ground floor of the local security building.

Qatari news station Al-Jazeera reports that despite the security disarray in Port Said, the military received no instructions to intervene. According to the station’s correspondent, the angry protesters are demanding that the city be entirely turned over to the military.

According to Al-Hayat, local police officers warned of a complete security collapse in Port Said following the torching of the local security building, which would allow “thugs” to dominate the city.

Protests re-erupted in the northern Egyptian city after reports that local prisoners — convicted of involvement in bloody soccer thuggery — would be transferred to a different prison outside the city.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi leads its front page news on Wednesday with another aspect of the security chaos. The Arab League, based near Tahrir Square in central Cairo, was forced to move its meetings to a location near the airport in the city outskirts since the Tahrir area was deemed unsafe.

“The Arab League joints the victims of Tahrir clashes,” reads the daily’s headline, with the article adding that clashes continued in Cairo and Port Said “amid near-absence of Egypt’s security and state forces.”

Columnist Hassan Nafia, writing for independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, claims that in order to avoid state collapse two immediate steps must be taken: the parliamentary elections scheduled for June must postponed indefinitely and a new, mostly technocrat government must be established, winning the confidence of the country’s major political forces.

Amr El-Shobaki, also writing Wednesday for Al-Masry Al-Youm, claims that replacing the police with the army in Port Said will do nothing to alleviate the underlying problem: the lack of professionalism within the police, which the government did nothing to improve.

“The people of Port Said will suffer a catastrophe if the police disappears as a security force in the city. The citizens will pay the price for that,” writes Shobaki.

On the diplomatic front, A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Tareq Homayed criticizes the apparent rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, amid a controversial visit by Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil to Iraq.

“Will Kandil visit Assad?” wonders Homayed defiantly.

“Of course no one wishes to draft Egypt’s foreign policy, but this is a matter of interests, be it for the Arabs or for the Egyptians. Egypt must choose not between Iran and the Gulf states, for instance, but between being aligned with Iran and its allies or standing on the side of stability and openness,” writes Homayed.

Meanwhile, A-Sharq Al-Awsat sees the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in university elections as an indication of its plummeting popularity on the Egyptian street.

Kerry in Qatar supports arming Syrian rebels

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Qatar to discuss support for the Syrian opposition is making major headlines in Arab news Wednesday.

“Kerry supports arming ‘the moderate opposition’ and Hamad bin Jassem describes Assad as a ‘terrorist,'” reads the headline in Al-Hayat.

In a telephone conversation with the London-based daily, defecting prime minister Riyad Hijab demanded immediate UN intervention in the Syrian crisis under chapter seven, claiming that fear of the involvement of the Nusra Front in the opposition is nothing but a scare tactic meant to deny the Syrian opposition much-needed military aid. 

Kerry declared that the US administration has become more confident in its ability to arm moderate rebels in Syria.

“Our states are failed and our battle continues,” writes Al-Hayat columnist Abdullah Iskandar on Wednesday.

“The killing of Syrian soldiers in an ambush in Iraq following the killing of Hezbollah fighters in Syria; when in between those two events Iranians are killed and kidnapped on Syrian roads, means that the Syrian predicament has crossed over from the political to the social. Or perhaps this predicament highlighted the social, which was latent in the political landscape.”  

read more: