The new, scary face of Iraqi sectarianism
Arabic media review

The new, scary face of Iraqi sectarianism

Mohammed Morsi charges ahead with elections despite opposition, and a lead editor claims there is no hope for Syria

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

In this Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 photo, Syrian refugee girls carry over their heads buckets of water as they walk at Atmeh refugee camp, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria (photo credit: Hussein Malla/AP)
In this Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 photo, Syrian refugee girls carry over their heads buckets of water as they walk at Atmeh refugee camp, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria (photo credit: Hussein Malla/AP)

The insistence of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on holding parliamentary elections starting April in defiance of the country’s liberal opposition leads Arabic news on Sunday.

“Egypt: The ‘Salvation Front’ is divided on participation in the elections,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, reporting that Morsi’s decision to hold the elections has increased the confusion in Egypt’s political scene and eliminated any chance of agreement between the government and the opposition on participation in the elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood, adds the daily, is betting on a split within the ranks of the opposition’s “National Salvation Front,” headed by former IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei, who adamantly opposes participation in the elections.

Meanwhile Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat wonders whether Baradei’s position is “personal” or whether it reflects the Salvation Front’s official stance.

“Morsi obliges Egypt’s Christians and changes the election date,” reads the daily’s main headline, reporting that the original date of April 27 angered Egyptian Copts for coinciding with their holiday season. The Coptic leadership had threatened to boycott the elections for that reason, before they were pushed back to begin on April 23-24.

“The Egyptian presidency is rushing forward in its search to find a solution, even a partial one, in the absence of consensus,” claims a TV report on Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera.

“Boycott threatens the elections,” reads the headline of independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, which clearly favors the option of boycott.

“What kind of elections are these that they’re talking about?” asks columnist Mohammed Salmawi. “Is this the right time for elections, while the country is in a state of unprecedented disarray? Besides, how can a date be set for elections during the Coptic holiday, with the repeat election date also falling on the Coptic holidays?”

“How can the regime uphold these decisions, which assert the government’s ineptitude, and unfortunately increase day by day?” ends Salmawi.

The new and scary face of Iraqi sectarianism

Wathiq Al-Battat, the leader of the “Mukhtar Army,” an armed Shiite militia belonging to Iraq’s Hezbollah, is “the new face on the Iraqi scene,” according to Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya.

Battat on Saturday threatened to strike Saudi Arabia and to bomb the Mubarak seaport in Kuwait, which he accused of encroaching into Iraqi territory.

In a phone conversation with Al-Hayat, Battat claimed that over one million men belong to his organization, which supports the principle of “the providence of the jurist,” which recognizes the unchallenged leadership of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khaminei.

Battat denied that his organization has targeted Sunni families in western Baghdad, accusing al-Qaeda of doing just that. He added that in fact 100,000 of his fighters are Sunnis.

The Kurds in northern Iraq were also subject to Battat’s threats. He said that any encroachment on the provinces of Kirkuk and Mosul by the Kurds will encounter a harsh response by his forces.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki lambasted the speaker of Iraq’s parliament, Iraqiya Bloc member Osama Nujeifi, whom he accused of fanning sectarian flames in Iraq.

Speaking to Iraqi governors at the southern city of Basra, Maliki said he would prosecute Iraqis who stir sectarian emotions in Iraq, tacitly referring to Nujeifi, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported. A member of the Iraqiya Bloc, a liberal party which has partnered Maliki in the ruling coalition, retorted by accusing Maliki of maintaining secret prisons in the country.

Refuting reports that he had fled the country following an arrest warrant issued against him, Battat, the Shiite leader, mocked Maliki, saying that he is currently living in the province of Najaf, south of Baghdad.

“I am not scared of anyone and will never leave Iraq,” Battat told Al-Hayat. “The arrest warrant issued against me is a childish and illegal move taken by a adolescent, and can never be implemented.”

Syria has already collapsed, claims editor

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi claims in an op-ed this weekend that nothing can save Syria from continued bloodshed.

“Let us be honest and say the truth, painful as it is: there is no hope of exiting this bloody impasse. Following the killing of 90,000 people the parties involved have realized that a military decision has become impossible, calling for a political solution through negotiations under international patronage,” writes Atwan.

“We do not know how many martyrs will die before the same parties realize that the political solution is also impossible, and that any reference to it is meant for media consumption, while the killing machine spins faster in this devastated country. Both the government and the opposition are fooling themselves and others by placing impossible conditions which the other side cannot accept.”

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